Performance Management Part One


One of the most challenging aspects of employing people is dealing with poor performance. In a small business an employee who is not performing well can impact not only your bottom line but the morale of those around them. Many employers I speak to find it challenging to address poor performance particularly if the individual is a long standing or popular employee.

Case study

John is the Marketing Manager for a building company that specialises in renovations. An important part of John’s role is following up quotes. Recently John has been inconsistent in following up quotes with potential new customers and as a result the company’s conversion of quotes to new business has dropped. As John’s manager the issue you need to address with him is that he is not meeting one of the key requirements of his role, which is to follow up quotes. The reason that this is important is that it builds the business going forward. You would follow this up with specific examples relating to specific jobs. By explaining to him that you expect him to follow up every call within 48 hours he understands your expectations and how you will measure his performance.

Conversations about performance can be tricky and emotional and it is easy to get off track, which is why it helps to approach the issue in a strategic way, with a consistent step by step approach. Here are our tips:

Identify the issue

Before you rush into a discussion with the employee spend some time jotting down what it is about their performance that you are unhappy with, providing examples. It can be useful at the same time to confirm what your expectations are.

Assess the issue

As a manager you need to strike a balance between raising every issue you have a concern about and focusing on the key ones. Ask yourself how serious is the issue? Revisit the employee’s job role and look at what the key functions are. Remember everyone has a different style or manner – insisting the employee does things exactly the way you do them is not necessarily the desired outcome here (unless you are working in fast food or another procedure driven business). You also need to look at how long the issue has been going on for. If the issue has been ongoing for some time its possible the person possibly thinks they are doing a great job because no one has told them otherwise. This may be a flag for you or their manager to have a think about, is it your responsibility to communicate if you think there is an issue to address.   Ignoring it only reinforces the message to the employee that it is ok to continue as is.   It also raises the question of whether it is as much of an issue as you think it is.

Sometimes poor performance may be the result of personal issues unrelated to work. How well do you know your employee? What else do they have going on in their life? Keep in mind that you as their manager may be part of the problem. Are you making too many demands? Or setting unrealistic timeframes? Or are you not providing enough support?

Meet with the employee

It’s time to arrange a meeting with the employee. Make sure that you meet with them in a private environment where you won’t be observed by others. Turn off your phone and block out your diary so you won’t be interrupted during the discussion. Inform the employee that their performance or behaviour is not meeting expectations and why. Give specific examples to support your concerns. Use clear, succinct language and don’t get personal.

Have a discussion with the employee and work out together how they can improve their performance and implement a performance improvement plan. Make sure they clearly understand what the expectations are. Follow up the meeting with an email summarising the conversation and the agreed steps to improving performance and the timeframe. Be positive and encouraging. If your discussions include plans for further training or support, make sure that gets organised. Check in regularly with them to see how they are going. It’s easy to get caught up with work and not follow up these conversations.  

HR Central can provide advice on all aspects of Performance management including Procedures, Action Plans and advice on exiting an employee. Call us on 1300 717 721

Sarah Tidey

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

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