A clear and concise performance improvement procedure can help employers to tackle underperformance early and invoke formal action when performance issues cannot be resolved informally. What should HR professionals consider when drafting their performance improvement procedure, how should it be structured and what can it contain?

1. Reiterate commitment to supporting underperforming employees

The introduction to the performance improvement procedure can highlight that the employer will deal with underperformance in a fair and supportive manner.

The introduction can also be used to deal with various housekeeping issues, including:

  • giving the option for the process to be conducted remotely at any stage when it is not possible to hold a face-to-face meeting/hearing; and
  • providing a reminder that a written record of all meetings/hearings conducted under this procedure will be made, either by the person holding the meeting/hearing or by an additional person taking notes.

The procedure can also stress that the employer may digitally record any meeting/hearing conducted remotely under this procedure, provided that all parties agree.

2. Build in an informal performance improvement stage

It is important for the performance improvement procedure to allow for performance issues initially to be dealt with informally.

This approach ensures that the employee is supported to improve their performance where possible, rather than punished for underperformance. It also helps employers to cut down on the cost and bureaucracy involved in invoking a formal capability procedure too early.

This informal stage is likely to involve the employee’s line manager meeting with them to discuss concerns regarding their performance. The meeting should result in the line manager issuing guidance to the employee on what they need to do to improve their performance.

3. Initiate a first formal stage if performance does not improve

The performance improvement procedure should then set out what will happen if the informal stage does not lead to a satisfactory improvement in the employee’s performance.

The first formal step should be an invitation to a performance review meeting. The meeting would normally be conducted by the employee’s line manager. The procedure should also give the option for someone from HR to be present.

The procedure should make clear that the meeting is to discuss the employee’s performance with them and decide together what measures can be taken to help them to improve. The employee should be given the opportunity to ask questions, comment on their performance and put forward any explanations for their poor performance.

The formal meeting could result in the line manager putting in place a performance improvement programme, against which the employee’s progress can be charted.

4. Follow up with a second formal stage if underperformance continues

Stage 3 of the performance improvement procedure should allow the employer to hold a formal performance management hearing if the employee’s performance has not improved during stage 2.

At this stage of the procedure, it is very important that:

  • the invitation letter sets out sufficient information and examples of why the employee’s manager believes that their performance still falls short of an acceptable standard;
  • where possible, the hearing is conducted by a more senior manager than the employee’s line manager, with a member of HR also on the panel; and
  • the employee is informed in advance of the possible outcomes of the hearing, which could include the implementation of a further performance improvement programme and the issuing of a written performance warning.

The potential to issue a written performance warning triggers the employee’s right to be accompanied by a fellow employee or a trade union official. The option to bring a companion to the hearing should be spelt out within the procedure.

The procedure should also give the employee the option to appeal against the issuing of any formal written warning.

5. Conclude with a third formal stage if underperformance continues

Stage 4 of the performance improvement procedure should allow the employer to hold a formal performance dismissal hearing if the employee’s performance has still not improved and a warning under stage 3 of the procedure remains live.

At this stage of the procedure, it is very important that:

  • the invitation letter sets out sufficient information and examples of why the employee’s manager believes that their performance continues to fall short of the required standard;
  • where possible, the hearing is conducted by a senior manager authorised to make dismissal decisions, with a senior HR professional also on the panel; and
  • the employee is informed in advance of the possible outcomes of the hearing, which could include dismissal.

The potential to dismiss the employee triggers the employee’s right to be accompanied by a fellow employee or a trade union official. The option to bring a companion to the hearing should be spelt out within the procedure.

6. Offer an appeal against underperformance sanctions

The performance improvement procedure should conclude with details of when an employee can appeal against any sanctions.

It is important that employees are given the right to appeal against dismissal for poor performance. The employee should also be allowed to appeal against other sanctions, such as the issuing of a warning.

Where possible, the appeal hearing should be conducted by a senior manager who was not involved in the decision to issue the original sanction, with a different senior member of HR also on the panel.

The potential to dismiss the employee triggers the employee’s right to be accompanied by a fellow employee or a trade union official. The option to bring a companion to the appeal hearing should be spelt out within the procedure.

The performance improvement procedure should make clear that the outcome of the appeal will be final.

 

Original article ‘Writing a performance improvement procedure: a guide for HR’ Written and Published by ExpertHR

 

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