Managing performance issues

A policy for managing performance issues describes what happens if things go wrong at work. Early intervention is key to resolving performance issues and can be started by the employee or manager.

A policy for managing performance issues means managers and employees know what happens if a performance issue arises. The policy should describe the process for getting back on track if things are not going well. It should cover:

  • how performance issues will be identified and raised
  • what support employees might get to help them meet expectations (informal measures)
  • what happens if they do not meet those expectations (formal measures)
  • what the manager should consider when deciding how long to put informal and formal measures in place for
  • what support is available to managers to help them through the performance management process
  • a requirement to document all discussions, actions and agreements about the performance issue.

Identifying and raising issues with employees

The policy should cover how performance issues will be identified. It should recognise that there are many reasons why an employee might perform below expectations. For example:

  • they don’t know what’s required because expectations haven’t been made clear
  • they haven't had adequate training
  • they don’t know if they are doing a good job because they haven’t had enough feedback
  • they are experiencing personal issues like family stress
  • they are experiencing workplace bullying or harassment.

The policy should say how problems will be assessed so that employees are offered appropriate support and an opportunity to improve. For example, providing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) could help address a performance issue that has been caused or affected by problems in an employee’s personal life.

The policy should set out any rules for raising performance issues with an employee, for example, having an informal private discussion about what’s going on before deciding what to do.

Supporting employees through workplace change

Informal measures

Informal measures are usually offered first, for a set period. Often managers and employees can resolve issues together without going through a formal process.

These measures start with an informal discussion about the performance concerns and include solutions like:

  • extra training
  • buddying, mentoring or coaching
  • changes to tasks
  • more regular conversations with managers about how work is going
  • referral to EAP. 

The policy should say what the manager should consider when deciding how long to put informal measures in place for. This will depend on things like the employee’s role and how much support the organisation can provide — this will vary from workplace to workplace. 

It should also cover what happens if performance does not improve and when formal measures will be put in place.

Informal ways to manage a performance issue

Formal measures

Formal measures, like putting a performance improvement plan (PIP) in place, should happen after informal measures have been tried but have not got the employee to where they need to be. It’s important to make sure performance issues have already been raised with the employee before putting formal measures in place.

The policy should cover:

  • what formal measures the manager will take to improve performance — usually this means putting a PIP in place.
  • what to consider when deciding timeframes for how long a PIP is in place — this will depend on things like the employee’s role, how much effort they’re making to improve, and how much support the organisation can provide
  • how often progress against the PIP will be reviewed
  • what happens when performance doesn’t improve, and giving warnings
  • circumstances for dismissal — for example, after all other measures have failed and the employee has been given a final warning
  • a requirement to keep written records of all meetings and decisions about the performance management process.

Formal ways to manage a performance issue

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