Help with employees are not paying attention to detail

 I'm not sure if this should go under coaching or performance management so I apologize in advance if this is in the wrong place. I have two employees both of which have been making more mistakes lately. Their mistakes are not really bad ones but it really comes down to their attention to detail. I recently had to lay off one of my employees and we are very limited in resources. Everyone is working more and producing more with less time these days. I think that the high workload and short turnaround time is affecting their judgement on the details. 

One of coaching tips have been to slow down and take time to pay attention. That probably means they will have to work longer hours but we can't sacrifice quality for quantity. That's just not acceptable. If you've been in a situation like this what have you found effective in managing it? Thanks in advance!

are they detail oreinted

Consider that some people are not detail oreiented.  It took me a while to learn this about myself.  I now appreciate this and look to others to support me when details are critical.  I frequently turn to someone to proof-read and review things for me.  I use that as an opportunity to bring others up to speed on things.  Granted at my level I have many resources to turn to, and luckily I think I only started to see that I wasn't a details person. 

My message here is there are somethings you cannot change about people.  But you can build systems to support them.  Of course if details are critical to their role, it might not be possible.  I count never be an air-traffic controller.  I would loose plains all the time, but at least I would be awake.


more info

What is the impact of an error occuring? Does it result in financial loss, reputational loss, trading errors etc.? If there is a significant impact, then that's one thing; if the impact is not significant and it's more of a style thing, then you might want to let it go.  You mention the mistakes are 'not really bad ones' which is why I'm asking as not sure what you mean by 'not really bad'.

You didn't mention feedback in your post - have you been providing regular feedback to the individuals making the errors? If not, you need to do this - you might want to listen the feedback podcasts on the site.  When you mention 'coaching tips' what form has your coaching taken? There are also coaching podcasts on the site to listen to as well.

Outside of this:

- Have you reviewed the process / workflow to see where improvements can be made? Some form of 'quality control' may be required - what I mean by this, is there is a second review of the work taking place ie people check eachothers work.  Are there other team's like yours who you could trade 'Quality control' with? Or if just 2 people in the team, can they check eachothers?

- And if there are other teams performing the same process as your team and there is a particularly accurate & fast person there, one thing to consider is asking that person to spend time with your two people maybe as part of a coaching plan?

- Finally, when you review the objectives of your team what are those objectives you 'must' deliver this year vs other '2nd tier' objectives?  All teams I've ever managed or worked in have had a blend of objectives some of which are 'real' priorities vs those objectives which are the ones we want to do or really should do if we get time.  If I understand your post correctly, you had 3 directs previously and you now have 2 directs, which is a large % decrease.  Which team objectives can you drop while you get through this period?  Might result falling behind on some commitments, but if you keep the focus on the high priority items you should be able to navigate falling behind or even dropping the lower priority items over time. 

Common Root Cause?

It sounds like an opportunity for process improvement. I'd be hesitant to bet on asking them to pay more attention or trying harder as a lasting solution. Also, performance tends to decade when trying to work more hours. Is there any pattern to the errors? A shared root cause? What do your directs think (they are closest to the work)? Let us know what you try. - Sam

New problem or just irritating now?

Is this a new problem, or is it an old one that is getting worse?  The reason I ask is because I have seen this problem from both sides.  I had one employee who only made (minor) mistakes under pressure.  Quieter days and events without strict deadlines meant her quality was 100%.  Busy days, high pressure environments and deadlines had her crumbling with even the simplest of tasks  (eg making sure the name on the top of the letter was the same as the envelope)

She was a great contributor who simply couldn't handle the pressure our office was under. She resigned & we were better for it.

I had another who made errors on a continual basis, no matter how much or little pressure there was.  I spent most of a year coaching, training, doing O3s, modification of job duties, anything i could to help her be successful.  I wasn't permitted to terminate her so I had to make every effort.  (she moved on voluntarily) We are still suffering from the fallout of that bad hire 8 months later.

The point is, if attention to detail is a key competency, you need to seriously ask yourself whether these people are up to the challenge.  If the problem is there is too much work, I suggest listening to the "How to Handle a Massive Workload Increase" series. 

Also, ask yourself: Do my directs understand there is a problem?  Have I effectively communicated what the standards of performance are?  Or - am I just nit-picking because I am overwhelmed too? 

O3s are incredibly important too - don't skip them.

Well, it's not "unacceptable"...

...because they've been doing it and haven't gotten fired.

Rather than guessing at, and finding their motivations or underlying abilities (attention to detail) lacking, why not just give them simple feedback on their mistakes when they make them?

This seems pretty straightforward to me.