Performance counselling is a valuable tool used to ensure that employees perform work in a manner consistent their job description and the organisation’s values, which in turn helps boost productivity and the smooth running of the organisation.
Performance counselling, also referred to as employee performance management, is often used to address issues such as the inability to deliver on agreed goals or standards, continued and unexplained absences or tardiness, and consistent non-adherence to work instructions.
When these behaviours occur, it is the employer’s responsibility to address this promptly, so that employees understand that they must improve their work to a more acceptable level. If performance counselling is not implemented, employees may believe their work is satisfactory.
Keep reading for tips on how to foster a positive environment when conducting performance counselling..
Document and understand the issue beforehand
Before you progress to performance counselling, it’s important that you have all the facts and understand the issue at hand. To ensure the meeting runs smoothly, you should collate relevant information to present to the employee.
This may include specific examples of the issue, including the date and time of the occurrences. You should also document the frequency and severity of the problem, and the effect on the employee’s performance goals as well as impact on the workplace, their colleagues and clients.
Any previous meetings where the issue already has been addressed with the employee should be documented along with the agreed outcomes of these meetings.
Once you have this information in front of you, you can address the issue with your employee with facts and evidence. This allows a degree of objectivity which can foster a more positive experience for your employee.
Give your employee time to prepare
It’s important that you don’t spring the performance counselling session on your employee. Give them time to prepare for the meeting by giving them the relevant details beforehand.
You should inform the employee of the date and location of the meeting, ensuring that it is in a private setting and giving a minimum of 24 hours’ notice. Make sure the meeting is in both of your calendars and consider having a coaching discussion beforehand.
Your employee should understand the purpose of the meeting and have time to prepare for their performance counselling session. Ensure you give the employee the option of having a support person with them in the meeting, if they wish. Remember that a positive outcome is your goal, and the employee might just need more training or mentoring to perform satisfactorily
Conduct the performance counselling session firmly but fairly
Once you have documented the issue at hand and allowed your employee time to prepare, conduct the performance counselling meeting in a private setting.
During the meeting, try to be as objective as possible. Focus on the behaviours and actions of the employee – do not attack them personally. Describe the performance issue to your employee factually and present them with examples and occurrences of their unsatisfactory behaviour.
Make sure that your employee knows what is expected of them, and they understand why their current level of performance is an issue. Consider and discuss whether the employee has been provided with sufficient resources, support, and training to perform at the desired level.
Ask your employee whether there are any extenuating circumstances that may be impacting their work and behaviour. Remember that a meeting is a two-way discussion, so use active listening and allow your employee to speak freely – but bring the conversation back to the issue at hand if it becomes tangential.
Create an action plan
Creating an action plan (often called a Performance Improvement Plan) is a key part of performance counselling sessions. After considering your employee’s responses and point of view, you should mutually agree on next steps to work towards the required levels of performance.
Set goals and targets for your employee and clarify the standards they are required to meet going forward. Create a list of things to be actioned by you, your employee, or other parties. This could include providing support and training or setting tasks for your employee. Your action plan must have a specific period of review.
The outcome of the meeting should be recorded along with the action plan, which must be signed by both the manager and the employee. This prevents misunderstandings and ensures mutually agreed expectations.
At this stage, you are obligated to inform your employee that disciplinary action up to and including termination may occur if performance does not improve as per the action plan. Reiterate that support will be provided where necessary, and that a positive outcome is preferred .
Follow up with your employee
At the end of the period specified in the action plan, you must schedule a follow up meeting with your employee. During this meeting, go over the action plan and consider whether your employee has managed to achieve the goals and targets set.
If your employee has successfully met the standards agreed upon, you should acknowledge this improvement but continue monitoring in case the issue persists. If your employee’s performance has not improved since your initial performance counselling session, the issues will need to be re-addressed.
If no improvement is observed, you may consider setting a new performance period, or disciplinary action such as a verbal warning, a written warning, or even termination. Remember that the purpose of performance counselling is for employees to improve their performance, not to terminate employment at the first sign of issues.
Need help with performance counselling?
Employee Matters has helped organisations with their HR needs for over a decade, improving employee retention, performance, and workplace productivity. Outsourcing your HR needs to us can assist you in conducting complex HR processes. If you need assistance conducting performance counselling or designing related policies & procedures, book a free call with an experienced member of our team.
Being general information pertaining to the field of human resources management, the information in this blog article does not constitute specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Employee Matters is not a legal firm and does not purport to give legal advice. We will happily provide you with general legal information on employment related topics and if we feel you need specific legal advice, we will inform you of this and can refer you to independent specialist employment law firms, as necessary.