June 2019 update
Do your staff know what you expect of them? Many employers assume that all employees enter their role ready to perform, but that is not always true.
A position description should be part of every employment agreement. In many cases it is sent out to candidates as part of the recruitment process so they can assess their suitability and if they have the relevant skills for the role. We would recommend that a skill assessment checklist is also used as part of the recruitment process.
For other employees sometimes their role changes and their position description no longer reflect what they do. If this is the case, ask the employee to update their current position description and then discuss the changes with you.
It is not unusual to see a drop off in performance in a good staff member as a reaction to something they are dealing with in their personal life, but you would expect that their performance would lift again.
But when you have an employee who has a sustained period of underperformance or poor behaviour then you need to deal with it. Starting these conversations can be difficult, and you might begin with a ’fireside chat’. This is a time to check in with the employee, to see if they are alright, express your concerns, confirm your expectations and see if they have any suggestions about how you can work with them to lift their performance or change their behaviour. It also gives them an opportunity to discuss any issues that you should know about. Even though this is an informal chat – document it in writing.
It is common to see an improvement in performance after a chat, but in many cases, it isn’t sustained. If the employee doesn’t provide any reason for their underperformance, then you need to deal with the performance.
The next step is to formalise the process by holding a non-disciplinary meeting:
- start by inviting the employee to a meeting by letter.
- the letter should detail your concerns, these should be recent. You can’t discuss anything that has already been dealt with, but you can could refer to previous discussions
- the meeting should be scheduled for 2-3 days after receipt of the letter, to allow time for the employee to seek advice and a support person, should they wish to bring one.
The meeting should be held in a private setting and you may prefer to hold it off-site. During the meeting you will outline your expectations and hear the employee’s responses. You might ask for solutions to the issues and identify any training the employee might benefit from.
After the meeting write an outcome letter that details all that you have agreed and if a performance improvement plan was one of the decisions then that should be included for the employee to provide feedback.
For more detailed information you can refer to our content on managing underperformance.
Should the employees performance or behaviour continue to fall short of your expectations and you have provided support to assist them, you may then need to embark on a disciplinary process.
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