Are you getting the best out of your employees?

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Whether you’re an employer of 500 staff or run a team of five, the beginning of this year has been challenging for most, however we’re all still striving keep our businesses running as well as possible.

Employers regularly approach us with questions about how to tackle non-performing employees. To improve an employee’s performance, there is a usually a reluctance (often on both parties) to begin a performance improvement process. And when it gets to this point, there’s nearly always something else going on in that individual’s life. 

A negative change in performance is often accompanied by personal circumstances, mental health, sickness concerns, lack of job satisfaction, misconduct and poor wellbeing and sometimes, bullying issues in the workplace itself.

So, what can you do as an employer?

  • Check in regularly with your employees. Think about what support measures are in place.  
  • Ask yourself: What are your expectations for individual employees and do they know what they are?  
  • When was the last time you updated their job descriptions to reflect what they do daily?
  • Be pragmatic: look at the individual not the position.  What experience did they have when they started at your workplace, what induction training did you provide and what support have you provided since then?
  • Have a look at the employment agreement.  Is this a performance issue or a misconduct issue or maybe even a medical issue?
  • If you still think the issues are performance based, review points 1-5 above before contemplating formal performance management.  You might not be there yet!
  • OK, so you think formal performance management is appropriate. Check your policies and the employment agreement (again).  Is there a process outlined that you’ll need to follow?
  • Employment law is about process, you will need to propose formal performance management and seek the employee’s feedback.
  • Prepare the performance plan in consultation with the employee. Determine what are the issues are as well as what assistance you will provide that will give them a realistic chance of improving. What will success actually look like?  What are the time frames for improvement? What are the consequences for failing to improve within these timeframes?

What are the common mistakes employers make that you need to look out for? 

  • Not communicating performance concerns and relying on inconsistence evidence.
  • Relying on stale evidence/historical issues. For instance, did you learn about this and sit on it for six months?  If so, it’s unlikely that you can rely on it.
  • Confusing performance with misconduct.
  • Not taking responsibility as the employer for training/supervision, regular performance reviews.

Taking the above steps and looking after your employee as a person will lead to a better outcome for both the employer and employee.  

Special thanks to Senior Associate Kirsty Wallace for preparing this article. For more information or for any questions about performance improvement processes, please contact a member of the Employment Law team.


Disclaimer: the content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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