Common approaches to solving people performance issues

It’s time to face the music. There’s a performance or conduct issue on your team.

Burying your head in the sand is not an option.

So, what’s the best way to deal with it?

Considering many companies are preparing to complete performance reviews in June and July, this topic is probably top of mind for many business owners and executives.

How do these issues come to light? 

Typically, people performance problems are identified in four ways:

  • Business owners know by doing the exercise I mentioned last week
  • Because your team is coming to you and constantly complaining about someone
  • Hearing the same issue come up again and again at structured team meetings
  • Doing 360 reviews

By doing 360 reviews, a person not only receives feedback from the boss, but also from peers, direct reports and potentially even a line manager. Then the person reviews all the feedback and sees the same issue is impacting the whole team.

What are the best practices for handling performance issues?

Approximately 70% of the time, business owners do nothing about the issues, and then they must deal with the consequences.

Other times, they wait for the issue to become a really big problem, and then when it explodes, there could potentially be legal ramifications.

Generally, what they don’t do is go through a process, so that’s what BespokeHR sets up.

I walk business owners and executives through the following steps:

  1. Establish an open feedback culture where professional development is seen as as a positive, not a negative.
  2. Provide vehicles for people to give ongoing feedback.
  3. When you identify a performance issue, you tackle it quickly with a performance improvement plan. (And by plan, I mean, not saying, “Hey, you’re not doing your job,” but rather, “Hey, you’re not achieving in this area, and this is the standard I need you get to. This is what it looks like, and this is how we will support you doing that.”)

By creating a structure for those conversations you will significantly reduce any hassles that happen at the end. Hassles can include legal ramifications, cost, time and frustration.

Generally, facing the issue head on starts the process. But it’s more than that.

Getting past the “this person’s not achieving” mindset to thinking about why they aren’t achieving, what specific things they’re not doing and what they would need to do to in order to achieve is the goal. Being able to articulate this is the key difference between success or non-success.

What building blocks should be put in place to manage performance?

Every business is different terms of the structure and the formality they want to have around managing performance and development in the workplace.

Some do it very formally on a quarterly basis, and some do it annually.

It is important to match this subject to the managers’ capability, time, and the type of organisation yours is.

Generally, you want to have ongoing discussions about people’s performance. So if you see performance dropping, then the talk about this should happen as soon as possible.

Don’t wait for a once-a-year review to tell an employee that he or she isn’t doing such-and-such core components of the job properly.

Instead, having set—what I call—success factors of the position in place, allows you to acknowledge if a person drops below those. Then you need to actually stop when it happens, and say, “Is everything OK? I noticed that you’ve dropped in sales or you haven’t been able to this [insert task]. Is there anything we can do to support you?”

If you can point to the performance standard in this regard is a, b or c, then you can ask if there’s a reason the person isn’t getting there. Plus, you’re asking how you can help rather than just saying performance isn’t where it should be.

Approaching the process in a documented and deliberate way is important should anything happen later.

BespokeHR offers scripts, emails, letters and all of the accompanying processes for those conversations. We help people walk through that process because it can be awkward.

I certainly acknowledge how hard it is to initiate that conversation when you’re in an open environment and the person sits next to you.

That’s where BespokeHR can reduce that HR anxiety and help change the focus to be around development and making the team the best it can be.

What about those pesky conduct issues? 

First off, I understand it can be a struggle because we have fair work laws here in Australia. You can do everything right and still get in trouble.

But that said, having BespokeHR is like wearing a seatbelt when you’re driving a car. It’s not going to stop you from crashing (or from employees taking legal action), but it’s going to hurt a whole lot less. Same goes for conduct issues.

The key is following the process. These awkward conversations need to be structured correctly and documents filled out in order to make sure you are compliant.

BespokeHR offers a number of programs as well as forms and templates to assist through the process. The most important thing is to make sure you follow the steps.

And while there’s no way to list everything in a short blog post, a quick summary would be as follows:

  1. Identify what the issue is.
  2. Set the meeting up properly.
  3. Be able to point to the standard for this issue that is in place in your organisation, which needs to be clearly stated.
  4. Communicate the allegations or concerns to the person.
  5. Give that person an opportunity to respond.
  6. Consider the response.
  7. Deliver the outcome in the proper way.
  8. Follow up with the required document.

Note: Each step has a list of potential notes and/or tips in terms of how to execute them properly that BespokeHR could deliver.

Start off reviews on the right foot 

With the end of the financial year approaching, traditional performance reviews start coming up in conversations. Rather than do the same old reviews, why not look into carrying out a 360 degree review either on the full team or on your management team to create additional input into areas to celebrate and potential development areas to focus on?

What’s involved? BespokeHR will help you:

  • Identify what you want to measure
  • Create relevant questions that fit your style of organisation
  • Make a list of people being reviewed
  • Figure out who reviewers are
  • Send out to everyone to complete
  • Summarise in a report

I also can assist with debriefing, coaching and/or providing development suggestions.

Want to find out more? Send me an email with your name and number, your organisation, size of company and number of people you want reviewed. And I’ll be in touch!