What should I do with this slow learner in my department?

Friday September 25 2020
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Jane Muiruri


Dear Jane,
I am a hiring manager in a reputable company. A year ago, I hired a new employee, but he is giving me a hard time at work. Although he is good at what he does, he is such a slow learner. While other employees take a few hours to grasp a new concept, he could take even a week and then keep consulting colleagues over the same thing, which is annoying. What should I do with him? Ronald

Dear Ronald, 
New employees often take time to learn about the new workplace and to fit within the specific role. It is also critical to note that individuals have different learning curves, and, therefore, the length taken to settle differs.
His taking long to settle in could be due to his personality as well as challenges in his competencies. The personality issue can be dealt with by taking measures to boost his confidence through affirming him when he makes some progress, since he is good at what he does.

Avoid reprimanding or comparing him in the presence of his peers, do this in private to limit further damage to his confidence. Perhaps this new role requires a new competency set that he does not possess. In this case, he needs retraining to enable him perform the role with the speed and confidence expected.

It might also be that he is a perfectionist and, therefore, due to his fear of failure, he has no confidence to proceed without crosschecking with others. This could be a symptom of an underlying issue emanating from his background and may require professional attention. 

It would also be beneficial if you documented the procedures and processes of the department in which he works so that he can use the standardised processes instead of distracting other employees through constant consultations.
You could also consider restructuring the department and assign to him the repetitive roles in which he is comfortable performing since it seems he takes long to understand new concepts.

The other approach would be to assign to him a mentor within the department who understands the role, is patient and is a good role model to the rest of the team.
Note that speed is not in itself an indication of good performance since quality may be compromised.


Jane Muiruri, 
Senior HR Manager, 
Nation Media Group