Human resources leaders traditionally advise supervisors, managers and directors on issues related to employee performance, particularly when performance problems arise. Given different levels of employment within your workforce, you need more than a "one size fits all" approach to providing constructive feedback that leads to performance improvement. Hence, there are a variety of methods suitable for developing employees to sustain your company's most valuable resource, its workforce.
Addressing External Factors Affecting Performance
Many employees experience highs and lows throughout their work life; employers who recognize symptoms of external factors that affect performance are better able to resolve performance issues. A few essential elements in addressing performance issues are regular interaction with employees, consistent application of workplace policies and the ability to identify the underlying causes of poor performance. This requires active and constant management of your workforce. Supervisors and managers who provide regular feedback and ensure their direct reports have the necessary tools to perform their jobs are leaders in your organization. They are key personnel in helping your organization maintain an effective, productive and satisfied workforce. Employees burdened with personal matters that affect performance should be counseled by leaders who can direct them to company resources such as employee assistance programs or behavioral-focused training. Resources such as these enhance interpersonal skills, assist in compartmentalizing personal matters and enable employees to redirect their focus to job performance.
Skills Training and Professional Development
When an employee's skill set is poorly matched to job duties, poor performance can create a domino effect leading to low job satisfaction, employee morale and engagement. Evaluate your recruitment and selection process -- you may be able to prevent poor performance due to lack of skills or a mismatched job assignment. "Entrepreneur" magazine suggests a close examination of employee tasks to determine the necessity of training: "Examining job descriptions and specifications provides necessary information on expected performance and the skills employees need to accomplish their work. Any gaps between performance and job requirements indicate a need for task training." Monitor employee competencies to maintain consistency with their duties and responsibilities. Performance evaluations that include a discussion about training and development opportunities may also prevent the incidence of poor performance. In addition, leaders who communicate frequently with employees are more likely to observe job skills that need improvement.
Performance Improvement Plans and Disciplinary Action
Identifying areas for improvement is just one step to addressing poor performance. Many employees may realize they are experiencing performance issues; however, when an employee is unresponsive to attempts to correct performance deficiencies, the employer may need to utilize other measures. Performance improvement plans contain specific areas, milestones and goals for immediate improvement. PIPs are sometimes a last resort in saving an employee's professional reputation. Strict oversight is required in administering a PIP, as well as consistent monitoring by the supervisor or manager. Another method uses disciplinary action to correct behaviors that affect performance. State of North Dakota, Human Resource Management Services recommends the following when using disciplinary action to correct performance: "Discipline is used as a tool to maintain the expected level of employee performance. When used effectively, discipline provides the corrective adjustments that may be needed to manage performance and ensure the well-being of all employees." This, too, is another last-ditch effort that should be carefully considered. When employees receive disciplinary counseling, their performance can either improve dramatically or they can react negatively to discipline.
- International Society for Performance Improvement: Improving Employee Performance: Moving Beyond Traditional HRM Responses
- North Dakota, Human Resource Management Services: Discipline: Performance Management
- Entrepreneur: Training Needs Assessment: A Must for Developing an Effective Training Program
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Applying Performance and Conduct Standards to Employees with Disabilities
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In addition, she is a certified facilitator for the Center for Creative Leadership Benchmarks 360 Assessment Suite, and is a Logical Operations Modern Classroom Certified Trainer . Ruth resides in North Carolina and works from her office in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.