How to help underperforming mining employees reach their potential

A mining employee in a performance review.

Here are some tips and tricks to help underperforming mining employees reach their potential.

Mining’s skills shortage has made finding reliable, well-qualified employees a harder task than most mining company recruiters would like it to be.

So, when an employee is underperforming, companies have a tough decision to make: do they invest in the employee in a bid to improve the situation, or do they cut their losses, go through the severance process, and test the market to find a replacement?

No mining company can afford to hold on to underperforming team members for too long.

If an employee is lazy, unmotivated, incompetent, underqualified, inefficient, or ineffective, or avoids responsibility, wastes time, isn’t settling in, or is constantly absent, it can be extremely disruptive to the workplace. Not only does it have a direct impact on productivity and profits, the behaviour can be contagious, spreading through team members, bringing down morale, exacerbating the problem and making it even harder to fix.

The trick to dealing with underperformance, as any good manager knows, is to identify it and deal with it early. How do you deal with it? It starts with a bit of self-reflection.

Are you doing enough?

Before you approach the employee, there are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you clearly communicated to the employee what is expected of them?
  • Does the employee understand the consequences if they don’t meet your expectations?
  • Have you given the employee all the resources, tools and training required to perform their role properly?
  • Does the employ realise they aren’t performing?

Let the answers to these questions inform your approach to handling the situation.

Communicate your expectations

When employees understand what is expected of them early on in their employment, it sets the tone and makes it less likely you’ll need to manage their poor performance later on.

But if it’s already “later on”, then it’s time for step two—performance management.

Manage the employee’s performance

If you have a good performance management system in place, that’ll make it easier and more organic to bring the employee in for a conversation about their work. But even if you don’t have those systems in place, the principles remain the same:

  • Focus on giving objective and constructive feedback
  • Outline the issues clearly, calmly and respectfully
  • Explain the repercussions and impacts of the employee’s underperformance
  • Make sure the employee knows what is expected of them from here on
  • Invite feedback from the employee on the situation and your review of their performance and, most importantly, listen to what they have to say
  • Work on solutions together, based on the feedback. Does the employee need extra training? Do they need to move to a different team? Do they need other forms of support?
  • Negotiate a deadline for change. Make the consequences of no change clear.

Using supportive language and backing that up with action, while making your expectations clear and providing a deadline for things to improve, creates an environment for positive change.

Follow up with the employee

Whatever you agree on, be sure to follow up on it—otherwise you undermine your own authority. Have a formal process for doing this.

  • Meet regularly to discuss progress and what help the employee might need. Don’t leave them to sink or swim
  • Reiterate your expectations during the meeting
  • Keep everything absolutely confidential (these discussions aren’t for general consumption with colleagues)
  • Keep a written record of everything. It’s not only helpful to jog your memory and to show progress, but if you end up in an employment tribunal, you’ll want a record.

Create the right environment for change

Carefully consider the options available to you which might help the employee improve their performance and reach their potential.


  • Pairing your employee with a mentor. Specifically, find a colleague they can buddy up with and learn from
  • Giving them time off. If the employee is experiencing stresses at home, then giving them time off to deal with those challenges can be useful
  • Improving their work-life balance. Perhaps working a shorter week, or working from home, might improve the employee’s motivation and ability to perform
  • Reward improved performance. Where positive progress has been made, it’s important to acknowledge it. Where great progress has been made, reward it.

Make the change

If the situation doesn’t improve, then it’s time to consider cutting your losses and letting the employee go. Holding on to an employee who refuses to perform isn’t doing you, the company, or the employee themselves any favours.

Mining People International has more than 27 years’ specialist experience helping mining companies find the best candidates across every job category. Find out more here or get in touch today.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International