Many managers and business owners struggle with managing poor performance in the workplace. Having a robust, consistent and realistic performance management process in place is key in order for managers to tackle issues early.
Having a good performance management process in place will ensure that employees who may be struggling get the right support and are enabled to demonstrate improvement in their role.
There are so many reasons why performance management is important. Some of the key reasons are:
We often see performance management processes that are focused on annual or 6 monthly formal appraisals. Whilst these have their place, performance management has to be much more than this to be truly effective.
As the pandemic has demonstrated, employees are now expected to quickly adapt, work independently and be more responsive then ever in their day to day roles, with technology meaning people expect an almost instantaneous response.
Similarly, performance management techniques now need to be much more responsive and built in to the day to day relationship between manager and employee, rather than something that is reserved for formal meetings.
There are 3 key components of the performance management process you should be considering:
Every performance management framework will be different. As a business you need to consider how often you can realistically hold formal appraisals.
You should set up simple forms and reminders that managers can use to minimise the time it takes to set up meetings and create a standard approach.
If your business is moving to more remote working this is a great opportunity to hold more regular meetings as they are so important.
Meetings should ideally be scheduled in advance, with managers perhaps setting aside a day a month to sit down with their employees for half an hour, and a weekly reminder to check in with their teams, ideally individually.
These performance management tools should be a key part of managers’ own targets. You need to ensure that they are given the time to invest in the staff they manage.
One of the best things you can do to improve your performance management process is to invest in your managers and provide them with regular training.
At the start of each review year, managers should discuss key goals and objectives with employees. These should tie in with team objectives and the aims for the company as a whole. Targets should always be SMART if possible – specific, measured, achievable, relevant and time bound. The trick is to set goals at the right level. If they are too challenging and demotivating employees will burn themselves out trying to reach them. If they are too easy employees will not feel satisfied.
Regular meetings can then be used to review these. Targets can be adapted and any issues with workload or support should be discussed. A good performance management technique is to set prompts such as diary reminders at set intervals through the year. This ensures meetings are not forgotten.
Managers should ensure that they are giving regular feedback to employees. They should also encourage feedback from employees.
The focus on the performance process is always to assist the employee to improve. Ignoring poor performance and avoiding issues can be extremely detrimental.
Poor performance issues rarely improve on their own. As soon as you become aware an employee is not performing, start to address it.
Often managers or business owners come to us for help with managing poor performance with the aim of dismissing the employee, and it transpires that the issues have never been raised and the employee has never been given any negative feedback in an appraisal or informally. Often the manager has not wanted to upset the employee.
If you notice an employee is making mistakes, is not delivering on targets or seems to be struggling, you should start to help with this. Immediate feedback is a crucial performance management technique. It allows employees to be far more receptive to feedback and motivated to improve.
If the employee is not taking on board feedback or issues continue to occur, you should then move to an informal meeting with the employee to discuss concerns and agree informal targets with a short review period. We would advise 1 month as a minimum review period in most costs.
If the informal performance management techniques are being utilised, but you have an employee who is still not improving as you would like, you can escalate to a more formal performance management process.
This usually starts with an investigation into the performance issues. You should then invite the employee to a formal meeting to discuss the concerns, which can result in a first written warning and timeframe to improve.
This timeframe should be fair and reasonable and give the employee enough time to demonstrate improvement. This is a lengthy process. Often 3 months or more is required to allow the employee to properly demonstrate improvement. This will of course depend on your business and the role in question. A final written warning and ultimately dismissal may be considered if you still do not see improvement from the employee.
Throughout the performance management process the focus should be on the employer supporting the employee to improve during each review period. Managers will be expected to help the employee to meet their targets and provide any further support and training.
Ultimately, to fairly dismiss someone you will need to demonstrate that you have put the employee on notice of their poor performance, have given them an opportunity to improve and are satisfied that they have failed to do so, and that you have followed a fair process.
Ultimately a good performance management process should include:
You can also listen to Claire Merritt and Tabytha Cunningham’s podcast.