How To Turn Around A Poor Performer

How To Turn Around A Poor Performer

Poor performer

Is it always worth making the effort to improve a poor performer?

There is something very depressing about realising that one of your hires isn’t working out as you’d imagined they would.

When you first took this person on you, were excited about the skills and dynamism that they might bring to your team. You were looking forward to getting new projects off the ground and to hearing their ideas and input for your business.

Right now you are dealing with the sad admission that you possibly made a mistake in hiring them, or that they pulled the wool over your eyes during the interview.

Whilst it is tempting to rely on the fact that they are in probation, or have less than 2 years’ service, and simply dismiss them it can still be a risky approach. Before you start thinking about terminating their contract, there are steps that you can take that could support this poor performer and help them to realise the potential that you saw in them before they settled in at their desk.

Maybe we need to explore why the individual isn’t performing and support them to turn the performance around, so they become a good performer.

Let’s face it, we all might have had a time in our lives when things don’t go according to plan. Someone’s performance could be below par for any number of reasons – poor health, non-attendance, having caring responsibilities, not understanding their job role, struggling to fit in to their new workplace, juggling family life and the commute, adapting to change, lack of ability or having a problem with a work colleague could all be responsible.

It’s well worth having a conversation with the individual to identify if there is something outside or inside the business that is affecting their contribution.

And, if you ever end up in a tribunal situation for dismissing someone for poor performance, a tribunal judge would always look to see if you have made reasonable attempts and efforts to help an individual to turn their performance around, and given them sufficient support and time to do so.

Steps you can take to improve performance.

Here are our step by step recommendations:

On hiring:

  • Take care to match an employees’ skills and experience to the job role requirements at the point of recruitment; you want to get the right person in the right job to avoid problems later on (this also applies to internal promotions and job changes).
  • Provide written job descriptions and clear objectives. Spend time with new employees or employees taking on extra roles or responsibilities to ensure they understand their role and what is expected of them.
  • Support employees by having regular one to one meetings, listen to and communicate with your team. Early detection of internal or external issues or concerns makes them much easier to deal with.
  • Provide appropriate training and development.
  • Have a clear Capability/Performance Improvement Policy so employees can see what the company’s approach is to supporting and managing poor performance. Your aim should be to ensure consistent and fair treatment to all employees.

When you start to sense that there’s a problem:

  • If they don’t actively request support from you as their manager, don’t assume that they don’t need it, they may simply be afraid to ask for help for fear of showing their weaknesses.
  • Informal coaching and supervision should be considered, where appropriate, to improve performance. Employees should be provided with clear and concise examples of poor performance, so they understand what it is they are not doing right
  • Set clear or SMART objectives with the employee so they understand what they need to do to improve and by when.

Finally, if you feel you have exhausted informal initiatives, you can move to a more formal Capability/Performance Improvement process, which is very similar to the disciplinary process where you would have three stages:

  1. First written warning
  2. Second written warning
  3. Dismissal

At each stage you will need to ensure that:

  • You invite your employee to a formal meeting, giving them adequate notice and the right to be accompanied.
  • You clearly set out what the performance issue is, and any evidence you plan on using to support your claims of poor performance.
  • You set out any informal improvement action that has already been provided and why it hasn’t worked and any proposed formal improvement action.
  • You hold a formal meeting, and after the meeting you set out in writing what the sanction is (if any), what the performance problem is, the required improvement and timescale, any help or training to be provided and the right of the individual to appeal your decision.
  • If your employee is still within their probationary period, we could consider a scaled down version of this process and talk you through a best practice strategy.

How to avoid this happening again.

Here at Metro HR we believe that ongoing performance review and proactive management along with constructive real-time feedback can help employees to know what your business is trying to achieve. It also makes clear how the skills and abilities they have are helping your business to achieve its objectives, how they and the business are doing and, when there are performance problems, what to do about them.

It’s critical that everyone in your team succeeds in their work – individual achievement as well as that of the team is crucial to the success of the business.  As Richard Branson says: “Embedding purpose into your business will help it stand out, and align it with customers who have the same values”.

Having a solid foundation of HR processes and procedures is the cornerstone of a happy, functioning and productive team.

Wondering if what you have in place is doing the job?

Why not download our Fantastic HR Checklist and work through the framework that we recommend to develop an effective and FANTASTIC HR function in your business.

And, for more information about managing performance, ACAS has a very useful advisory booklet on the subject, which you can find here.