Managing poor performance

As a manager you are responsible for the overall output of your team and how it impacts the wider business. This means that it is vital that any performance issues from your employees are addressed promptly and effectively to minimize the impact to the organization.

We discuss how best to manage poor performance from your team and offer some tips on doing so.

Regular appraisals

Scheduling regular appraisals can help to prevent performance issues becoming acute, identifying them early on and giving managers the opportunity to address them.

While detailed, formal appraisals typically take place once every 6 or 12 months, managers should consider scheduling smaller, more frequent appraisals which can be used to troubleshoot any problems before they become a serious barrier to good performance.

But what happens when the usual performance management process breaks down and what steps should you take? Firstly identify the issue and secondly look at the causes of poor performance. Only then can you decide what steps to take to improve the situation.

Identifying poor performance

In order to make a determination that an employee is not performing to an acceptable level it is essential that some sort of performance measure/standard has been identified in advance and the employee has been informed of and understands what is required of them. There are a range of measurement tools you can use:

Detailed job description - to set out the outputs/outcomes of the role

Targets - the use of pre-set targets (common in a sales role) which are realistic and achievable can enable an employer to determine whether an employee is achieving the standard required of them

Quality controls - may be useful where the provision of a quality service is essential, e.g. customer facing roles

Competency frameworks - which focus on the key behaviors that are required to achieve competent performance

What causes poor performance?

When it becomes apparent that an employee is not performing to the required standard it is important to identify the underlying causes. Poor performance could be related to:

  • Lack of application to the role and tasks
  • Lack of capability/skills in general
  • Lack of capability due to illness or injury

Each of these situations will call for different remedial actions, emphasizing the importance of correctly identifying the cause of poor performance.

Set clear targets

Have an informal meeting with the employee outlining the areas where their performance is in decline and agree on goals/targets and a review date.

Review the performance at the review date and determine if there has been any improvement. If there has been an acceptably significant improvement then no further action should be necessary. If there has been some improvement then perhaps the employer could identify the areas where the employee needs further improvement and set a further review date.

If there has been no significant improvement the employer may contemplate the use of the disciplinary/dismissal procedure. The appropriate penalty will vary with the relevant disciplinary procedure but it is strongly recommended that dismissal for a first occurrence is inappropriate. To ensure fairness of dismissal in these circumstances the employer must demonstrate that an employee was given sufficient opportunity to improve.

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