There are many reasons why employee performance in the workplace may be in question. There may be a temptation for employers to think that they are just not bothering but the reasons can be much wider.
Reasons could include:
- Not having the training for the role
- Not having the resources for the role
- Being under utilised
- Changes to working methods such as computer systems, additional administrative burdens or reduction of support staff
- Personal problems
- Health problems
- Lack of motivation
- Dissatisfaction with the working environment
How can issues be resolved?
At the start of employment
A probationary period at the start of employment is an essential tool to allow the employer and employee to assess the suitability of the role for that individual. An interview can only give so much information to the candidate and employer and either party may have oversold themselves, the role and their experience in relation to it.
The probationary period should be used to meet regularly with the employee to find out how they are getting on and address any issues at an early stage. Problems that are addressed then can lead to good working habits being established. Training issues can be highlighted and if concerns continue the probationary period can be extended if the contract allows for this.
If the probationary period monitoring shows an inability to perform in the role then employment can be ended with reasonably little risk to the employer.
If an employee has previously been performing well and there has been an identifiable change there is likely to be a reason for this.
As always the first step is to meet informally with the employee to ask them about the situation. Employers who regularly ask employees to complete feedback forms may be forewarned of some of the likely problems but sometimes an informal discussion can highlight problems that the employer was completely unaware of.
Before beginning a formal process, issues highlighted at the informal stage should be looked into and addressed if possible. It may be that a new record keeping system has been installed and training for using it has not been sufficient for that employee. This could lead to mistakes and slow down established processes. It could also be that there is a problem with the system that the employee had not wanted to raise in case it reflected on them.
Issues like this can be addressed relatively easily and hopefully with good outcomes for both employer and employee.
Informal discussions can also highlight concerns that are harder to address. There may have been a falling out between colleagues or even a situation that amounts to bullying in the workplace. It could be that another employee is off sick and this employee is expected to cover for them leaving them less time to do their expected work. The employee could be suffering from physical or mental health problems that they have not wanted to discuss. Each of these situations will need a wider solution than managing the employee’s alone and one that is suited to the problem identified.
Employee Performance Management
If none of the issues identified above is relevant, or support and/or training have been given without any improvement then the employer is entitled to manage the employee’s performance. An employer can ultimately dismiss the employee if after warnings the performance does not improve or they are found not to be capable of carrying out the role they are employed in.
The procedure should be carried out in accordance with the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures which has as its basic principles that matters should be dealt with:
- After investigations
- After informing the employee and allowing them to respond
- With a right to be accompanied, and
- With a right to appeal.
The employee should receive notification in writing of the problems with their performance and a meeting should be held to discuss the concerns and allow them to respond. They have a right to be accompanied to this meeting.
One possible outcome of the meeting could be that a warning is issued and the employee is put on a performance improvement plan (PIP). This should be confirmed in writing setting out clear expectations and timescales for any improvements and confirming the right to appeal the decision.
Further meetings should be arranged to discuss progress (or lack of progress) over the time span identified. If progress is not made, without an acceptable explanation, a further warning should be issued. Failure to improve to an acceptable standard over the course of the performance monitoring will be likely to lead to a final written warning and dismissal.