Managing poor performance


Carrying out regular staff appraisals and identifying objectives is key in preventing poor employee performance.

In this article, Robert Walters provides useful advice on how you can identify poor performance, and the steps you can take to improve your employee's performance at work.


Key steps to improving performance

  • Identify poor performance
  • Find the cause
  • Set clear targets

Identifying poor performance

In order to make a determination that an employee is not performing to an acceptable level, it is essential that some sort of performance measure/standard has been identified in advance. The employee should also be informed of and understand what is required of him or her.

To do this, there are a range of measurement tools you can use:

  • Detailed job description - to set out the outputs/outcomes of the role
  • Targets - the use of pre-set targets (common in a sales role) which are realistic and achievable can enable an employer to determine whether an employee is achieving the standard required of them
  • Quality controls - may be useful where the provision of a quality service is essential. For instance, in customer facing roles
  • Competency frameworks - which focus on the key behaviours that are required to achieve competent performance

Finding causes of poor performance

When it becomes apparent that an employee is not performing to the standard required, it is important to identify the underlying causes for poor performance. Poor performance could be related to:

  • Lack of application to the role and tasks
  • Lack of capability/skills in general
  • Lack of capability due to illness or injury

Each of these situations will call for different remedial actions, thus emphasising the importance of correctly identifying the cause of poor performance.

Correcting poor performance: setting clear targets

To ensure fairness of dismissal, the employer must demonstrate that an employee was given sufficient opportunity to improve.

To do this, firms should set clear targets for their employees in the following ways:

  • Have an informal meeting with the employee outlining the areas where their performance is in decline and agree goals/targets and a review date.
  • Review the performance at the review date and determine if there has been any improvement. If there has been an acceptably significant improvement then no further action should be necessary. If there has been some improvement then perhaps the employer could identify the areas where the employee needs further improvement and set a further review date.
  • If there has been no significant improvement, the employer may contemplate the use of the disciplinary/dismissal procedure. The appropriate penalty will vary with the relevant disciplinary procedure, but it is strongly recommended that dismissal for a first occurrence is inappropriate. To ensure fairness of dismissal in these circumstances the employer must demonstrate that an employee was given sufficient opportunity to improve.

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