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Managing performance and capability

Managing performance can be a challenge and is often put on the back burner, in the hope that everything will turn out OK.

In our experience, this approach often means that employers get stuck with mediocre staff and end up losing the good ones. It’s just as important to manage capability to motivate and retain the best members of your team as it is to manage poor performance.

How do you deal with poor performance?

Managing poor employee performance can be particularly worrisome for smaller businesses, you may be unaware of what you can and can’t do and feel anxious about saying the wrong thing and making the situation worse than ever.

The ability to step in and make changes requires certain soft skills and a level of confidence that sometimes is a struggle to muster.

As a result of this, the line in the sand and measures that are required, including performance improvement plans and in the worst cases disciplinary action, fail to materialise in good time.

However, there are several strategies managers can call upon to correctly manage poor employee performance and we’ve picked out what we see as being most important.

Probationary periods are there for a reason   

When new employees come on board, it’s common for businesses to introduce probationary periods. This will allow you to assess the employees’ suitability for the role and to see if they are the right fit for your business.

Probationary periods should be used to maximum effect. There’s no legal requirement when it comes to how long the period should be, but most employers settle on either a three to six-month period.

During the period clear objectives should be set and the performance of the new employee monitored closely. They will need regular meetings to ensure they are settling in, and to ensure they understand what is being asked of them. Clear objectives will give you something tangible to review progress against and the opportunity to address any issues before they become more of a problem further down the line.

Identify the root cause

When it comes to tackling poor performance it’s worth remembering that, more often than not, there’s something behind it. Don’t just assume that an employee can’t be bothered as issues at work could be a sign that something else is wrong.

Our top tip is to try and nip issues in the bud. Generally, the situation will only get worse the longer you leave it, leaving you and the rest of the team more and more frustrated.

Sit down with your employee, go through your concerns and allow them to express their views on what the problem may be.

A performance improvement plan and regular reviews will hopefully see an all-round improvement. Part of the plan may be to provide additional training to upskill your employee or additional support in the short term to help them clear a backlog.

Follow a fair process for dismissal

If you have tried everything to support your employee and things still aren’t running quite as you had imagined, then formal disciplinary action is the next step.

Following your own procedures will ensure fairness and consistency and will also reduce the risk of employees’ raising grievances, claiming that they’re being victimised or bullied.

If you have an underperforming employee, start to keep a record of your observations so that you have tangible evidence to discuss at a formal meeting.   Once you have evidence to substantiate your concerns, then invite your employee into a formal hearing, in line with your own procedures. A lack of evidence will make it almost impossible to proceed to issue a formal warning.

These internal procedures follow the course of natural justice. An employee must be made aware of the evidence against them to prepare for the hearing, in just the same way a defendant does when going to court.

The purpose of the hearing is to discuss your concerns and for the employee to explain why they aren’t performing to the required standard. From here you can agree on the next steps with clear goals and milestones and issue a warning to improve.

If you need support with managing a poor performer, whether it be to set objectives, formulate a performance improvement plan or you are at the formal hearing stage, then please contact us. We’re a safe pair of hands to reach out to.

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