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By LegalEdge News

Tips for managing under-performers

It can be a struggle to manage staff who are underperforming. This may be because: 

  • Team leaders don’t want to address the issue, or lack the experience or confidence to do so.
  • There’s a reluctance to initiate a formal process.
  • Managers may lack experience in recognising and responding to underperformance.
  • There may be a lack of support from senior managers and/or the people team. 

But letting things drift usually makes the problem worse. This can have a negative impact on team morale and productivity. 

Dealing with performance issues early generally saves time, money and frustration.

Often taking steps informally and early resolves matters without the need for further action. But if not, formal action should be initiated, and following a proper procedure will be crucial to minimise the risk and outcome of any legal claims.

If an individual is not performing, what should you do?

  • Identify where they are falling short.
  • Find out why this is happening.
  • Be clear about the improvement(s) required.
  • Take steps to support them to improve.
  • Give them a reasonable amount of time to improve before taking formal action.

Performance management tips:

  • Don’t jump to conclusions about why they are underperforming – there could be a variety of issues – personal or otherwise – going on which require support.
  • Having an informal conversation to try and find out if anything has changed should be the first step. 
  • There is a difference between a worker temporarily taking their foot off the gas and failing to carry out their duties to a reasonable standard. It may be hard to spot when the line is crossed. 
  • Take time to investigate an individual’s performance properly before starting a formal performance management process. Gather and record evidence to justify this. 
  • BUT, if a worker’s actions (or inactions) are potentially risking safety, prompt action should be taken. 
  • Be clear what standards are required. Check the individual’s employment contract and job description and if necessary, use them to explain how they are falling short.
  • If formal performance management is appropriate the individual must be told what improvement is required, by what time. Consider how the individual will demonstrate they have reached the required standard. Is there a fair and objective way of assessing this? The last thing you want is a fight over whether or not the individual has improved sufficiently.
  • Agree a timeline for improvement with the individual – don’t leave things open ended. Make sure enough time is given (maybe with an option to extend if agreed).
  • Build in review meetings as part of the improvement timetable so the individual will have plenty of warning if they are failing to progress as required.  
  • Where there is a genuine capability issue consider what additional support can be offered for example, in terms of training. Make sure the individual can attend any necessary training sessions.
  • Consider if any underperformance could be linked to a disability. For example, an individual with dyslexia could struggle with certain work. If in doubt take legal advice before taking any action. Otherwise there’s a risk of a legal claim relating to disability discrimination.
  • Consider how easily this person can be replaced, do you want to invest the time and resource to support them to improve? Or is it better to have a ‘protected conversation’ with them to agree an exit.
  • If several workers within the same team/department are underperforming, this may indicate a wider problem within your organisation. Do you need to consider group training or look at supervision or reporting structures to help address the problem?

How can we help?

  • We can review your performance management and disciplinary procedures to ensure they support your business. 
  • We can advise if you’re not sure what to do with an underperformer, or you’re not sure if disciplinary action is justified in a particular case.
  • We can provide training for managers to help address performance and capability issues. 

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