This is a perennial issue for employers and managers – here are some guidance notes and tips to assist you in managing this process appropriately.

Man sleeping on a bench on the porch outside his home , newspaper on face

  1. Policy and Procedure – this is your first port of call to ensure that you are following the process as prescribed. If you deviate from the process then you need to have good cause to do so.
  2. Make sure that you set a realistic time frame for the employee’s performance to improve. There is no legislated minimum term here so it comes down to what is reasonable and this will depend on a number of factors not least what the actual issue is. Some issues like persistent lateness may require immediate improvement whereas other areas may take longer and require specific training, support and evaluation.
  3. The question of a ‘Support Person’ may be on your mind. Again refer to your Policy, if having a support person means that your employee is more amenable to the process and the presence of a support person will add to the likely success of the outcome then you need to make that call. The Act does not require any employer to offer an employee to have a support present only that you cannot unreasonably refuse a request – and even then this entitlement specifically relates to a meeting that is likely to end in termination. Remember however to set the ground rules prior to starting your meeting, as a support person has no power or authority to ‘represent’ an employee unless you allow it.
  4. Remember to ‘rehearse’ your meeting and make sure you have an Agenda that you stick to, never enter a meeting without being well prepared. Good managers anticipate the sorts of questions that the employee may respond with and they also put themselves in the shoes of the employee to try to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly and that they themselves are as relaxed as possible. Keep notes of the meeting and ideally have a third party note taker – if you are a male interviewing a female then try to make sure that your note taker is also female.
  5. If you are terminating an employee it is critical that you have allowed them the right of reply, this is a key element of any fair and equitable process and denying an employee this opportunity may seriously undermine the validity of your process if an unfair dismissal eventuates.
  6. Make sure that the reasons provided for terminating are ‘lawful’ eg sustained poor performance and not related to undertaking an action that is lawful eg taking sick days off under a bona fide medical certificate.
  7. Make sure that, if the failure to improve their performance will act as a trigger for disciplinary action which may lead to their termination, that the employee is advised of this clearly.
  8. Finally make sure that you consistently follow all meetings and action plans etc up in writing to the employee so that you can rely on this and ensure that your employee fully understands any proposals or consequences.

Performance management is a perennial area of concern and is frequently done badly – consider customised training in this area. Call us to see how we can assist you or your supervisory team in this area.