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How I solved a poor performance problem in three easy steps

by , 25 April 2013
Last time I wrote to tell you about a client who was finding it challenging to manage his employees effectively. Well, I was back there a few days ago and I had the opportunity to see him applying the performance management principles that we recently put in place.

Dear Readers,

This is the situation: One of his employees, let's call him Anthony, hasn't been performing well lately and has started getting into the habit of not finishing all his duties and just letting them 'slide'. Anthony has been in his job for more than two years and has been on a number of job-related training courses. During the past 3 months or so, Anthony has been called into his manager's office to discuss his sliding performance. During these discussions, Anthony appeared disinterested and couldn't wait for the discussions to be over.

His manager, although aware that Anthony was 'slacking', was struggling to gather the necessary evidence he needed to support decisive action on the part of the company. He started to keep a daily log of all the 'little issues' and 'unfinished business' that would add up to poor performance and within a little more than a week he had amassed a strong portfolio of evidence that proved Anthony's performance was just not up to scratch.

Three steps to improve performance

To his credit, following our implementation of the performance management process last month, my client's already ensured that all employees now have a detailed job profile and current goals. He was determined to make sure that slackers like Anthony didn't get away with poor performance any longer.

To kick-start the company's action against poor performance, I advised him to take the following steps:

Step 1.    Gather evidence

Anthony's manager gathered evidence to show that what Anthony was delivering in terms of his job outputs was less than what was required of him in terms of his job profile and his current goals.

Step 2.    Assess the reason for non-performance
Anthony's manager and my client sat down to assess whether this lack of performance was because Anthony 'didn't know how' or because he 'chose not to' or because of some other issue beyond Anthony's control.

Step 3.    Take action
Because (i) Anthony used to perform adequately in the same job;
(ii) he has been on job-related training; and
(iii) there was no evidence of any other extenuating process issues affecting Anthony's ability to deliver the goods (so to speak), my client concluded that, on the face of it at least, Anthony's poor performance was due to misconduct because it was clear that Anthony:
•    Knew how to do his job;
•    Had received appropriate training;
•    Had been given the opportunity to ask for support if he required it;
•    Had been counselled about his deteriorating performance on several occasions; and
•    Had shown a lack of interest in his performance issues and correcting them.

Anthony was served with a Disciplinary Hearing notice this week.

I'm glad my client's managing poor performance better now. It's really critical in this tough economic climate, that managers know how to deal with poor performance quickly and appropriately. Taking the time to learn the processes and legally-complaint methods of dealing with poor performance will not only save your managers precious time to get on with their own jobs, but will also ensure that your salary-spend is going on those employees who earn their paycheques. Now that's a little bit of pain for an enormously beneficial gain!

Most workplaces have at least one employee who's not pulling their weight. If you want to know exactly how to legally handle each poor performance situation then join me on 8 May at my morning workshop where I'll show you how to improve your employees performance or show them the door. Click here for more details

Until next time….

Warm regards
Janine Nieuwoudt
Editor-in-chief - Practical Guide to Human Resources Management

P.S. There's only a few seats left at the 'Managing Poor Performers' half-day workshop on 8 May, so make sure I get your booking form this week to reserve your seat.

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