Top Tips on Performance Management

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One of the most common obstacles managers face is having to deal with a member of staff who is not performing effectively.

There can be a variety of reasons why someone may not be performing to the required standards and, in this article, we look at some of the most common reasons and offer some top tips on how best to tackle it.

Let’s look at some scenarios:

  1. ‘Square peg, round hole’

This person is usually a recent recruit and despite being certain they would be a good fit, offering all necessary training, induction and time to ‘settle in’, it becomes apparent pretty quickly to the employer that they are just not up to the job.

  • This could reflect poor recruitment practices- where the interviewer and applicant have simply ‘hit it off’ and insufficient efforts have been placed into establishing if the applicant can do the job. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that those responsible for recruitment know what they’re doing. We will explore this subject in more detail in next week’s article.
  • The employee may have embellished their skills and experience- if so this type of poor performance should be evident pretty early on. If they have been dishonest about their skills or qualifications, this a conduct issue and one which should be handled via the disciplinary procedure.
  • It may be that they are simply not suited to the type of work in your business setting. For example, they may have come from a bigger or smaller organisation previously and can’t quite transfer their skills to meet the needs of your business. Again, this should be evident early doors and where the employee is in a probation period, you would set up a probation review. The probation period may be extended, or the contract terminated.

Remember- you do not have to wait for the employee to complete their full probation period before having a probation review. If there are problems, tackle them as early as possible.

  1. A sudden dip in performance?

This is where red flags should be waving. If an employee has previously performed well and there is a sudden decline in their performance this requires further investigation.

  • There could be personal problems outside work such as a bereavement, a relationship breakdown and so on. Whilst there isn’t anything the employer can do to rectify these matters; if it’s affecting their work, it is important that the employee is supported:
    1. If you offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) then make sure the employee knows they can access this, often such services offer support on a variety of matters such as financial advice, custody disputes, divorce and so on.
    2. Consider allowing the employee time off to access any advice or appointments to help them resolve such issues.
    3. Assist them by reallocating or lessening their workload on a temporary basis to help them get back on track.
  • It may be that the employee is unwell. They may have been recently diagnosed with a medical condition or a long-term medical condition may have flared up. Ill health is one of the most common factors affecting an employee’s performance in their role.

Again, the employer can’t rectify this and isn’t there to medically diagnose but the condition may be disability related so there are certain legal requirements the employer must meet under the Equality Act.

If the employee may not be medically fit to carry out their role and adjustments to the role or work environment may be required, a medical report and/or referral to occupational health may be necessary.

Please see part 3 of our guide to absence management for more information on medical capability here.

  • You may identify that there is a training issue, perhaps new processes or procedures have been introduced and the employee just needs some additional or refresher training to get their performance back on track.
  1. Formal capability proceedings

Where you have identified that the employee’s poor performance isn’t due to ill health, personal problems, training needs and so on, you still need to take action to address it. This is where formal capability proceedings may become necessary.

The aim of capability proceedings is to manage the employee by use of formal warnings and setting clear objectives. You hope the employee’s performance will improve and they will be managed to the standards you require as a business. If not, they will be managed out of the business on a succession of formal warnings, much like a disciplinary procedure.

Usually, you will have a capability procedure in your employee handbook and you should ensure that you adhere to this.

The procedure for managing someone’s capability will involve the following stages:

  • An informal meeting to investigate why previous objectives that have been set are not being met and to also rule out any other reasons for the poor performance such as ill health etc.
  • A formal capability meeting to allow the employee a fair opportunity to explain why they are not meeting the objectives- making sure they understand how their underperformance is affecting the business and to formally set out the standards and improvements you expect to see.
  • A written decision letter – this letter follows the formal capability meeting and will usually take the form of a formal warning (verbal, written, final or extended final warning).

The warning will outline the improvements required and where a time period of monitoring and review has been set, this should be stated in the letter. The employee should be given the right to appeal the decision.

Top tips on managing performance:

  • Job descriptions – all roles should have accompanying job descriptions. The job description should provide a clear outline of what the job involves and exactly what is expected from the employee. Job descriptions can change over time in line with changes to a business, so they should always be kept up to date.
  • Clear and realistic objectives – It will be impossible and very unfair to try to hold employees to unrealistic or unachievable objectives. It will also mean that if you formally manage someone against unfair objectives and goals, any decision taken to terminate their employment could be unfair.
  • Time – immediate improvements in performance can be expected where there are no training needs to implement but generally speaking it is good practice to agree a clear time period where you expect to see an improvement. This is a period of time during which the employee’s performance will be monitored- it should be reasonable and achievable.
  • Regular performance reviews – never forget to appraise good performance as well as poor performance. All employees should have regular reviews or appraisals where they are given feedback on their performance.

These reviews will keep a good performing employee on track and will be an opportunity to hopefully nip any poor performance in the bud without having to resort to formal capability proceedings later down the line.

  • Reward and recognition – the economy is struggling so financial incentives such as non-contractual pay rises and bonuses may be off the table but that doesn’t prevent you from recognising and acknowledging good performance. A simple ‘thank you’ or the sharing of good client feedback with an employee goes a long way.
  • Be consistent– when managing performance both good and the not so good, it is vital to be consistent. This ensures you are being fair to all staff and are less likely to fall into any discrimination traps if you do need to take formal action.
  • Call Avensure! Whether it’s a probation review or formal capability proceedings, make sure you seek our advice.

Next week– Your guide to effective recruitment practices