If you have employees, you will inevitably be faced with performance management concerns from time to time. Dealing with performance management issues isn’t anyone’s favourite task; however, problems need to be addressed in an upfront manner. Performance issues can range from someone consistently showing up to work late, to inappropriate interpersonal communications, to not completing work in a timely fashion, and everything in between.

Hiring in a methodical manner can reduce the chances of running into performance issues down the road. In other words, take your time with the recruitment process and only hire individuals who you feel will be a good fit with your organization. When in a staffing crunch, it can be tempting to hire someone who you feel will be “good enough”; however, this is rarely a good long-term strategy. As part of the recruitment process, be diligent in your reference checking – this isn’t an area to brush over. It’s important to note that you can always train people on the technical aspects of a job, but it is much more challenging to train for attitude – and attitude/interpersonal behaviour is what the majority of performance matters will be linked to. Once you have made a decision to hire, ensure that you onboard new recruits in a comprehensive manner. This includes initial on the-job-training and being clear about performance expectations. If you do encounter a performance issue, ensure that you address the issue as soon as possible. Sure, it is human nature to hope that the problem will go away, but this typically doesn’t happen. The risk in allowing problematic behavior to continue is that it sends a message to both the guilty party and to other employees that this is acceptable behaviour. This can lead to morale issues and/or decreased performance among members of the team who are currently performing well.

Progressive discipline is a system where the discipline increases for each infraction. The majority of collective bargaining agreements outline progressive discipline with the following steps (and this approach can be adopted by non-union organizations as well):

• Verbal warning
• Written reprimand
• Suspension
• Termination

Normally, coaching happens prior to a verbal warning occurring. As well, it should be noted that any step in progressive discipline can be skipped if deemed appropriate. For example, if you have an employee that verbally berates a customer, your first step will likely not be a verbal warning. It is recommended that your performance management process be documented and presented in the form of a policy. The policy should then be communicated to all – new and existing – employees. When an issue arises, meet face to face with your employee and follow-up in writing. In your follow-up, include your expectations moving forward. When appropriate, it’s best to attach a timeline to the expectations.

Ideally, performance management will not be an activity that you need to spend much time on, but it’s important that you are prepared to actively tackle issues when they do arise. Be clear with your performance expectations, address issues in a timely fashion, and be consistent – doing so will set you on the right path for successfully managing performance issues.

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