According to Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), one in ten employers believes their performance management processes are actually demotivating their employees.
This shouldn’t be happening. Performance management is not just about managing out those employees whose performance is below par. It is also about setting clear expectations, giving people praise for good work, providing constructive feedback to help them improve, refocusing efforts to align with new objectives, resolving any concerns, identifying training and development needs and increasing your employee’s engagement level. All of this will ensure that your business is getting the very best out of your employees.
So where are employers going wrong?
Often managers fall into the dangerous trap of thinking that performance management starts and stops with an annual review, but a successful performance management strategy involves many more layers.
Here are the key ingredients to successful performance management:
1. Use job descriptions correctly
By defining key competencies, duties and responsibilities, the job description provides a great platform by which performance can be measured and monitored.
2. Use probationary periods
If you notice performance issues during the probationary period, do not leave it until the last minute to start addressing the problems. Holding mid-probation reviews and regular feedback sessions to explain to the employee in what ways they are progressing well and what areas they need to work on ensures that everyone knows where they stand. If they are struggling, you should offer them all the necessary support and guidance to get their performance to the required standard.
3. Set objectives
Consider what objectives you want them to meet and how they align to your business’ goals. Use the SMART acronym to ensure they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. You also need to agree with the employee on how they will accomplish their objectives.
4. Monitor performance frequently, not just once a year
Carrying out performance appraisals should not be considered a chore. It should provide real value to both your business and your employees. By carrying out one to one meeting on a monthly or quarterly basis, you can ensure they are working well and offer them support when they need it. This should be accompanied by formal reviews which you may decide to undertake once or twice a year.
5. Train your managers
In order to ensure consistency of approach across the organisation, all your managers should receive training on performance management. They should know how to identify poor performance, carry out appraisals, set objectives, develop a Performance Improvement Plan, keep effective records and understand the process to dismiss.
6. Take action where necessary
Sometimes managers let poor performance through unchallenged because they don’t how to handle it, feel awkward having difficult conversations or are concerned of falling foul of the law. But the very success of your business relies on all employees performing to the best possible level, so it is important to take action where necessary.
It is not always easy to determine whether your concerns regarding an employee should be dealt with as a performance or conduct issue and what procedure is most appropriate in the circumstances. Seek advice at the earliest opportunity from the British Sandwich Association Advisory Service (details below) to talk through whether you should use a disciplinary or performance management procedure. They can talk you through the procedure step by step and alert you to common pitfalls.
Handling the performance of disabled employees
Acas’ research also uncovers that only one in four employers have adjusted their performance management process to take in account the requirements of those with disabilities and special needs and conditions such as autism and dyslexia.
Acas advise three tips for employers:
• Avoid surprises – address performance issues as they arise rather than leave it to the end of year performance meeting;
• Avoid favouritism – use objective criteria to measure performance; and
• Avoid discrimination - if an employee has a disability and they are disadvantaged by performance measures, the employer needs to make reasonable adjustments.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must make reasonable adjustments to make sure disabled workers are not seriously disadvantaged when fulfilling their role. For example, if they are struggling to get all their tasks completed because of or for a reason connected to their disability, you can look at their workload and see what can be done to alleviate the burden.