Performance Management of Employees and Fair Work Compliance
In our competitive times, every business needs an effective performance management process to thrive. Furthermore, it is undeniable that effective performance management of employees incorporates managing underperformance, one-on-one meetings, and performance appraisals. Nowadays, in their pursuit of strategic goals and objectives, businesses rely on both formal and informal processes to create synergies between team members, resources, and systems. If executed effectively, these efforts can provide businesses with the edge they require in the marketplace whilst complying with guidelines. Robust formal and informal processes can provide early warning signs of potential problems and in turn grant businesses the opportunity to get back on track. Effective Fair Work performance management of employees in Australia is far more than solely addressing underperformance and adhering to best practice guidelines.
Let’s begin by addressing one-on-one meetings and their importance to individuals and their impact on a business’s ability to achieve its goals. It won’t be surprising that best practice employers have regular conversations with their team members about their performance. Additionally, these employers take the time to set clear measurable goals and offer regular feedback along with support in the form of corrective actions to ensure their team members perform at their best and succeed in their roles.
One-on-one meetings can be either formal or informal, however, the most important factor to focus on is the regularity of the conversation and its content. One-on-one gives leaders the opportunity to build trust through candid conversations and provides a safe platform to discuss issues that are difficult to address on busy workdays.
While some leaders prefer formal one-on-ones and structure, it shouldn’t delay or distract from regularly scheduling meetings and providing constructive feedback to team members. These conversations are key to providing much-needed feedback and can assist mitigate unpleasant underperformance conversations in the future. Fortnightly meetings are suggested if leaders and team members have access to each other daily, otherwise weekly meetings are recommended. Aim to conduct face-to-face conversations as much as practical in a quiet and comfortable space. If face-to-face meetings aren’t practical, then video chats are preferred over phone calls.
Remember that one-on-one meetings are a great opportunity to explore development opportunities with team members and to start the process of crafting a development plan. These meetings are the perfect opportunity for a leader and team member to engage with each other and bond. The success of every business is interlinked with its team members’ success and the ability of leaders to tap into the talent and unlock potential. Therefore, ensure your one-on-ones are regularly taking place, your leaders are trained on how to conduct them and that you provide the appropriate tools for an effective meeting.
Integral to the holistic performance management of employees, performance appraisals help evaluate and develop the performance of team members towards the achievement of business goals and objectives. Appraisals are most commonly referred to as annual reviews and are typically formal. Annual reviews can be of benefit to team members as they provide recognition, feedback and development.
There are different methods of performance appraisals in the modern workplace, which can range from top-down assessment, self-assessment, peer-assessment and 360-degree feedback assessment. Top-down assessments are the most commonly used appraisal method. Irrespective of the method of assessment utilised, for performance appraisals to be effective, it is important for leaders and team members to meet at least annually to review work performance, achievements, development, or lack thereof. Most businesses utilise the performance appraisals process to provide feedback to team members about their performance for the previous year and justify salary and bonus reviews.
Incorporating monthly one-on-one into the annual performance appraisals process can help make it more transparent by reviewing performance over the 12-month period. Performance appraisals need to focus on behaviours demonstrated by team members and whether the values of the business are being upheld by individuals. Performance, behaviours and values of a team member need to be assessed conjunctively in order for a performance appraisal to be effective. A good review process not only rewards but can be utilised to highlight development opportunities and provide the support necessary to improve future performance. This can lead to a development plan being crafted to support the respective team member(s).
Performance appraisals receive criticism for perpetuating biases towards the likability of team members instead of reviewing their achievements. Rating more favorably on likability leads to unfair evaluations and creates distrust within the business. It is important to be objective and have a transparent rating system in place to mitigate issues. Similarly, to one-on-one, performance appraisals also require you to ensure that your leaders are appropriately trained on how to conduct the annual reviews and have the best-suited tools to deliver effective and objective appraisals.
Effective one-on-one meetings and performance appraisals can be excellent tools for curtailing underperformance and reducing the need for unpleasant conversations that require a more structured and formal process to be followed. By no means does this signify that managing underperformance won’t be needed but it should reduce the frequency of it.
Underperformance can take different forms including but not limited to not performing duties of a role to the specified standard, demonstrating disruptive or negative behaviours or failing to comply with policies and procedures. The result of underperformance isn’t isolated to one team member, its effects can extend to the team, clients, and the business. There are various reasons as to what could be causing the underperformance and that should also be explored in more depth with the team member. Rectifying the root cause of the underperformance is the best solution. However, our focus for this article will be on how to best manage the underperformance of team members and comply with Fair work performance management guidelines.
Addressing underperformance is a challenging task for both the leader and the team member. Most leaders feel more comfortable addressing underperformance that relates to a team member not performing duties of their role to the specified standard as there are usually clear demonstrable examples, however when it comes to addressing disruptive or negative behaviours, many leaders find it difficult to qualify the behaviours that they want to be rectified and clearly articulate the needed corrective actions. Failure to address all the different forms of underperformance will negatively impact the workplace culture and productivity. Below are some steps that you can follow to help make performance management of employees a more structured process and increase your likelihood of a positive outcome for all parties.
Analyze the problem
Establish the shortcomings and write down examples
Note how it is an issue and its impact
Clearly outline how the situation can be improved
Assess the level of seriousness of the situation
Review if it is an ongoing issue and since when
Define the gap between expectations and what is delivered
Arrange a meeting with the team member
Provide the team member 24-hours’ notice of the meeting
Allow them to have a support person present for the meeting
If appropriate, provide them with documents you will go through on the day
Meet in a private setting and allow enough time for the meeting
Clearly articulate the problem(s) and provide examples
Explain what outcomes are required and support available
Allow the team member to ask questions and respond
Be positive and encouraging that the situation can be improved
Formulate a solution
In conjunction with the team member formulate a solution
Check for understanding from the team member
Suggest solutions to the problem(s)
Extend support such as training or shadowing
Capture the performance issue(s) or behaviour(s) that need to change
Consider a performance improvement plan (PIP)
Allow a reasonable amount of time for the improvement to occur
Monitor and follow-up
Review performance or behaviour regularly and check in with team member
Actively provide feedback and guidance
Provide support agreed to in the solution step
Acknowledge improvements and provide encouragement
Highlight improvements that are still required
Failure for performance or behaviors to improve, you should consider whether a more formal disciplinary process needs to ensue including formal written warning(s) or termination of employment. When managing underperformance, it is critical to observe Fair Work Performance Management Australia guidelines and seek assistance if you are unsure of the best practice approach to follow.