Performance Management Part 2 (Poor Performance)


Managing Poor Performance – what to do when things don’t improve

You’ve had a conversation with your employee and made a plan for them to correct their poor performance – the problem is, it hasn’t happened. By this stage you may be feeling fed up, disappointed and keen to get the situation sorted. So, what happens next? Click here for how to start the conversation if you haven’t already.

You are now moving into a formal performance management process and it’s important to follow specific steps to ensure fair process for the employee and a watertight one you can rely on if it is challenged down the line. If your employee is covered by an award or enterprise agreement you should check the terms to make sure you act in accordance with that agreement. If your business has a policy concerning Performance management, you must follow the procedure within that policy.

Arranging a meeting

As this is a formal process make sure all actions are documented in writing either via email or letter. Your correspondence should make it clear to the employee that this is now a formal performance management process. In your correspondence use terminology that is consistent with your award or policy. The employee should be notified of the possible outcomes of the meeting. Natural justice requires that the employee should be on notice if they are involved in a process that could lead to termination of their employment.

Preparing for the meeting

When setting up the meeting choose an appropriate time and day as well as a private space. The end of the week can be a good time as then the employee can go home and think about things over the weekend. Make sure you give your employee adequate notice and time to prepare. Consider whether the employee needs or is entitled to a support person and/or whether the Union must be notified or involved.

These types of meeting tend to be emotional. The employee may be angry or on the defensive, so it is important to be well prepared and think about what you will say. Before the meeting know what aspects of performance are under discussion and ensure you know what was said in KPIs (key performance indicators) and the Position description. Where has the employee met standard and where are the gaps? What examples are you going to use? If you agreed at the last meeting on training or coaching check that has been completed.

During the meeting

Start the meeting by confirming that this is a poor performance management meeting and explain what the possible outcomes from this process are, for example: “your employment is at risk”. State clearly what the performance issue is and why this is a problem. Then you can summarise what has happened so far and what actions have been taken. You should also acknowledge any extenuating circumstances such as personal problems. State your expectations in very clear terms and work together to come up with a solution. It’s important to remain respectful and calm throughout. If the conversation gets heated or emotional take breaks if necessary. Have an independent third party sit in on the meeting to take notes.

Moving forward

Once you have agreed on a solution set in place a monitoring agreement. The period of review needs to be short and identify the key objectives by which you will measure whether the employee

has improved. Make sure the employee understands how long the monitoring will continue before further action is taken. Diarise any key dates and stick to them.

When there is no improvement

Many employers are under the impression that employees are entitled to ‘three strikes’ but this is not the case. If, at the end of the monitoring agreement, there is no improvement, you should be entitled to terminate their employment. However before doing so you should ensure that you have followed the process set out in the award, EBA or relevant policy which may contain specific entitlements.

Any termination letter must set out the process that was followed, the reasons for termination and the evidence that was relied upon as well as details of any entitlements honoured such as leave. Be respectful and fair until the end of the process.

HR central can provide advice on all aspects of the termination process including a checklist of steps, letter templates and exit interview documents.

Sarah Tidey

Sarah Tidey is a former lawyer who specialises in HR and workplace dispute resolution.

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