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How performance management is done

Published 02 January 2018

No matter how good or skilled a worker is there is likely to come a time when that performance dips.
It is understandable that from time to time employees can have a blip, but if that drop in the level of performance is long-term it will need to be addressed.

Underperformance, or poor performance, is when an employee is not doing their job properly, or is behaving in an unacceptable way.

It is essential to be clear between performance issues and acts of misconduct as confusing the two can have serious repercussions for an organisation (1)

The reasons for poor performance can be wide-ranging and varied. Work pressure and demands, ill health or complacency may be to blame, but whatever the reason it is an issue that any employer will need to address.

Such concerns can be effectively dealt with using a fair and established performance management process. It is often not a straightforward process for HR advisors (2) .

Many employees view performance management with scepticism and consider it a way for unscrupulous employers to manage unwanted employees out of an organisation.

However, the aim of the process should be to address any performance concerns and improve employee effectiveness by using a fair, open and transparent process.

The risk of not conducting a fair procedure is that if it results in dismissal, as it can do for a consistently underperforming worker, it can lead to a claim for unfair dismissal (3).

The performance management procedure will vary from employer to employer but key elements such as goal setting, assessment and reward will be the same.

The ACAS guide on how to manage performance (4) list the three aspects to planning an individual’s performance:

● Objectives which the employee is expected to achieve

● Competencies or behaviours – the way in which employees work towards their objectives

● Personal development – the development employees need in order to achieve objectives and realise their potential.

ACAS use the ‘SMART’ acronym as a useful way of getting objectives right. Objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound ie:

● Specific – objectives should state a desired outcome. What does the employee need to achieve?

● Measurable – how will you and the employee know when an objective has been achieved?

● Achievable – is the objective something the employee is capable of achieving but also challenging?

● Relevant – do objectives relate to those of the team/department/business?

● Timebound – when does the objective need to be achieved?

There are a number of steps that should be carried out as part of the process

1)  Informal approach - as with all formal procedures an initial informal attempt should be made to address any performance concerns.

2)  Investigation – Consideration should be given to the circumstances that have led to underperformance and the employee should be given every opportunity to explain any reason for it. This can help to establish whether it is necessary to continue with the formal process, or if help and support is the best way forward.

3)  Performance meeting – If it is decided to instigate the formal process an employer should hold a meeting and explain why it considers the employee is not performing to the required standard. Managers should clarify what is expected, consider the reasons for it and what can be done to help, set targets for improvement and agree a review date.

4)  Performance warnings – can set out the concerns, support and training to be provided, review date and detail next steps in event of failure to meet required standards.

5)  Additional reviews – If the performance reaches the expected level the procedure can be stopped.

6)  Performance dismissal – If the performance does not improve sufficiently after at least two warnings then consideration can be given to dismissal.

7)  Appeal – In the event of dismissal the employee should be given the right to appeal.


For support with performance management please contact Castle Associates employer support or call us today on 0333 772 0611.

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