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Learning to manage the performance of employees to get the best out of them

Published 05 November 2018

Former US president John F Kennedy is once quoted as saying ‘leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,’ which is very apt when it comes to performance managing staff.

It can be very easy for supervisors and managers to spot an underperforming employee. But speaking to the employee, discussing and understanding the issue and planning how to address and support the individual in doing so, is not always as easy as it may seem.

It’s why it is essential that supervisors and managers learn the skills, have the knowledge and are properly trained for the task. The benefits of performance management training should not be underestimated or overlooked.

Older readers may no doubt recognise the phrase ‘pull your socks up’ (1) as being the type of encouragement once considered appropriate, and thought to be enough, to bring about the necessary improvement in an employee’s performance. It’s a style of management that has evolved somewhat.

Great managers are not always born great; the reality is that many of them need a helping hand to become effective leaders. Managing staff and having to deal with all of the issues that come with that responsibility is challenging.

Performance management training for supervisors, managers and HR advisors can equip them with techniques that can help to recognise and implement solutions to support long-term results and that can drive development.

The training can provide the necessary skills and confidence for senior members of staff to successfully implement the performance management process.

It can help with managing challenging behaviour and awkward issues and conversations without delaying or having to gloss over them. Most importantly the training can help to ensure managers develop the required tools to create a culture of trust and high impact performance.

Underperforming members of staff can often be unhappy, and unhappy employees can have a devastating effect on productivity. Good performance management can have a positive impact on employees.

Staff that are performing well and happy are much more likely to have a confident and can-do attitude, which enables them to succeed. Research from University of Warwick Department of Economics found that making people happy encourages them to put in more effort, increasing their productivity by somewhere in the region of 12 per cent (2).

The performance management process provides feedback, accountability, and documentation for performance outcomes. It can also help employees to channel their talents towards organisational goals.

Managing the performance of employees should be a continuous process with the aim of making sure that employee performances contribute to both team goals and those of the business as a whole (3).

What is performance management training? The answer is not a straightforward one. It can mean different things for different roles. However, the emphasis is on teaching managers how to accomplish or facilitate work through others, and how to direct and develop employees.

Good management of the performance of employees should involve ongoing, two-way dialogue about expectations, priorities and performance. The aim should be to develop staff, ensure their success and maximise their contributions to the organisation.

Research from the US-based Ken Blanchard Companies found using coach-like behaviours builds trust. It also showed that employees who trust their leaders perform better and are less likely to leave an organisation (4)

The study revealed that while 73 per cent of organisations that took part recognised coaching as a top leadership need, only five per cent had actually trained their managers on how to coach team members.

An employee’s poor performance can also be a potentially fair reason for dismissal. However, getting the process wrong in such circumstances can result in an employee making a claim to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal (5). A successful claim by a former employee for unfair dismissal can prove costly for an employer.

Ensuring managers are fully trained and have the knowledge to correctly manage underperforming employees will help to ensure they follow the correct procedure before making a decision to dismiss an employee on ‘capability’ grounds.

Performance management training and support for managers provides them with the skills and knowledge to effectively lead their teams, improve their appraisal process and to help them become confident at delivering tough, fair, and useful feedback.


1.PULL YOUR SOCKS UP | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary [Internet]. [cited 2018 Nov 5]. Available from:

2.Oswald AJ, Proto E, Sgroi D. Happiness and Productivity [Internet]. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network; 2009 Dec [cited 2018 Nov 5]. Report No.: ID 1526075. Available from:

3.How to manage performance | Advisory booklet [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2018 Nov 5]. Available from:

4.In the News - Press Releases from The Ken Blanchard Companies [Internet]. [cited 2018 Nov 5]. Available from:

5.Unfair Dismissal [Internet]. Castle Associates Ltd. 2018 [cited 2018 Nov 5]. Available from:

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A reputation built on success

For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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