• Leah Norman

The Performance Management Process

For organisations to achieve their goals, they must manage people and performance effectively, yet Performance Management is an HR function employers tend to avoid at all costs.


But it’s not a dirty word.


Effective performance management can bring together the organisation’s goals and strategies, its HR policies, practices, and all the elements of good people management and employee communication.— integrating them into an organisation-wide process for planning, managing, reviewing, rewarding and developing people and their performance.


There is no reason employers cannot have in place a clear performance measurement process, without it seeming like a ‘performance review’, or having employees feel they are being micro-managed.


What is Poor Performance?

Poor performance is where an employee is not meeting the requirements of their role. This may be identified through observations of their manager, through issues being raised by colleagues, or through the job not getting done. An opportunity is provided for the staff member to improve their performance within a reasonable and specified time frame. The aim of the process is to provide a structured and clear plan to motivate and incentivise the employee to lift their performance to the required standard.


Ongoing poor performance is where, despite a remedial process, the employee’s performance is still unsatisfactory. In these circumstances, the ongoing poor performance is needing to be dealt with through a remedial process that is disciplinary in nature. The aim of the remedial disciplinary process is still to motivate and incentivise the staff member to lift their performance through meeting objectives set out in a plan. However, if the employee’s performance does not improve within the specified times for improvement to occur, then the employer may impose a warning and in some cases dismissal may result.


We understand that managing poor performance can be one of the most challenging and stressful situations a manager has to handle, but it is important that employers follow their own established policies and procedures.


What does the standard process look like?

Many employers will have their own performance management process prescribed in a policy and/or steps identified in the employment agreement, in which case this must be adhered to. However, in the absence of any prescribed policy or contractual obligation, we recommend the best practice process outlined below for effective and fair performance management.


Where a remedial disciplinary process is being implemented, the steps in the process will be as the circumstances require. As with any other disciplinary process, the employee is entitled to representation/ support throughout the process and the manager or employer may supported by their internal HR or external consultant.


Objectives must be measurable and time frames for improvement must be reasonable in the circumstances.


The procedure may include the following steps:

  1. The employer advises the employee that as their performance has not improved to a satisfactory level, a remedial process in a disciplinary context is needing to be implemented. This will include the possibility that disciplinary action will apply if the staff member does not meet their performance objectives within the specified time frames.

  2. The employer sets the performance objectives in consultation with the employee. A reasonable and specified time-frame is allowed for the employee to improve their performance. This is often documented into a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) as signed by both parties.

  3. Where appropriate and agreed, an opportunity is provided for the employee to receive additional training. This also would be documented in the PIP, as well as the time-frame for this training to have been delivered.

  4. At the end of the period for improvement, a disciplinary meeting is held. The employee is advised of their right to have representation/support at the disciplinary meeting.

  5. The employer reviews the employee’s performance against the set objectives. If applicable, the employer will outline the specific areas where the employee’s performance is still unsatisfactory. The employee (or their representative) is provided with a real opportunity to be heard and offer explanations. The employer should give full consideration to the employee’s explanation and any mitigating circumstances before making a decision.

  6. The employer advises the employee of the decision. Where the staff member’s performance is still unsatisfactory and a warning is given, the employer should also consider whether any amendments need to be made to the performance objectives outlined in the PIP. If so, the employer may seek comments from the employee and take this feedback into account. Once the objectives are confirmed and a new PIP issued, an opportunity within a reasonable and specified time frame is allowed for the staff member to improve their performance.

  7. This process repeats steps 4 & 5. Again, the employee is advised of the decision. This may include a further warning or dismissal for ongoing poor performance.

  8. Where a further warning is given, repeat from step 6.

  9. The process is continued until the staff member reaches a satisfactory standard of performance or is dismissed for ongoing poor performance.


The key to performance management is goal and timeline establishment.

Each and every goal should have a series of steps or achievements required to achieve the overall goal – and a timeline around each one. In this way, goal achievement becomes project managed. Where one step is not achieved in the required or expected time-frame, other project steps need to be restructured.


Regular communication one to one with the employee about their progress is also a positive influence when it comes to assisting them improve their performance levels – as long as it’s kept short and to the point. These regular catch ups are not at all overwhelming compared with formal performance meetings and they tend to contribute really well to a ‘no surprises’ culture.

In many cases you may find that the employee will start to relax a little when you give them regular positive reinforcement, which will inevitably give you insight on what’s going on with them and usually means you will more than likely be able to provide more support than you would may been previously.


It usually takes several months to reach a conclusion using this process, which can be arduous, and it may be tempting to rush to dismissal. Don’t. Unless the misconduct is serious, case law has established that before it is fair to dismiss a person, they need formal warning that their performance or behaviour needs to improve and they are given the opportunity to do so.


Disclaimer

This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.