The sophomore slump is something many of us have experienced at one point or another. The first year of anything new is exciting because it’s fresh—it’s unknown. Then year two rolls around, and it’s the same thing, nothing has changed, and nothing is new. It could happen during someone’s sophomore year in college, during the second year of a relationship once the honeymoon phase is over, and especially during the second year of someone’s career.
Many times new employees enter the workplace during their first year aggressive and motivated; they knock it out of the park going 100 mph. Then year two comes along and they ease their foot off the pedal, slow down, and hit a lull.
Here are a few ways to get employees out of the sophomore slump:
Keep in mind that, more times than not, an employee is aware and extremely frustrated with their decline in performance. Set up more frequent one-on-one meetings to check in, discuss current projects, achievements, and strategies to overcome hurdles. These meetings will help keep employees on track rather than assuming they can handle it on their own.
Think about it. If an employee sits next to a "chatty Kathy," they get less work done because they are distracted. And if they share a space with a colleague who hates their job, that negativity rubs off. Having staff rotate desks can bring a new spark to the workplace, boost energy, and increase morale. An employee who appears to be burnt out can be revitalized after relocating next to a staff member with seemingly inexhaustible energy.
Consider adopting new communication methods, such as changing up the weekly meeting from indoor to outdoor, or choosing a different metric system to measure efforts and results. A change in how they view their tasks can help deliver fresh results. Remember, it’s unrealistic to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Change things up when they aren’t working.
For high-potential employees that are in a rut, encourage and pay for them to attend seminars, classes, etc. on various topics within their field. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything associated with current projects. Ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere when the mind is intellectually stimulated. Employees want to learn and grow; most times they just don’t know the opportunities are available.
It’s not all about monetary incentives when it comes to keeping an employee engaged and motivated. Celebrating the small wins along the way and showing small signs of appreciation are the simple things that maintain engagement for the long haul.
While change is great, if the opposite has happened and a star producer is having less success since switching things up, go back to the old ways! Don’t attempt to fix something that isn’t broken. If a salesperson is having less success since switching their call blitz from the morning to afternoon, go back. If setting priorities was more effective the night before opposed to the morning-of, go back.
[Image: Flickr user Jesús León]