EMPLOYER’S GUIDE | Managing poor performance

Do you ever let employees get away with poor performance because you don’t want to have the awkward conversation with them?

Although this is completely understandable, you could be facing more headaches in the long run. It becomes increasingly hard to bring up problems if they have been doing the same for weeks, months or even years and nobody has ever pulled them up on it. The slip-ups can become more serious, have a knock on effect on colleagues and it can have a big impact on productivity.

Let’s take a closer look at how to manage poor performance in an effective way and get the most out of your employees.

Is it a performance or conduct issue?

Employers often get confused about where to draw the line between performance and conduct.

When we are talking about performance, these are the employees that can’t do something. This should be dealt with through your performance/capability procedures.

When we talking about conduct, we are talking about someone who can do it, but won’t. This should be dealt with through your disciplinary procedures.

Motivate your staff

There are a number of ways to motivate staff who are underperforming. Examples include recognising good work, linking pay to performance, giving them the chance to progress up the career ladder and offering them training opportunities.

Keep reviewing performance

Managers should be having regular meetings and reviews with employees, giving them frequent feedback, holding annual appraisals and keeping records of all performance, whether good or bad. The ACAS Code of Practice says that employers should carry out an investigation before holding a formal hearing and these documents will help with this.

Try to resolve informally

Dealing with an employee’s performance is part and parcel of a manager’s day-to-day duties. The employee’s line manager can talk to them to make them aware of the performance issue, identify the reasons for underperformance, and inform them of what the correct level of performance is and how they can improve. Admittedly it may be a difficult conversation, but it can produce good results as the employee understands what is causing concern and what they can do to make it right.

If this doesn’t work…

Unfortunately, the informal approach does not always work and may require formal action.

You should invite them to an initial performance review hearing, giving them information about the performance concerns and the possible outcomes that could come out the meeting.

At the hearing, it is a chance to delve into the issues and clarify what is required of them, identify those key areas of concern, find out what the causes of poor performance are, pinpoint any training needs and set targets and timescales for improvement.

A significant part of this is allowing the employee to ask questions, present evidence and respond to the concerns. It also involves listening to the employee and assessing whether the targets are too ambitious. Is the workload simply too much? Have there been changes since those original targets were set?  Have they been given training?

If it is considered that performance is unsatisfactory, you should give them an improvement notice, which specifies what they need to improve on, the period of review and the potential outcomes if their performance doesn’t improve. This also includes offering appropriate support or training.

If performance is still not improving

If the deadline passes and they still haven’t brought their performance up to the level required, you may need to hold another hearing or extend the period of review. It may also be appropriate to give them a formal first or final written warning.

If improvement does not appear, you may need to consider dismissal or any options just short of dismissal, for example, redeploying them into another suitable job.

Employees should not normally be dismissed for performance reasons unless they have received previous warnings. However, in some cases, for example if the employee has been so negligent that they have caused the company serious loss, they may be dismissed without prior warning and/or without notice.

Remember the ACAS Code of Practice…

Employers need to follow the main principles of the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, which sets out the main principles and steps that need to be taken when dealing with poor performance issues e.g. allowing the employee to be accompanied at the disciplinary hearing and allowing an appeal.

Ellis Whittam advisers can help you draft a performance management policy which best suits your organisation and provide you with support and guidance when dealing with particular difficult employees.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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