BY CHRISTINA DAVISIt can start by hitting a speed bump just a little faster than you intended. Then, the next time you drive the vehicle, you notice it’s pulling a little to the right. You'd never put off the alignment check of a fleet vehicle, but somehow you keep putting it off in your own car in favor of more pressing duties. After a few months, you find that two of your four tires are wearing unevenly. Sure enough, they need to be replaced and the alignment must be repaired.
Little problems can become big problems if they are not addressed right away. Ignoring those rattles or squeaks doesn’t work when it comes to vehicle maintenance, and certainly isn’t wise when it comes to poor performance by your employees. Having a plan to address staff performance issues protects your business.
In your employee handbook, you probably include a description of your progressive discipline process or performance improvement plans. Although these terms are used interchangeably, they actually have two very different meanings. “Progressive discipline” communicates consequences for poor behaviors, while “performance improvement” helps instill confidence in an employee to improve behavior. Both options can be used effectively with your employees, but performance improvement has some unique benefits.
Ignoring those rattles or squeaks doesn’t work when it comes to vehicle maintenance, and it certainly doesn’t work when it comes to poor performance by your employees."
Performance improvement is the positive, forward-pushing process that helps employees improve their conduct and behaviors, rather than punishing them for their errors. Employee effectiveness can suffer due to misunderstanding the job description, lack of training or knowledge, personal issues at home, and that a skill set does not match the requirements of the job. If you can figure out what the root issue is, your chance of turning around unwelcome behaviors is much higher.
At the first sign of poor performance, talk with the employee. Sometimes employees are simply not aware of their performance issues or noncompliance with company policies. For high performers, a simple conversation may be received positively and all that is needed turn things around; however, if the negative behavior continues, schedule a more formal discussion.
When speaking with an employee about a problematic behavior or a performance issue, include the following points to ensure the employee completely understands the “whats,” “whys,” and “what’s nexts” of the issue. Follow these guidelines to maintain proper documentation when delivering a written warning:
Employee name: Include position, manager, and date of the meeting.
Mission statement: Including your mission statement on all employee documentation helps to clearly articulate what your company does, how you do it, and, even more importantly, why you do it.
Date: Be specific about when the incident occured.
Description of incident/behavior: When describing the incident/behavior, be sure to use only facts, not feelings or assumptions about how and why it happened. Include references to recorded phone calls or emails if applicable.
Impact of incident/behavior: Use this section to explain to your employee how his/her performance/behavior impacted your business. This could be a dollar amount if a vehicle was damaged or a sale was lost.
Previously related incidents/behaviors: If there are previous incidents of the same nature, document the date of occurrence and the date you previously discussed this issue. You will communicate that a pattern is forming that needs to be changed immediately.
Improvements/behavioral changes required: Use this section to precisely state the performance/behavior you want to see going forward.
Next steps: Clearly delineate the next stages, including training, retraining, or shift changes. Note: If you state that you are going to offer additional training or meet with the employee on a weekly basis, etc., be sure that it happens. If you affirm you are going to do something and fail to follow up, that omission can be used against you in the event of an unemployment claim.
Employee questions/needs for additional training: As with any conversation, the employee should have a chance to ask questions and even ask for additional training. Great ideas and suggestions can surface during this stage of the performance improvement process.
Signatures: Both manager and employee should sign the document. Sometimes employees refuse to sign warnings: If that is the case, simply write, “Employee refused to sign the warning,” then date and sign. Written warnings should be filed in the employee’s performance file.
Employee and team performance are the crux of a successful company! Recruiting, training, and turnover take more time and money than it takes to invest in your current employees’ performance and training. Yes, there will be those who simply do not fit, but most people genuinely want to do a good job and succeed for the team and the company. They may just need guidance once in a while. Taking a proactive approach to employee performance issues can be tough, but we all know preventative maintenance reduces future costly repairs. [CD0217]
Christina Davis is the HR Director for The LMC Group. she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.