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6 Ways to Improve your Lowest Performers Based on How Google Operates

6 Ways to Improve your Lowest Performers Based on How Google Operates

Written by Lee Russell

Last edited May 5, 2023

6 Ways to Improve your Lowest Performers Based on How Google Operates

Poor performers exist in almost every business and can cause problems within your team unless dealt with. Targeting just the lowest performers isn’t the best solution. We’ve created 6 lessons based on how Google operates.

Low Performance Problems:

Poor performers exist in almost every business and can cause problems within your team unless dealt with. However, dealing with these can be difficult because isolating the lowest performers and targeting them isn’t the best option and can make them feel much worse within your team. When this is combined with not understanding the reasons for their poor performance, as a business, you will never truly solve the problem.


If you haven’t tracked or monitored your employees by performance before, you should identify your top 15%, middle 70%, and lowest 15%. By looking at everyone who works in your business, you’ll be seeing the bigger picture and can address whether people at the top have slipped to the middle; it’s not just your lowest performers who you should be focused on.

Business Problems:

  • A decrease in team morale/office attitude
  • A negative impact on your business’s profits
  • An increased work burden on other members of staff
  • Wasted money on initial training/new training as a result if they leave
  • Potentially losing your more efficient staff members

Reasons for low performers:

There are four main reasons why a low performer might be struggling in their current job. These are:

Situational –

The circumstances of the person have caused them to be underperforming and they might not necessarily be a bad worker. You’d need to find this out from them; improving your communication channels is one option of doing this.

Quick tips to improve the situational problem:

  • Create an open-door policy and let your workers know you are always available to talk to
  • Try and arrange some form of incentives for the team
  • Encourage outside of work communication and events are happening or enable the possibility. This can be as simple as arranging a team evening.
  • Where you can, provide the opportunity for team collaboration
  • Have one to one meetings with each member of staff every month, but try not to make these too formal

Lack of Skill

– The person is not skilled enough to do their job properly. You’ll first need to measure their performance and then understand whether this is a lack of skill or a situational problem. To do this, you should look at the measures which you track and compare them to someone in a similar position as well as against your highest performers. When doing this, it’s important to look at the bigger picture – has this person always been a low performer, or is it a phase? Compare this to your other data; has everyone been underperforming this month?

How to improve the lack of skill problem:

  • Increase training but don’t limit it to just the lowest performers. Even your highest performers could probably benefit from training. This will also prevent you from isolating the lowest performer
  • Evaluate whether it is the right role for them. Talk to them in a one to one meeting and ask them what they want from you and tailor the training to their needs.
  • It is cheaper to train them than to hire a new person, providing they are a good fit for the company and want to learn.
  • If your company has enough employees, you could offer a mentoring programme for everyone and let them sign up if they want to.
  • Create an opt-in training session or discuss whether they would like one to one training as part of your meeting
  • Once you have agreed on the best process, set measurable goals and targets. Combine this with regular feedback sessions and monitor their progress.

Lack of aptitude for the role –

The person doesn’t have the natural ability to perform the role. If this is the case, then you’ll need to understand their reasons for being in the job. A lack of aptitude cannot be solved by increasing training and development and is different from a lack of skills. For example, you might have realised they are not a natural salesperson and might be more successful in another area or department.

Tips for solving the lack of aptitude problem:

  • Talk to the person and see what their career goals are & whether they would rather work in another area/department if you can do this
  • Consider whether you could get them to focus on their other strengths within the job – is there a different way they can play to their strengths?
  • Use an aptitude test before hiring someone new in the future

Lack of motivation / Poor attitude –

The person is fed up with the work and puts in little effort.


To solve this issue, you’ll need to evaluate management as well as the person; poor management can easily cause a lack of motivation and a bad attitude.

Some tips on how to deal with the poor attitude problem:

  • You need to find the reason for their negative attitude. In your regular one to one meeting with the person, you’ll be more likely to get a truthful response.
  • To get the bigger picture, you’ll need to evaluate all of your employees’ satisfaction which you can do through an employee engagement survey. Does more than one person have this attitude towards their work? If so, then it is probably something to do with the way your company operates.
  • Create some incentives for the individual and the team.
  • If their bad attitude is still there, you might need to ask whether they are in the right job. Have they been in the same role for a long time? Do they have the opportunity for training or career progression?

6 Lessons from Ex-people Director at Google, Laszlo Bock:

With Google receiving over 2 million applications per year, it’s safe to say that they’ve achieved an incredibly high standard for their employees. In his book ‘Work Rules!’, Laszlo Bock, the ex-People Director of Google, explains how the lowest performers ‘represent the biggest opportunity to improve performance in your company’.


Google is known for its creation of innovative office spaces and frequently ranks as a top employer, drawing in masses of applicants every year due to its global reputation alone.

Here are six things you can start to do to boost your lowest performers based on some of his experiences at Google:


  1. Feedback. Set realistic targets and get into the habit of giving regular positive and constructive feedback on a one to one basis. Make sure you have employee engagement surveys as well as anonymous feedback on your own management skills. If your company has more than one manager, compare data between them and check which teams are performing well – does this link to the different styles in how they are managed? Once you have this, you can start to implement small changes that can improve your workplace.
  2. Take it as an opportunity for them to learn and not to be scrutinized. Laszlo Bock sees the lowest performers as the best opportunities because it’s normally cheaper to train them to be good rather than go through the rehiring process. Whilst some will require a change in attitude or situation to improve, a lot simply need a boost in confidence, training and/or management style. Whilst it is an opportunity for them to improve, it’s also an opportunity for you to improve.
  3. Create a plan. To improve, you’ll need to make a personal improvement plan for the employee. This can be for the next 30, 60 or 90 days depending on their needs and should have targets which are achievable and measurable (SMART). As part of this, find out what the employee wants from you and put together a training plan which targets this. However, don’t only target your lowest performers; it’s probably something all of your staff could benefit from. Make sure the employee is aware of everything that you want from them and be clear on what they want from you.
  4. Improve yourself too. When Laszlo Bock reviewed all of his managers, he decided to get feedback on himself too. This showed that he ranked worse than a lot of his managers for his own communication and he decided to improve at the same time as the others. By setting targets, changing his communication channels and getting regular feedback, he saw his approval rating dramatically increase. What he realized was that a manager’s attitude was incredibly important to the morale of the team and the performance of their employees. Unless you regularly receive feedback and evaluate your management style, you’ll never know how much of an impact you’re having on your staff.
  5. Improve your communication channels. This is a simple way to improve your lowest performers. Look at the way you communicate with your staff members. Is it the most effective method? Have you got a system where you can regularly receive feedback, and do you regularly talk with your staff as a team and on an individual basis? If you don’t do this, you’ll need to improve your communication channels. This can be as simple as having a monthly one to one meeting where you track their personal work targets but try not to make it too formal. Have an open-door policy and acknowledge your members of staff every morning.
  6. Don’t undervalue and reward the wrong people. Another thing Laszlo Bock found companies are guilty of is undervaluing the best people and rewarding those who deserve it the least. Whilst it can be easy to reward the best performers based on their targets, you need to consider the people who contribute to the company in other ways. There’s bound to be people who do a lot of work which isn’t measured on targets or perhaps they contribute a lot to the team & company culture or dedicate a lot of extra time. It’s important to recognize their work and have incentives, training, progression and financial rewards for everyone, not just the people who hit targets.

We recently featured his book ‘Work Rules!’ in our 8 Books Every Recruiter Should Read blog post.

If you’re interested in hearing more, he gave an extended talk at Google about the lessons from his book:

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