Hot on the agenda for many employers at the moment, is poor performance.  In an environment where businesses are under pressure being understaffed, and often facing financial pressure in an economic downturn, the question is, what is your appetite for putting up with it?

Often as a Consultant, you’re brought in at the 11th hour when things are getting tense between the employer and employee.  There are other things we can do to manage issues at the early stages, but when it all goes wrong, let’s look at careful management processes too.

Recognise it early

The use of probation periods and trial periods are hugely beneficial when recognising performance issues early.  Often, employees will demonstrate a lack of commitment or capability in the early days, and it should not be overlooked.  Doing justice to both the employee and your business, a ‘it will be right’ or ‘I don’t like awkward conversations’ may work to your detriment.

Poor performance can be linked to poor recruitment decisions, ensure your recruitment processes are sound, particularly asking the right questions of referees.  If time allows and you have the capability, do some recruitment assessment as part of your process (this may be psychometric or a skills test as part of a recruitment centre).  Ensure your job description accurately depicts the role, for a number of reasons current and future when it comes to employee management.

When your employee starts with the organisation, ensure they have a sound induction process.  They must know their role, they must know what is expected of them, never assume.  At times, poor performance is linked to not knowing what they do not know.

If performance is slipping, either when they are new in their employment, or at any stage, recognise it and act!  The same goes for attitude and behaviour.

                            “Ignoring poor performance creates a poor workplace culture”

Identify other contributing factors

At times, there are other reasons why a person’s performance is slipping.  Personal matters, health (physical and mental), disharmony with other employees are some of the reasons.  But if you identify it early, you will have this discussion and find out what else might be going on.

Don’t take your finger off the pulse

Many organisations adopt a regular performance review programme in varying forms of intensity.  From a regular performance informal chat to formal review processes with forms, meetings and KPI’s, you need to do what works for your business.  As a pro tip, if you say you are going to do it, you need to do it.  If your contract stipulates annual reviews are required, they are required.

Regular performance reviews will pick up patterns, keep employees motivated and help you to understand their personal and professional goals, which leads to magic – employee retention and a productive workforce!

When it goes wrong – performance improvement plans

A performance improvement plan is an intensive process, which is used when there is a Performance Issue.  Prior to engaging in this, steps should have been taken as outlined above.  Referred to as a PIP, this is a process which will involve notifying the employee there is an issue, that it needs to be managed and there may be an impact on their ongoing performance should it not improve.

A PIP involves regularly meeting with and assessing the employee, making a call on improvement or decline and may lead to disciplinary action.   It is not typical for one PIP to suffice if you are needing to move an employee on, it may take months to years to performance manage in worst case scenarios.  It is best to seek some professional advice if you are wanting to go down this pathway, to ensure your process and paperwork is compliant.