How to tackle poor performance  | Moorepay
September 1, 2023

How to tackle poor performance 

concerned employer pointing at papers employee is holding

Managing poor performance can be both time consuming and frustrating for a line manager. Having even just one underperforming employee in your team could have a huge impact on productivity and morale.

Here are some tips to ensure that addressing poor performance issues doesn’t take up all of your valuable time: 

1. Don’t avoid the issue 

The key is to address any performance issues as soon as you become aware of them and not leave them to snowball until they become bigger issues. Taking action at the earliest opportunity will save you time in the future and prevent it looking like you’re condoning the behaviour or not taking it seriously.  

Managers should aim to address performance short falls through normal day to day management practices where possible. It’s only if the issue is repeated or more serious that formal procedures (i.e. disciplinary or capability) should be considered. Managers shouldn’t ‘save up’ issues. 

2. Check your procedures 

Treating your employees fairly will include applying your HR policies relating to performance management consistently with all employees. It’s therefore important to check your procedures. If Moorepay has drafted your Employee Handbook there will normally be a ‘Short Service Clause’ for employees under two years of service. This states that the company reserves the right to shorten the disciplinary or capability procedure in the first two years of employment (including any probation period). Remember that following the right procedures will save you time in the long-term.     

Moorepay’s Performance Management Software allows you to boost retention and engagement while empowering your teams and employees.

3. What are the performance issues? 

You need to ensure you are clear on what the issues are and consider why poor performance is happening. To be able to address poor performance with the employee you will need to define the problem and be specific. The employee won’t understand what actions they need to take to resolve the performance issue if the problem hasn’t been clearly explained.   

You also need to establish why the employee is under performing. Are there any mitigating circumstances? For example personal problems, a lack of training, conflict in the team or a health-related issue. 

Considering the causes of underperformance will help you decide on what action should be taken in order to address the situation. If the reason for the poor performance is personal problems, then invoking the disciplinary procedure is unlikely to improve performance. Would providing the employee with additional support, supervision or training resolve the issue? 

A capability procedure will usually cover situations where the employee is trying hard but not meeting the required level of performance. If an employee knows what to do but is choosing not to do it this could be misconduct and addressed under the disciplinary procedure.  

4. Set clear targets 

Let the employee know exactly what they need to do to improve their performance. 

Often managers water down the facts for fear of upsetting the employee. They often end the meeting with something like: “…but overall, you’ve really been doing a great job.” The problem is people choose to hear what they want to hear, so employees latch onto such comments and leave the meeting thinking they just received praise. 

Put the targets in writing and include a timescale of how long they have to improve. Ensure you advise the employee of the possible consequences if they fail to improve by the set date. 

5. Review and monitor 

Ensure you continue to monitor their performance against the set targets. Meet with the employee frequently to note their progress, and use the targets set as the basis for each review meeting. Communication is key in a performance management process whether this is face to face or via Teams. Consider the frequency of the meetings especially when you don’t work in the same location, or you have employees’ working from home or in a hybrid arrangement.  

Highlight areas where the employee has improved and, if you have still have concerns, explain in detail what they are and how they need to improve. 

When performance problems persist or escalate these should then be dealt with on a formal basis. 

6. Progressing to formal action

  • The employee’s reasons for underperformance must be taken into account before deciding to progress to a formal disciplinary or capability hearing. 
  • Don’t invoke a formal procedure if the underperformance is only due to their individual personal circumstances.  
  • If informal methods have not been successful in improving performance, and the employee’s reasons have been considered, then progression to formal hearing may be necessary in line with your organisation’s disciplinary or capability procedures. An investigation will need to be conducted. Documentation from the meetings you’ve been holding will form part of the investigation.  
  • If the failure to meet performance levels is due to an employee’s conduct (for example negligence) then proceeding under the disciplinary procedure may be necessary. 
  • Employment Tribunals will still look at whether the employer has followed the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures in a fair and reasonable way. 

7. Don’t be afraid to dismiss 

The main aim of the process is to improve performance. However, it’s reasonable to dismiss an employee who isn’t meeting your required standards providing you’ve followed a fair and legal procedure. Getting it wrong risks various claims including unfair dismissal (for those with two years’ service) but also the possibility of discrimination and breach of contract claims. 

Ensure you take employment law advice, call our advice team on 0345 073 0240.

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Louise Gillibrand
About the author

Louise Gillibrand

Louise is a generalist Human Resource professional with over 18 years’ experience across a variety of sectors including care, medical, retail and telecommunications, and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Louise provides sound practical and business-focused advice in line with employment legislation and best practice, and has worked in partnership with line managers, senior operational managers and directors. Typical consultancy projects include advice on complex employee relations issues, redundancy programmes, restructures, TUPE, recruitment, policy writing and grievance/disciplinary handling. In addition to her generalist knowledge she is experienced in delivering training on a wide variety of employment law and HR subjects. Louise joined the Moorepay consultancy team in October 2007.

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