People often immediately link performance management with appraisals – and this is a good link because the appraisal process is a critical factor in delivering good levels of individual performance. However, it is only one example of performance management and other methods may work better when dealing with particular performance problems. Managing performance begins from your very first interactions when someone is offered a job and starts with making them feel valued and that their contribution is important. There are many ways to manage an individual’s performance. The most common methods are listed below.
Methods for improving performance include:
- Probationary period
- One-to-ones (121s)
- Disciplinary procedure
- Capability procedure
- Pep talks
- Team review
- Dismissal procedures
This is the final step in the recruitment process and the first real contact that a new person has with their team. Induction is part of the foundation of good performance management. During induction the new team member should be made fully aware of their job duties, responsibilities and standards and the expectations of performance within their new role. The induction period could last for a number of days or weeks depending on the complexity of the role and runs concurrent with any probationary period. Induction training is good for setting the initial standards and expectations for new staff.
A job offer should be conditional upon successful completion of a probationary period. During the probationary period, employees need to demonstrate their suitability to their new role. The line manager should set suitable preliminary objectives and hold regular one-to-ones so that the new team member is fully aware of their progress. The process should specify what they are doing well and if there is anything they need to improve. It is a good opportunity for praise and to recognise progress. The period is generally set at six months’ but can vary depending on the role. It is well recognised that people leave a new employer in the first few months if they do not feel that they are settling in.
One to ones (121s)
121s are meetings that take place regularly either weekly or monthly on a face-to-face basis. 121s are a ‘conversation’ focusing on key areas that will make a difference to the performance of the individual. These meetings should be:
- Recorded (take notes or recording agreed actions by email).
They are an opportunity to give and receive feedback, review the employee’s objectives, cover issues and problems and discuss training and development needs and plans. It is also an opportunity to correct and praise performance, and is part of building and maintaining a long-term relationship with individuals.
Appraisals (also known as Performance and Development Reviews) are formal reviews that take place on an annual or biannual basis. Appraisal is normally part of the formal performance management process. It requires that both parties to prepare well, in advance of meeting. Appraisal forms must be completed and logged on the employee’s personnel file. The aim of the appraisal is to align the energies of the appraisee with the goals and objectives of the parish (Mission Action Plan). By providing clearly defined individual objectives, the manager enables the employee to see how their achievements contribute to the parish’s success. Many employees report that their appraisal, when done well is highly motivating.
Appraisals are good for ongoing performance management and maintaining performance standard, reviewing longer-term performance achievements and in correcting performance issues that are significant but do not present a major problem. It is also an opportunity for the employee to let you know of any larger issues that need to be addressed, for example a problem with another department that is affecting the employee’s performance. This is the opportunity to spot trends in performance and set objectives for the next year.
The disciplinary procedure is in place to ensure the parish acts in a fair and consistent manner in a disciplinary situation Guidance from ACAS is available. In all cases problems should be dealt with as quickly as possible and in a way that encourages improvement. Where possible you should start with an informal approach or a counselling interview. If the problem persists or is of a serious nature, you must give the employee written confirmation of the problem and invited to attend a meeting to discuss the issue. Any formal disciplinary matter must be thoroughly investigated before you proceed to a disciplinary meeting. The employee has the right to be accompanied at this formal meeting. Please note within any disciplinary procedure there are a number of formal stages which should not be less than two unless there is an instance of gross misconduct: the final written warning and then dismissal.
The disciplinary procedure should be used with breaches of rules, e.g. persistent lateness or short-term absence where there is no genuine reason or illness is detected and handling serious breaches, for example fighting or theft. You should not use this procedure when there are capability issues, disability, and genuine illness or for resolving minor issues.
The capability procedure mirrors the disciplinary procedure. This is because, even though the procedure aims to rectify the problem, there is a possibility that the employee may be dismissed. The capability procedure focuses on the individual’s capability to do the job. Incapability may be caused by illness, disability, inability to meet the requirements of the role even though others can. The capability procedure should be used for handling issues related to long-term illness, disability, or just long-term absence from work. It is also helpful where an employee cannot meet the demands of the job – and can be used to send a clear message about performance levels required and the consequences of continued incapability to meet standards. You should redeploy the person in a more suitable job where possible.
This is the process by which a more senior person provides ‘wise counsel’. The mentor is not normally the direct line manager. A mentor could be found either inside or outside the parish. Mentoring may be used to help someone meet a certain performance challenge or a stretching objective. A mentor can help spot issues, give direct feedback and point out the consequences if problems aren’t remedied. They can do all of this without there being any direct consequences for the employee because the conversation is outside of the line relationship. Mentoring is particularly good for talent management and challenging people, in a non-threatening way, to develop further. Addressing potential future performance problem e.g. many high flyers derail because of overuse of a strength: they may be forceful, which helps them to achieve goals in the early stages of their career but later this starts to look like bullying.
Coaching is the process by which one person helps another to improve a particular aspect of their performance. There are numerous models, but they all follow a simple four-stage approach:
- Identify the current performance level for a particular task
- Discuss and agree the goal or objective for that task. The coach may demonstrate what ‘good performance’ looks like.
- Give the person time to practise, with direct feedback on how they are doing.
- Review progress. Give feedback on successes and agree what steps the coachee will take to reinforce the learning when they are on their own.
Coaching is a simple, relatively quick way for a manager to directly helping an employee to improve. The results can normally be seen immediately and the employee benefits from focused attention on a specific issue. Coaching should be used when managers can observe what’s happening and the task is discrete and can be performed by the employee without the need for others’ input. It is a good method to use where the employee has the required skills and knowledge but needs a bit more support or direction.
Pep talks can be used regularly with staff who perform to variable standards. Sometimes a short chat with a focus can help an employee to regain their commitment or confidence. These are similar to 121s but are impromptu. They are useful in building an individual’s confidence and competence by supporting and rectifying issues quickly.
Instruction is detailed training and explains what is required and how to do a particular task or approach an issue in detail. The task is broken down into its component parts and each stage is explained, demonstrated and notes may be provided. When the instructor believes the trainee is ready they may be allowed to practise under the supervision of the instructor (e.g. driving instruction). It requires that the manager has adequate time available and has been trained to give instruction. Detailed instruction can be useful where an employee is new to a task or role or when introducing new equipment e.g. upgrading software.
This is used where an employee has a deep-rooted problem and you should only use this approach if you have been fully trained in counselling techniques. Employees you manage may be too close and you may have too vested an interest in any counselling outcome to be involved in the counselling itself. It may be better to refer the employee to the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which provides external confidential support. There are many good providers available, please speak to a member of HR for further guidance.
This tends to work well where there is a team project or overall team performance is important and it is difficult to identify individual contributions. Hold a team meeting to discuss what went well and what could be improved upon for the next project. Any key learning points should be noted. Assess the team and individual contributions in advance of this meeting.
Where an employee has failed to meet the required standards of performance, conduct or capability, you may have no choice but to commence dismissal proceedings, once a disciplinary or capability procedure has been followed. ACAS has published a guide to discipline and grievances at work. You should use this procedure in cases of gross misconduct and consider it in cases of continued misconduct where previous warnings have been given. Also for cases of incapability where previous warnings have been given and there is no suitable alternative. This procedure should not be used for the first stage in any situation or for minor breaches of conduct or low level performance issues.
If you would like further information on any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact the LDF HR team on 020 7932 1200.