The performance management process can be uncomfortable and leaders and employees will typically avoid it, especially if things are not going well. Feedback and documentation are most important when there is a need for performance improvement.
While employers will make a best effort to hire suitable employees during recruitment, sometimes even the best employees can start to struggle. Some common indicators that a performance problem exists include:
A leader must first clearly define the performance problem and investigate if underlying problems exist, either at work or at home, that can be addressed to support performance improvement. There may be a variety of reasons for a lack of performance. Most issues can be addressed in a supportive way.
Performance issues often arise from:
The sooner a performance issue is addressed, the easier it will be to resolve. The longer it is “left alone,” the worse it gets. Over time the issue will infect other members of the team, and potentially customer satisfaction and your business reputation.
When signs of a problem emerge, whether it’s something as simple as perpetual lateness, or something more serious, have a conversation as soon as you can. First collect facts and gather information that will support your discussion.
Being able to express the direct impact of an employee’s performance on the business can be valuable as well. A discussion around “you have been away sick every Friday for the past six weeks” sends a clearer message than “seems like you’ve been sick a lot lately.”
If a performance improvement plan is required, its goal should be to offer a pro-active and supportive plan to resolve a specific problem. This involves defining expectations as a set of specific, measurable outcomes within a reasonable amount of time, generally not exceeding three months. This plan should include:
To ensure that the employee clearly knows what is expected of them and to prepare the company should termination become necessary, a leader or employer should:
Documentation of these steps must be kept in the employee file. If an employee achieves the desired level of improvement, document this and place the assessment in the employee file.
A leader can provide an extension at their discretion when an employee makes substantial progress, however needs to do more to reach the desired performance level. Document this assessment and place it in the employee’s file. Follow up in the designated period of time.
If the desired level of improvement is not achieved, then it is likely time to consider termination.
Performance improvement plans can be tricky and time consuming. Businesses should invest in an experienced HR professional when serious performance problems appear.