When Performance Management needs to take over from Training

Posted on 5th November 2014

I believe anyone who has had responsibility for managing people will have come across this scenario. You have trained, reviewed and maybe re-trained but you are still not getting the results and performance from a member or members of staff that you hoped for. So what do you do next? I know some people would do nothing but that is probably not the right thing to do, unless you want to tolerate under performance and the effect that this can have on staff morale and the business. It can be a dilemma as managing performance can be difficult and we all want to an easy life don’t we? However, if done right, it can achieve the required result or lead to a conclusion that is in the best interests of everyone. So, what do you do?

  1. It is important to recognise that the aim of any Performance Management is to make sure that people are doing the job you want them to do, in the way you want them to do it. It is not about dismissals, although this is maybe an eventual outcome in some cases, it is not the intention or the most desirable outcome in most cases.
  2. Peter Drucker says that “management by objectives works if you know the objectives. 90% of you don’t.” It is essential if you want make sure that people are doing the job you want them to do in the way you want them to do it, that there is clarity around this. This means ensuring any Job Description is clear and understood, that objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Timed) and that behaviours are also included.
  3. Before progressing to a formal Capability procedure, an earlier step could a “Developing Performance” stage. This is used effectively at a school where I am Chair of Governors. At this stage, the under performance has been identified, objectives set, support put in place and a review date set. This date does not have to be a long way into the future but provide a reasonable time to demonstrate improvement. It is also stated what would happen if that improvement is not forthcoming.
  4. If at the review the problem(s) still persist then move onto a formal Capability Procedure. This would entail once again setting the objectives, providing support, timescales and cautioning them that if there is no improvement it could lead to a final caution and ultimately dismissal.
  5. If no improvement, repeat 4 with a final caution.
  6. If still no improvement, despite all the support, training, objectives etc it is clear that they are not capable of carry out the job you want and a dismissal or move to another job (if possible and this may have been discussed earlier). Any dismissal in this case would be on capability grounds and be with notice.

This process does not have to take a long time. The reviews can be within a month depending on the complexity of the case. In the case of the school, we have moved staff through this procedure fairly quickly as we have lots of objective data (lesson observations, tracking points for student progress every 6 weeks etc) which can be used to set objectives and monitor. The myth that you cannot dismiss underperforming teachers is just that.

In reality, I have found that once a process like this starts people either Fight or Flight. Some staff will react positively and you will get the improvement you want which is the desired outcome, or Flight, they will look to move on which creates an opportunity if they do.

So to sum up my top tips would be:

  1. Act sooner rather than later, don’t let issues fester
  2. Be clear on what you expect and how you expect it to be done
  3. Provide training, mentoring, support wherever you can. Remember the objective is to get improvement not dismiss.
  4. Keep the dialogue open and supportive. Listen and address problems.
  5. Make sure people know what will happen if they don’t improve
  6. Be prepared to back up what you say.
  7. Remember it may not be their fault, they may be just in wrong job and you may have put them there. Keep this in mind.
  8. Take the tough decision if you need to.
Emma Wynne Character
Written by:
Emma Wynne
Managing Director