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When should employee performance be managed?

The term ‘performance management’ and its related processes are commonly associated with negative experiences and are often shied away from by managers. However, in practice when undertaken correctly, performance management can actually be a positive experience which has benefits for managers and employees alike.

The power of providing regular feedback (both positive and constructive) is commonly underestimated and overlooked in the workplace. The communication of day-to-day expectations and providing regular feedback regarding how well those expectations have been met can provide a positive motivator for employees and can create a sense of approachability for managers who are willing to openly discuss performance matters.

Effective performance management is viewed as being an ongoing process, rather than being ad hoc  single events. Performance management activities should ideally occur on an ongoing basis through the provision of regular feedback, rather than taking place only when an employee has underperformed or as a part of a formal annual appraisal process.

Establishing a culture of providing continuous feedback and opening up the lines of communication between managers and their team is essential for:

  • Enabling performance to be monitored,
  • Feedback to be given and
  • For performance to be improved.

All people managers have a responsibility to manage this process and foster an environment where feedback is encouraged and valued. Doing so will reduce employee resistance to participating in performance appraisal processes and will help avoid situations where employees feel aggrieved or surprised during their annual or biannual performance appraisals.

Day to Day Performance Management

In many instances, undertaking the quick and easy process of providing feedback at the time a positive or negative behaviour is demonstrated, or an achievement is obtained,  will help to avoid future underperformance and reduce the likelihood of having to conduct formal performance management procedures in the future.

Communicating day-to-day expectations and following up with regular feedback regarding how well those expectations have been met is often enough to keep employees motivated and on track. The provision of day to day feedback should not result in an employee being micro-managed, but rather can be a simple “good job on that report today. Well done” or “I liked that draft report you developed. Do you have a minute to discuss a few ways to further develop the content?”.

It is important that managers understand that performance management does not only encompass improving performance and managing misconduct. Rather it is a process that also involves coaching high performing employees and recognising good performance. The process can be a positive experience and provide job satisfaction to both parties.

Managing underperformance or misconduct

Instances of underperformance and misconduct do need to be dealt with quickly and effectively.

A discussion about underperformance should be commenced with the employee as soon as the negative behaviour is noticed. How such instances are to be best addressed with the employee will depend upon the severity of the behaviour  (this may include formal disciplinary meetings, informal performance meetings or through an investigation process).

If not addressed promptly:

  • Underperforming employees mistakenly believing their performance is satisfactory
  • The underperformance may continue to occur or escalate which can negatively impact the behaviour of others in the workplace
  • Employees who are performing comparatively well may find the lack of management action as de-motivating; leading to a lack of moral and disengagement

When undertaking performance management processes to address underperformance or misconduct, it is essential that due process be followed.  We recommend that you contact a member of our HR Advisory Team on 1300 720 004 or via email at advice@hradviceonline.com.au prior to commencing such a process. A suite of templates to support this process are available for members directly from the resources section of our website.

Formal performance appraisals

A formal performance appraisal process should be conducted at least once a year, however many organisations undertake this process on a bi-annual basis.

It is essential that clear performance standards are established and discussed with employees.  Agreed performance goals need be kept current and relevant so as to ensure continued motivation and incentive to meet the required performance standards.

The performance appraisal process involves managers and their employees meeting on a one-on-one basis at regular intervals to discuss work performance in relation to:

  • The execution of roles and responsibilities
  • Organisational requirements and individuals' contribution to the achievement of the organisation's objectives.
  • Evaluation of the employee’s job performance and identification of the employee's development potential
  • Providing feedback to the employee

The outcomes or results of the appraisal process should be actioned as appropriate, for example through the provision of training and development opportunities, promotion, reward and recognition, or where required, counselling.

Concerns regarding an employee's unsatisfactory performance should be acted upon swiftly to address these performance issues as they arise, rather than leaving them to be addressed during the formal appraisal process.

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