Most employers and managers who hear the words “annual performance review” or “staff accountability” inwardly groan. Most staff members who hear the words either feel stressed or visualise meetings that are a waste of time, where they “go through the process” and “play the game”.
Managing people is probably the most time-consuming responsibility that managers perform and it’s a rare organisation that never encounters conflict in this area. However, conversations around work performance, fairness of pay for performance, and the relationship between staff performance, productivity and profitability should be a routine part of staff management – that’s not to say those conversations are easy or enjoyable.
With increasing legal consequences of undertaking (or not undertaking) formal staff performance reviews, the process has commonly become process driven, rather than being a chance to have constructive conversations about the organisation’s expectations and the employees personal and professional goals. Used well, staff performance and accountability conversations contribute to the development of one of the most important organisational assets – its human capital.
Staff performance and accountability evaluations usually fall into three types of experiences – having a conversation with:
- High performing staff, who revels in receiving constructive feedback (even if some of the feedback is negative), may be ambition, and wants to excel generally;
- Staff who “turn up”, does their work to the expected standard but doesn’t strive to give 110%. Essentially they fulfil their employment contract by performing to an acceptable standard in return for remuneration;
- Underperforming staff who have been offered and undertaken further skills development and coaching, with little performance improvement.
Managing Poor Performance
While it may be difficult both emotionally and time-wise for managers to deal with under-performing staff, unless prepared to deal with such staff honestly and promptly, the organisation has no chance of establishing and or maintaining a culture of accountability.
Employees who are meeting performance expectations may become resentful of the employee who manages to not abide by the same rules as they do, without consequence. Eventually, that resentment may be directed towards the organisation, which is more damaging, particularly to staff morale.
Ensure your organisation’s performance management practices are of real value to both the business and the individual staff member. Move on under-performing staff fairly, but promptly. Conversely, show those staff members that do meet performance standards that their contribution is valued, and will be rewarded.
The process of how under-performance is managed is very important, both culturally and practically. Given the increased legal risks in this area of HR management, organisations may introduce very systematised (and often rigid) processes. However, while initially more time consuming, consider moving away from the “tick-box” annual performance evaluation process, to more regular and perhaps less formal assessments – in other words, communicate better and regularly with staff regarding the organisation’s perceptions of their performance and expectations of them. However, remember, communication is a two-way interaction, so equally listen to any feedback staff may have for you and the organisation. You may be surprised that this approach overall saves time, while productivity increases, along with staff morale.