1. Know what you want from the employee

To be able to identify that an employee is underperforming, you should be fully aware of what you want from them. It is also necessary that the employee is aware of the required standards.

2. Informality

When you are addressing a performance issue for the first time, it is advisable to approach it with informal measures. This does not mean that the issue goes unaddressed, it simply means that no formal sanctions will be given out at this stage.

3. Let the individual know that you have concerns

The first practical step is to let the employee know that you have concerns over their performance. This should be done in a private conversation with the employee, but is not a formal hearing so there is no need to formally invite the employee with notice.

4. Identify the problem

Enquiries should be made as to the reason for the underperformance. This is necessary to establish what subsequent action you need to take. If they have the capacity to perform better but simply choose not to, then they should be told that they must improve. If it is their ability to do the job (they are trying hard but still can’t perform well) that is the problem, then you should identify how you can help them e.g. further training/supervision. If the reason is medical, it may be necessary to obtain expert medical opinion. If they have a disability, reasonable adjustments should be made to the role so that their disability is not a barrier to their performance.

5. Notify of the consequences

Although you are dealing with the issue informally, you should let the employee know that, should they show no signs of improvement, you may need to begin a formal procedure with them.

6. Monitor properly

Keep tabs on the employee’s subsequent performance. Make daily checks if that is appropriate, but it is best to do this during the monitoring period, rather than simply at the end, so interim measures can be taken if necessary.

7. Re-visit

If the employee does not improve, or there is a temporary improvement followed by dip, you must re-visit the issue. Speak to the employee again, pointing out that your previous discussion, and/or any help provided, does not appear to have had an effect. Again ascertain what the reasons are.

8. Formal procedure

If no sufficient improvement or explanation is provided, you should consider implementing a formal disciplinary or capability procedure with the employee. This can follow the same process as the informal procedure, however, formal hearings should be held where the employee is permitted to respond to the concerns you have. Employees should be formally invited to these hearings, allowed the right to be accompanied, and formal sanctions e.g. warnings, may be given where appropriate.

9. Efficiency is key

In more general terms, you should deal with the process efficiently – do not allow the issue to drag on. Where you set timescales, stick to them.

10. Consistency

Act in accordance with previous cases of a similar nature to ensure a consistent approach in terms of assistance provided, where appropriate, and sanctions given.

In addition to these tips, you need to remember to communicate clearly with each employee. Ensure the employee is clear on the objectives they have been set and on the consequences of their actions.

For any further information on this matter, please call the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.