This is a question that we get asked lots of times. And the answer can be quite an easy one, if they’ve been working with you for less than 2 years. The truth of the matter is that you can usually dismiss someone without the need to demonstrate a fair reason for the dismissal and without the need to go through a full disciplinary or dismissal procedure. It’s the simple “it’s not working out” conversation. However, if they have a protected characteristic for example a disability or a potential claim around sex, age or race discrimination we would recommend you follow a full process, as an employee can claim discrimination from day one.
However, if they have been with you for more than 2 years then an employee has the right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal, which protects them from being dismissed and their contract being terminated without a valid reason or without following a fair procedure first.
To do this fairly means, by definition, having a fair disciplinary policy and process in place – and following that process. Not only that, but a set of performance management practices must be in place – and this is where most employers go wrong.
So, what is performance management?
Performance management is all about how you monitor and evaluate employees’ work and deal with any under-performance. Conversely, it’s also how you provide support, motivation and encouragement to help your team to succeed.
Performance management’s goal is to create an environment where people can perform to the best of their abilities and produce the highest-quality work most efficiently and effectively.
Our view is that if you help your people to do just that – to perform to the best of their abilities – and have the right practices in place to adjust people’s behaviour when they aren’t – than dismissing someone can be avoided in most instances. At Wright People HR we advocate a proactive and preventative approach to HR, rather than one which is reactive and likely to result quickly in dismissals. Even in situations where the employee has been with you less than 2 years – and dismissal is seen as potentially the easy option.
Because dismissing someone comes with heavy costs of replacing them, disruption to the team and ultimately is often a failure on our part of avoiding giving an employee sufficient feedback early enough to stop an escalation of the problem.
Having said that, should every effort be tried to turn around someone’s performance – and the situation doesn’t change – then a process needs to be followed with written warnings leading potentially to dismissal. Under such circumstances, you can be satisfied that you have done everything possible – and that you’ve been fair.
What constitutes effective performance management?
You’ll need an effective performance management policy and process in your business – and essentially this should consist of 3 distinct phases: coaching, corrective action and termination. To begin with, it’s important for the coaching phase that this constitutes a series of both informal and formal discussions with your employees – that begins by providing your employees with regular feedback.
How to begin performance management – with delivering regular and effective feedback
Providing coaching with in the moment feedback – good or bad – is at the heart of effective performance management. Why? Because positive feedback means that employees understand how well they are doing and what they need to do more of. And negative feedback means that people are able to adjust if they aren’t on track.
A bigger issue is that without regular discussions, feedback that’s negative can tend to get left unspoken. Issues can fester because they are left unaddressed – and greater problems can arise as a result. Before you know, you’re then at the dismissal stage.
Giving positive feedback is the easy part. But it’s having those difficult conversation with another person in providing negative feedback that can be fear provoking – and where performance management needs to begin.
We fear difficult conversations because of the potential reaction or confrontation we may get from the person we need to speak with. The reality is if we “go there” with difficult conversations using a planned and thought-out approach we will be much more successful at generating the outcome we are looking for.
We’ve able to provide you with a model and coach you to deliver effective feedback, especially with the negative feedback that many managers want to avoid.
The reality is that, in most instances, regular feedback means that many issues, in our experience, can be dealt with before they escalate into bigger problems. Although disciplinary action may be needed if the behaviour or problem continues.
One-to-ones – another vital part of the performance management process
These are conversations that usually last 20-30 minutes (if carried out regularly) where you discuss what is going well and what needs to change. For such a simple process, you will discover they provide a big bang for your buck, especially in dealing with any performance issues before they escalate.
You should start by scheduling a monthly one on one check-in meeting with each team member, usually once a month. Done well, they should positively encourage people, first and foremost, but can also be used to feedback on any negative performance matters that need addressing.
Remember, performance management is as much, if not more, about promoting the positive and improving performance, as it those issues preventing people from doing their job well.
Regular one-to-ones, like regular feedback, will help remove any bottlenecks to performance and ensure problems don’t get left unaddressed.
Together, they provide a proactive approach and can help you prevent most performance issues which lead to dismissals, because they give employees the opportunity to correct what they are doing.
However, if problems persist then you need to start a Performance Improvement Programme that could lead to disciplinary action.
What is a formal Performance Improvement Programme|?
Your first formal step is to put employees on the Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) when you have seen repeated patterns of poor performance and have raised these concerns repeatedly with feedback and your one to ones – and the behaviour has not changed. This process can result in a written warning. After two written warnings, the result could be dismissal.
An Overview of the Steps:
- Needs Assessment
Create a checklist to assess the need for the employee to go on the performance improvement plan and if this is the right time. We can provide a PIP form for you to do this on.
- Preparation before the First Performance Improvement Meeting
Define the performance issues and gather clear examples, target what the employee needs to achieve and the timeframes. You’ll need to formally invite the employee to the meeting to discuss the concerns about their performance.
- First Performance Improvement Meeting
The purpose of the meeting is to explore the concerns about the poor performance and put together a plan. Listen to the employee’s reasons for not performing, and make notes, are there any training needs we can address.
- Over the Review Period
You must meet regularly with the employee to monitor and assess performance through the whole of the review period. Managers should provide the employee with clear and honest feedback against their performance improvement plan
- Formal Review Meeting
You should use the PIP information to form a preliminary view on whether the employee has reached the requirements of the PIP and whether the PIP should be continued.
The PIP can then be sent to the employee with a covering letter inviting them to consider theassessment and asking them to respond to your preliminary views at a formal review meeting. They should have the right to bring a work colleague or a trade union official with them, this is where a policy is important as it will walk you through the steps you need to take and make it clear to the employee where they are in the process and what could happen next.
Once the employee has been provided with a full opportunity to respond, the meeting should be adjourned to enable you to consider all the information and reach final decisions.
Confirmation of the outcome final decisions must be recorded in writing. This is particularly important when the outcome involves disciplinary action.
The possible outcomes of the formal review are:
- No disciplinary action but continuation of PIP
- No disciplinary action and move to an informal performance management process of one-to-ones and regular feedback.
- Disciplinary action (a written warning) and continuation of PIP
- Dismissal after two previous written warnings – having followed a fair and compliant process!
Looking For Help to deal with poor performance. Let’s talk.
Whether you’re looking to review your policy and process or dismiss someone but are unsure whether you are following a fair and compliant process or whether you’re seeking to embed more proactive and preventive practices to avoid poor performance from continuing to be a problem or escalate into dismissals, then please get in touch. Our HR consultants can also provide your Manager’s with coaching and support on how to carry out the process and review conversations.