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Managing Performance

What is the role of the manager in managing performance?

Effective management is critical to the successful performance of an organisation. Where appropriate this should involve setting periodic, fair and measurable standards of achievement, productivity and performance. The manager’s role is to communicate this effectively, ensure that these standards are measured and that the outcome is communicated to staff. Thereafter this information should be recorded and reviewed periodically.

Managers must be familiar with the employer’s expectations in this respect and the procedures to be followed. Where appropriate it is important that relevant training is provided.

How should performance assessments be carried out?

Employee performance should be assessed formally and on a regular basis. This should take place annually using an appraisal form designed for the purpose, or more frequently as part of a performance improvement plan. Assessment documents should be completed and signed by both parties.

The assessment should identify any performance issues before they become a serious concern. It is not required to wait until an annual appraisal to raise these concerns. It is desirable to raise issues constructively as they arise. Where possible the conclusions and outcomes should be agreed. If concerns are not addressed this may create difficulties if these issues are raised at a later date without forewarning, eg. scoring performance as part of a redundancy selection procedure.

If the assessment highlights issues between the manager and employee, then these should be followed up at a more senior level to ensure that any potential conflict is avoided or resolved fairly.

How should performance issues be addressed informally?

Initially (but depending on the seriousness) any concerns should be raised on an informal basis. This may involve weekly or monthly meetings at which performance is reviewed and discussed. Although full notes of these meetings may not be kept, there should be some written record made of the issues discussed and agreed outcomes. In appropriate circumstances an informal performance plan may be followed.

How should performance issues be raised during the probationary period?

Performance issues can be raised informally, but if the employer is considering terminating employment or extending the probationary period, then this should take place at a formal meeting. The outcome should be recorded in writing and the employee should either work or be paid in lieu of their contractual notice entitlement.

How should performance issues be addressed formally?

If the outcome of the informal procedure is unsatisfactory, or the concerns merit formal action, then the disciplinary procedure should be followed in relation to non-performance. Where possible an annual appraisal or informal assessment meeting should not be used as part of this process. The employer should avoid turning routine meetings into disciplinary hearings.

It is important that principles of fairness are followed, as well as the ACAS Code of Practice. Before any formal action is taken an employee should be informed in advance of the concerns, the required improvements to be made, the relevant timescale for this and the consequences of further non-performance. An employee should be notified in advance of a disciplinary hearing, the action that may be taken and the right to a representative, as well as having access to any necessary documents.

Notes should be made at the disciplinary hearing and the outcome confirmed in writing, along with the right of appeal. If further improvements in performance are required and disciplinary action contemplated then the details should also be confirmed in writing. At each stage of the process the employee should know what is expected and the consequences of continued non-performance. In the case of employees with more than two years’ continuous service, a failure to follow a fair procedure or act reasonably may result in a claim for unfair dismissal.

The employer should follow its disciplinary procedure, but usually this process will require two or three formal meetings to conclude together with any appeals. Many employers conclude that the cost in management time, pay and delay is unacceptable and choose to manage the risk by proposing a mutually agreed departure. Settlement discussions facilitate this and a settlement agreement represents the safest way to conclude an agreement (see our guidance notes on each of these areas).

Can non-performance justify summary dismissal?

Depending on the circumstances, summary (or immediate) dismissal can be an appropriate sanction if the non-performance is so serious that the employer cannot risk a repetition. Such non-performance would be so serious as to amount to gross negligence or incompetence.

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