How to effectively manage employee underperformance is a key skill in a manager and team leader’s repertoire.
This article is designed as a general guide for how to begin approaching this sensitive subject. It is not a replacement for professional advice and support so please get in touch so that we can help your particular situation.
There are many reasons why underperformance needs to be addressed, quickly and effectively. These include: improving the performance and quality of output of the organisation; encouragement of optimum performance from staff members; minimising of sickness absence; avoiding legal challenges such as discrimination; minimising damage to staff morale, burden and quality of service.
Poor performance may manifest in a variety of ways such as declining quality of work, reduced productivity or delays in completion of projects and tasks and an overall decline in attitude to work, peers and management.
To address employee underperformance a fair procedure must be followed where there is a clear definition of the poor performance from the outset. Of course, if the underperformance is occurring at the start of someone’s employment then a probationary period with clearly defined purpose, length and terms, can help alleviate quickly and effectively, increasing issues later.
The process of dealing with underperformance of a member of staff begins with an informal approach. This may include establishing the facts, informing the employee of the situation, an initial meeting and discussion with them, setting of clear and attainable written targets for improvement within clear timescales and provision of support to help them achieve them. At this point a clear review date is required and a warning that failure to meet the targets may lead to formal action.
Gathering the facts at this informal stage may identify the root of the problem, underlying issues, and the triggers.
If the informal approach does not achieve the desired positive outcomes then the formal approach is required.
The formal approach requires a detailed investigation, written invitation to the employee to attend a capability meeting (the employee may be accompanied) with a note taker present and a reference back to the informal approach or appraisal. Further targets and timescales for improvement may be set at this stage and further appropriate support may include additional training, delegation of work and re-allocation of duties.
At this point, sanctions may need to be applied, such as a written warning, final written warning, dismissal with notice or other sanctions such as demotion.
If the result of the process is a dismissal then it must be fair in all the circumstances under consideration. There is an ACAS guide to disciplinary and grievance procedures for example which contains general principles of fairness and these can be incorporated within the employer’s own procedures.
Managing an employee who is underperforming is a complex, intricate and sensitive legal process. To ensure you have the appropriate support and processes in place please get in touch and we can talk you through the steps required.