How to Manage and Motivate the Middle Performers

motivate the middle

People managers are trained to focus on the extreme ends of the spectrum when dealing with employee productivity, noticing those who are excelling and putting in extra time and then the members of the team who are not meeting expectations. That leaves out an important group, the middle. How do you take the group of employees who are doing just enough to get by and help move them into being top performers?

Start by identifying who might be coasting or getting by doing the bare minimum. Employees who are coasting may be disengaged, not participate in discussions, avoid interaction with the team and seem bored or idle at work. Another sign of coasting is an employee who spends a lot of time on non-work items, they may be checking off all their assignments but they may also be spending hours on social media, making personal calls or even playing on their phone.

Now that you have identified the employees that you want to work with to help increase motivation and productivity you can work with them individually. Every person is different, they have different motivations and things that they want to get out of their career and life, which means one-on-one coaching and management will produce the best results. If you have your employee’s AcuMax Index results that can be an easy starting point before talking with your employee. The AcuMax results will tell you more about how that employee is wired and what kind of approach will work best.

If you don’t have AcuMax results that you can use then you can start by having an open conversation. Set the stage by laying out that you are trying to help them have a more enjoyable work experience and that you want to work with them to help find additional ways that they can be involved. Find out what makes this employee energized, it doesn’t have to be something at work, it can be something that they really enjoy personally. You might find that they really enjoy traveling and seeing new places, which may make them a perfect fit for an upcoming project or assignment that would involve travel. You could discover that they have an artistic side which could help make them an asset for more creative projects. Finding out what energizes and excites them may enable you to find a way to integrate those items into their work.

It is important to realize what you’re not trying to accomplish by managing the middle. Moving the middle of the pack doesn’t mean creating a culture with unrealistic expectations or workloads. There is a difference between someone handling their job efficiently but who has no desire to move up in the company and an employee who is doing the bare minimum. Someone who is coasting usually has many hours in the day spent being unproductive and actually does have the capacity to do more. The focus is on capacity and ability, not turning everyone on the team to workers who are overwhelmed and lack boundaries.

You may also find that there is little motivation for an employee to want to do more than the minimum. What does your company do to recognize and reward employees who put in extra effort? If your company doesn’t have a system or practice of recognition and reward then consider putting something in place. When employees feel like their extra efforts are valued and noticed they’re more likely to continue to be engaged and participate. Rewards and recognition also help create and reinforce a positive culture within the organization.