Do all your employees meet all of your workplace standards most of the time? If the answer is “no”, there’s work to do. Poor work performance is a common complaint. It’s usually not very well addressed, often because it’s so minor that managers feel that to deal with it is petty. It’s like a tiny stone in the shoe, nagging you all the time though you can walk and even run…. But how much better you’d do if you took the stone out. If you don’t tackle those irritating little stones, your business will simply leak money, day after day, week after week and in many cases year after year. There is also a good chance that the staff who perform well will get fed up and resign, leaving you with the dross. Not a pretty thought is it?

The essence of being a manager is getting work done effectively through your team.

You have to be able to identify and tackle poor work performance in an effective timely fashion.
If you know that a member of your team is not meeting all of your standards nearly all the time, investigate the cause of the unsatisfactory performance with the employee. If you can remove or reduce the cause of the problem, the employee’s performance is likely to improve. Act quickly and nip problems in the bud (it’s always much easier to blow out a match than put out a forest fire).

Create a performance improvement plan (PIP).

Agree and set down precise performance targets which are capable of being measured.

• Agree a process to keep both of you informed of progress and diarise follow-ups.
• If the employee needs any training, specify that in the PIP.
• Build in a date for an interim performance evaluation to assess the employee’s progress.
• Include the employee’s suggestions in the PIP.
• List the positive outcomes of successfully completing the performance improvement plan along with the negative consequences of failing to meet performance criteria.
• Ask the employee to date and sign the PIP, acknowledging that he has read and understands its requirements.
• Note that the process of encouraging the employee to improve his performance starts at the informal stage. If it becomes necessary to escalate to the formal process, the PIP will continue to run in parallel with any formal sanctions.

Monitor progress and provide regular feedback.

Review at weekly intervals, so you keep track of progress. If the employee starts to perform better, this will be encouraging for both of you. Give accurate, objective and targeted feedback. Try to focus on the positive as this will increase motivation and performance.

Give enough time for the employee to improve; this should be at least one – three months, but it does depend on the circumstances. If in doubt give more time rather than less. If the employee’s performance does not improve after the informal approach you can move to the formal process. The efforts to guide your employee to a raised standard of performance would continue in parallel with any formal sanctions.

Kate Russell, BA, Barrister, MA

Kate Russell, the MD of Russell HR Consulting, is an employment law and HR expert, public speaker and author who has become known as the HR headmistress.

She believes that HR is a business role in exactly the same way as finance and IT. HR should facilitate organisational performance, mentor and coach managers to ensure that employees are achieving optimum performance (too often HR ends up doing this work for them).

Kate is frequently featured in national and industry media for her expert knowledge and opinions on HR and employment related subjects.

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