Managing Poor Performance

Carrying out regular appraisals and identifying objectives is key to preventing poor performance.

Key steps to improving performance:
- Identify poor performance
- Find the cause
- Set clear targets
But what happens when the usual performance management process breaks down and what steps should you take? Firstly identify the issue and secondly look at the causes of poor performance, only then you can decide what steps to take to improve the situation.


Identifying Poor Performance

In order to make a determination that an employee is not performing to an acceptable level it is essential that some sort of performance measure/standard has been identified in advance and the employee has been informed of and understands what is required of them. There are a range of measurement tools you can use:

  1. Detailed job description - to set out the outputs/outcomes of the role
  2. Targets - the use of pre-set targets (common in a sales role) which are realistic and achievable can enable an employer to determine whether an employee is achieving the standard required of them
  3. Quality controls - may be useful where the provision of a quality service is essential, eg, customer facing roles
  4. Competency frameworks - which focus on the key behaviours that are required to achieve competent performance

The causes of poor performance

When it becomes apparent that an employee is not performing to the required standard it is important to identify the underlying causes. Poor performance could be related to:

  • lack of application to the role and tasks
  • lack of capability/skills in general
  • lack of capability due to illness or injury

Each of these situations will call for different remedial actions, emphasising the importance of correctly identifying the cause of poor performance.


Correcting poor performance: setting clear targets

  • Have an informal meeting with the employee outlining the areas where their performance is in decline and agree goals/targets and a review date.
  • Review the performance at the review date and determine if there has been any improvement. If there has been an acceptably significant improvement then no further action should be necessary. If there has been some improvement then perhaps the employer could identify the areas where the employee needs further improvement and set a further review date.
  • If there has been no significant improvement the employer may contemplate the use of the disciplinary/dismissal procedure. The appropriate penalty will vary with the relevant disciplinary procedure but it is strongly recommended that dismissal for a first occurrence is inappropriate. To ensure fairness of dismissal in these circumstances the employer must demonstrate that an employee was given sufficient opportunity to improve.