If you have an employee who normally just gets on with the job, does not give rise to concerns, then how would you deal with the individual if their work performance suddenly took a turn for worse? Especially if the behaviour is very much out of character?
Firstly, there may be a number of reasons that may not be work related at all. A personal problem may well be the cause and if this is the case then you need to look at treading carefully and sensitively. I would think a more informal chat with the employee is required. Place your cards on the table and explain that you are concerned about the individual, especially when the employee has an excellent track record. If the issue is non-work related then encourage them to speak with someone, whether it be a person they feel they can trust or if you have an Employee Assistance Programme
in place then direct them to a trained counsellor - however let them know that you care.
Obviously you have a business to run but we have to remember that employees are the biggest asset for any business and it’s important that we look after them; if you can provide support and assurance then this may well buy loyalty from the individual in the long term.
If the issue is performance related then you will need to look at the cause. Is further training needed? Has the job role changed in any way? These are areas that you will need to investigate. If sadly there is no improvement after further training and guidance then you may have to follow your HR policies.
A change in behaviour may also be an indication that the employee concerned is a victim of being bullied or harassed at work. Again you can only act if the employee raises concerns and you must treat any complaint seriously. You would be wise to ensure a workplace that is free of bullying, this culture should be communicated to all staff, whether they be existing or new. Management should be trained to identity such signs and be able to offer solutions.
Finally just because the performance of an employee gives way to concern always look at all the possible reasons first before taking action and remember the reasons may well be personal or the individual could well be a victim to harassment or workplace bullying.