Six HR-approved ways to tackle poor staff performance

  • Performance & Appraisals
Tackle Poor Staff Performance
Kate Palmer FCIPD - Director of HR Advice and Consultancy at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula.

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director

(Last updated )

You’ve noticed an employee isn’t pulling their weight. They haven’t met their targets. They don’t seem as engaged with the work. As a boss, you already have a million things to think about – so you don’t want to add staff performance to the pile.

You invest in your staff. And if you’re not seeing the value of that investment, you need to tackle the issue now.

But before you jump to dismissal, try these six HR-approved ways to get your employee back on track…

Identify the problem

If you notice an employee is underperforming, sit them down for an informal one-to-one.

Find out what the underlying issue is. They might have a health problem they’re worried about. Or a personal issue at home. They might worry that telling you will affect their future in the company.

Encourage open communication with your employees by having an open-door policy. Reassure staff that anything they share with you is confidential. Provide constructive feedback and solutions to performance issues.

If they’re struggling with work, offer further training. If they’re struggling outside of work, consider whether flexible working might help.

Think about how to support your staff. Accommodating your employees can go a long way in boosting morale. It also encourages them to stay honest and open with you.

Create an improvement plan

If your employee doesn’t know what they need to improve on, they can’t improve. You can help them by creating an improvement plan. This should include realistic goals for them to achieve by a certain date.

Then, keep checking in with them to see how they’re getting on. When you regularly evaluate your employee’s progress, it’ll motivate them to work harder.

It also gives them the opportunity to share any issues they might be having on their journey. You can adapt the plan around your employee, so you avoid the risk of overwhelming them.

Provide resources and training

Is your employee struggling to work because they don’t have the resources? Do they not feel they’ve received enough training? Ask them what they need and take note if they say they need more support.

Investigate these claims. Your staff might point the finger at colleagues or lack of support before accepting personal blame. But being willing to make changes and invest in resources shows you care. Plus, it shows that you’ll do what it takes to support your employees in their roles.

Offer rewards

Your employees are more likely to work harder if you provide incentives. Consider offering staff bonuses, pay rises or extra leave as a reward for hard work. Rewards make workers feel appreciated. Showing your staff that you value them and the work they do encourages them to be the best they can be.

It’s good to regularly acknowledge good work with praise too. If your employees meet or exceed targets, give them recognition for their achievements.

Consider a capability procedure

Your improvement plan, training, or reward scheme might not improve your employee’s performance. So, it would then be reasonable to consider a capability procedure. You should outline this procedure in your company policy.

In a capability procedure, you take steps to determine whether your employee is capable of doing the job. These steps include:

  1. An informal meeting – Before you start a formal process, meet with your employee informally for a one-to-one. Discuss any concerns you have with their performance. Find out why they’re underperforming. Is it because of a health issue? Confirm what they need to change and set your expectations.
  2. Investigation – Find evidence that highlights performance issues. Also, look into whether a lack of training or support is causing performance struggles.
  3. The capability meeting – At the meeting, tell your employee why you think they’re underperforming. Present evidence from your investigation. Explain what you’ll do to help your employee improve i.e. offer training or supervision.
  4. Warnings – If poor performance continues, issue a formal warning. Outline what your employee needs to do to improve and how long they have to meet the targets you’ve set.
  5. Regular performance reviews – Keep checking in on your employee to see how they perform.

If your employee’s performance improves, you can end the formal capability procedure. If there’s still no improvement after warnings and support, you can dismiss them. And you should be legally protected against unfair dismissal claims if you follow the above steps.

Find more information about carrying out a capability procedure here.

Change role

If you want to keep your employee in the company, you could offer them a different role that may be better suited to their skillset. Or a less senior position with fewer responsibilities.

Offering alternative employment could help your case in an unfair dismissal claim. It shows you explored every avenue to keep your employee.

If you decide to give your employee a new role, this may mean offering them a new employment contract or amending their current contract. Prepare for the fact that your employee can refuse this.

If they agree to the change, you need to sign off a written agreement through a contract amendment letter.

Staff not meeting expectations? Get Face2Face support

No time to handle performance issues? Not sure how to start disciplinary action?

Whatever your situation, one thing is certain. You don’t want to face an unfair dismissal claim because you missed a vital step in a disciplinary procedure. And this is easily done if you’re not an employment law expert.

With Peninsula Face2Face, you don’t need to deal with a difficult staff situation alone – or at all – if you don’t want to.

Your HR expert will meet with your employees on your behalf. They’ll handle disciplinary meetings, capability procedures and even carry out dismissals for you. Or, if you want to take the reins, they’ll coach you through the process. With any challenging HR case, you’re protected against legal risk.

Related articles

  • a woman sat on a cliff with a sunset


    Sabbatical Leave

    Read our guide where we'll discuss what sabbatical leave is, how long it can last, and how to manage it in your business.

    Peninsula TeamPeninsula Team
    • Leave and Absence
  • Family Friendly Workplace


    Part-Time Workers

    In this guide, we’ll look at what a part-time worker is, what their legal rights are, and ensuring equal treatment of them and full-time workers.

    Peninsula GroupHR and Health & Safety Experts
    • Working Time
  • employees fist bumping eachother around a table


    Company Culture

    Read our guide on company culture. Discover what it is, its benefits, and how to create a strong one in your business.

    Peninsula TeamPeninsula Team
    • Performance & Appraisals
Back to resource hub

Try Brainbox for free today

When AI meets 40 years of Peninsula expertise... you get instant, expert answers to your HR and health & safety questions

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest news & tips that matter most to your business in our monthly newsletter.

International sites

© 2023 Peninsula Business Services Limited. Registered Office: The Peninsula, Victoria Place, Manchester, M4 4FB. Registered in England and Wales No: 1702759. Peninsula Business Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for the sale of non-investment insurance contracts.

ISO 27001 and 9001 accredited company.
The Sunday Times - Top Track 250.
Glassdoor 2018 Best Places To Work.