3.2.3 Managing Under-Performance

Lesson Progress

3.2.3 Managing Under-Performance

Although dealing with under-performance can be challenging for both employees and employers, it is crucial to address the issue properly. Organisations must provide managers with sufficient support and resources that would empower the proper management of under-performance. For instance, training such as role-play workshops can be put in place.

Operational Plan Management

Once you have evaluated the progress of the operational plan, you should identify any areas where improvements could be made. These improvements should be in the form of a series of recommendations. These should be the course of action that you believe is most appropriate for your organisation to make to improve the work plans. Whenever your system does not meet the required standards or objectives (as set by the performance measures and criteria you developed earlier), you should establish one or more recommendations to correct this problem. These recommendations should be concrete and include a practical course of action that management should consider using to address the given problem. 

After you have drawn your conclusions from the given data, you will be left with a list of conclusions that state whether or not your organisation’s system has met the required standards. For each performance criteria that has not been met, you should begin an analysis of why such was not met. In order to achieve this, you may need to seek input from internal and external consultation. 

Where you have such performance gaps, it’s important that you try to establish a cause. In doing so, you may find that the cause is related to other parts of the organisation, rather than merely being a fault with the system. It is crucial when looking at gaps in performance that you establish cause and effect relationships. What this means is that you have found a performance gap, and this is the effect of some cause. You need to be able to determine that cause and demonstrate that the cause has a detrimental effect on the system as a whole. If you are unable to establish this, your recommendations may be seen as a costly way of fixing a non-existent problem. 

The improvements you decide to make should be recommended based on the analysis of several factors: 

  • Operational Implications 

How will the proposed changes influence the organisation’s procedures and policies? Will any additional training need to be provided? Think carefully about how the changes you are recommending will affect other parts of the organisation, and how things are done. 

  • Risk 

Whenever changes are made, or a new system is introduced into an organisation, there is always an element of risk. What is the risk that the recommendation will cause further problems? Think through the risk and determine whether the reward (in terms of actual improvements) outweighs the risk of its implementation within the existing system. 

  • Feasibility 

How feasible are the improvements, given the budget and resources that you have been allocated? Does your organisation have the expertise to implement the system appropriately? Can the improvement actually be made to work given the current state of the organisation? 

If the recommendations that you make would require changes to the actual work plan itself, it is vital to establish timelines for this to happen. It should be implemented in a timely fashion, rather than allow current problems to exist in the system any longer than they have to. You must also carefully document changes, ensuring that all staff are aware of them, and know where they can find details of the changes if they require this information.

Employee Management

Under-performance issues come in different forms. As such, it is important to explore various options for improving performance (e.g. use of continuous feedback). Generally speaking, however, effective management of under-performance can be done with a clear system in place. In this regard, the Fair Work Ombudsman site puts forth a five-step guide to dealing with under-performance.

Steps in Managing Employee Under-Performance 

1. Identify the Problem

You must understand the key drivers of both performance and under-performance within your organisation. Likewise, ensure that you are able to determine the problem at hand with both accuracy and specificity.

2. Assess and Analyse the Problem

You should make note of the following:

  • The gravity of the problem
  • The length of time the problem has existed
  • The gap between what you have expected and what is being delivered. 

Once this has been accomplished, set a meeting with your employee so you can discuss the problem. Remember to properly inform them about the nature and details of the meeting so they can prepare. Allow them to bring along a person for support if necessary (i.e. a person of their choosing or a union member).

3. Meet with the Employee to Discuss the Problem

Ensure that the meeting is private and comfortable for you and the employee. Then, begin the discussion by clarifying the problem. At this point, the employee should clearly recognise the issue, why it is considered such, and how it affects the workplace.

You should then discuss the desired outcomes and proceed to openly talk about the problem at hand. Listen to what your employee has to say and note the important points they make.

It is important that you remember the following during this process:

  • Focus on the issue and not the person 
  • Investigate the issue and try to determine why it exists
  • Clarify details as necessary
  • Remain calm and encouraging towards your employee
  • Make a summary to ensure that you understand each other properly.

4. Jointly Devise a Solution

Should it be feasible to do so, devise a solution with your employee. This is beneficial since doing so would involve them and give them a stake in the solution, making them more likely to follow it. In doing this, you must remember to:

  • Ask questions and encourage the exploration of their ideas
  • Emphasise your common ground
  • Focus on the positive possibilities
  • Stay on track
  • Offer your employee assistance as necessary.

With the help of your employee, come up with a performance agreement or action plan that would:

  • Reflect a shared understanding of expectations
  • Clarify the employee’s responsibilities
  • Include strategies for their career development and training
  • Include timeframes
  • Reinforce the value of the employee’s role.

After this, set a date for a follow-up meeting to review the employee’s progress and performance.Remember to keep a record of all the discussions and agreements you make. This would help you keep track of their performance and may also be used as evidence should you need to take legal action on the matter.

Helpful Hint-

In writing your solution, use simple language that both you and the employee can understand. For example, if ‘KPI’ isn’t part of everyday language, avoid using it.

5. Monitor Performance

Continue to monitor your employee’s performance. Even if their performance is no longer an issue, you may find it useful to meet and discuss their progress. Provide positive and negative feedback and continue to work with them to ensure that they continue to maintain and improve their performance. 

If their performance does not improve, it may be time to take more serious actions (i.e. counselling, issuing formal warnings). If the issue cannot be resolved, they may ultimately need to be terminated.