Achieving Peak Performance? Tips and tricks to get your team there!

General / 25 November 2017
Achieving Peak Performance? Tips and tricks to get your team there!

The Copeland Ashcroft Law Team recently presented a seminar around the country on “Achieving Peak performance in the workplace”.

Key take-away points are summarised below.

Setting your employees up for success
Employers invest significant resources to hiring, and to ensure new employees are successful, clarity about performance goals and expectations is key.  Setting expectations through appropriate key performance indicators that are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely – creates the foundation for achievement.  Those expectations must then of course be communicated to the employee, and performance regularly reviewed against them, both informally in ongoing communication between manager and worker, and formally through a performance review framework.

Reviews create a two-way opportunity for feedback, enabling both employer and employee to identify strengths and weaknesses, in the person’s performance, the design of the role and the broader organisational structure.  They also allow any issues to be identified and addressed early, which is an important practical risk management tool.  Often performance issues come up where there is a lack of clarity in expectations, or where appropriate training and support has not been provided.

However, there will be times when a manager identifies issues with an employee’s performance that has not been rectified through additional coaching, training and support.  Should this situation arise, employers need to apply the correct process to address these.

Poor performance or misconduct?
The starting point is categorising the issue correctly, making the distinction between poor performance or misconduct/serious misconduct.  Questions which assist in deciding which is appropriate include:

Is the issue to do with how the employee performs their work (likely to be a performance issue), or is it about how they behave at work (likely to be misconduct)?
Was the behaviour deliberate (likely to be misconduct) or unintentional (likely to be a performance issue)?
Has a policy, code of conduct, or agreement clause been breached (likely to be misconduct)?
A performance improvement process has three main steps:

Coaching  – this is the first step in any performance improvement process.  Initial coaching discussions are usually on an informal basis and involve raising the issue with the employee as early as possible to ensure they know what is expected and any problems they are having with this can be identified.

Performance Improvement Plan – this stage typically involves meeting with the employee to discuss the current gaps in performance, outlining where performance needs to improve to, through a formal plan which sets clear goals to be achieved, the timeframe in which to achieve them and how improvement will be measured.  Any additional support and training necessary should be identified and provided to assist that improvement.  Performance is then monitored and formally reviewed against the plan after a reasonable timeframe, and generally only if improvement is not forthcoming after this review timeframe can an employer consider disciplinary action.

Disciplinary Action – for continued poor performance not remedied by the first two steps, disciplinary action may result.  Generally, a first warning is issued and then a further review period is followed per 2 above, with a second warning and further review period through to dismissal on notice if sufficient improvement is not achieved.  Dismissal is only justifiable in that case where “remedial options” (including training, counselling and redeployment to another role) have been considered and exhausted.
Strategy is crucial to a successful process
Performance management processes by their nature are time consuming for the manager, and often stressful for the employee, who is under pressure to improve or face losing their job.  They also often create disturbance in the team the employee works within, due to frustration with the poor performer.  Taking advice on a practical and strategic approach to the concerns is recommended, as the best way to ensure the outcome that you achieve reflects value for the investment of your resources.

Should you need any tips for how to manage your employee’s performance, please contact our team.

Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law and health and safety topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.

November 2017

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