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Out with the old and in with the new to manage staff performance?

Published 25 November 2019

Out with the old and in with the new to manage staff performance?

Crucial to the success of any business enterprise is the performance of its staff and getting the best out of employees needs good management.

The likelihood is that no matter how good we are at what we do, being able to permanently sustain and maintain a peak level of work performance  is unlikely. You may be able to do so for weeks, months or even years but at some stage there will be a drop-off, dip or blip.

And it is in such situations that performance management is crucial, as it aims to maintain and improve employee performance in line with an organisation's objectives.

US-based Gallup research published last month (October 2019) found that only 10.4 per cent of employees whose manager's feedback left them with negative feelings (felt criticised, demotivated, disappointed or depressed) are engaged, and four out of five said they are actively or passively looking for other employment (1)

In comparison, where a manager’s feedback left an employee with positive feelings (felt inspired to improve or positive about knowing how to do their work better) they are 3.9 times more likely to be engaged than employees who felt hurt, and only 3.6 per cent of them are actively looking for another job.

The question for employers has to be: Does our performance management really help us to get the best out of our staff?

The process of analysing employee performance must be handled carefully and fairly. The way in which employee performance is managed has evolved in recent years and it has seen a new and fresh approach to the process.

A key part of the traditional process was the appraisal, which previously was conducted with an employee maybe once or twice a year (2)

In summary the meeting between a manager an employee was typically used to identify a worker’s strengths and weaknesses, find out what their ambitions are and work out how to get there.

A few years ago the BBC reported on Why employee performance reviews are getting sacked (3). It highlighted how some large multi-nationals had ditched the annual review and adopted a new approach for performance reviews.

The growing trend is now for employers to have ongoing performance-related conversations with staff.

It can involve managers and employees exchanging feedback over the course of the year rather than the old-style one-off meeting. It can also include discussing and agreeing short-term objectives, long-term goal-setting as well as regular one-to-one input taking place too.

It is an approach that is said to be effective and productive in terms of making interactions between staff and management more  relevant and appropriate, an added bonus is that it can help to reduce a manager’s admin burden.

The benefit of conducting reviews in this way is that in changing the tone and frequency of the meetings it can be more constructive and create a conversation between management and employees.  

It can help to ensure staff stay on track and focused on what matters. It is also a good opportunity to identify if an employee needs help or assistance and to quickly address problems before they escalate and get out of control.

There are a number of factors in performance management that an employer needs to get right because performance management is not a single technique. It should be an inquiry that provides an opportunity for growth and development.

As poor performance can lead to dismissal and, if the process or decision to do so is unfair, a subsequent claim for unfair dismissal (4). In keeping with any process that can lead to the termination of an employee’s contract, ensuring the performance management process is fair and reasonable is imperative.

ACAS has produced a comprehensive guide on performance management (5). It explains how to get performance management right, the steps to take and how to maintain effective performance management arrangements.



(1) Manager's feedback – [Internet] [Cited 18.11.19]

(2) Traditional process was the appraisal – [Internet] [Cited 18.11.19]

(3) Why employee performance reviews are getting sacked [internet] [Cited 18.11.19]

(4) Poor performance can lead to dismissal – [internet] [cited 18.11.19]

(5) Comprehensive guide on performance management [Internet] [cited 18.11.19]


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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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