Last week, we introduced the three components of managing poor performance and dealt with the first one:
- The infrastructure you will need
- The techniques to turn poor performance around
- What to do if you cannot turn the poor performance around
This week, it’s the turn of techniques to turn poor performance around.
Performance Turnaround Toolbox
The toolbox analogy that Pam Jones describes in The Performance Management Pocketbook is a good one and some of the tools she details in her book are particularly relevant here: feedback, coaching and motivating, in particular.
Let’s list some of the tools in your performance turnaround toolbox.
First and foremost, we need to provide open, honest, clear, and factual feedback to the under-performer, about the nature and level of their performance. Do it early and the problem will be smaller. Often an early intervention here can bring about swift changes or a genuine request for help, alerting you to causal conditions that you may be able to help with, or at least take account of.
For my money, coaching is one of the most powerful ways to support poor performers – as it is to support average, good and excellent performers. If you don’t have the skills, there are lots of sources of help – not least, the Coaching Pocketbook. On a recent training course about Performance Coaching, the feedback I had was that this is, itself, a very powerful tool set for managers at all levels.
Clearly a part of any coaching process, whether you coach or not, you must agree performance goals with the under-performer that are attainable and acceptable to the organisation. I recommend tiered goals, incrementing in performance level month-by-month, until basic performance standards are achieved. Why stop there? If the process works, continue it until the performer reaches their maximum performance capacity.
Look at the resources available to the under-performer in their workplace and ensure that they represent all that the performer needs, to succeed. If not, take rapid remedial action.
What support can you, other managers, and the performer’s colleagues offer them, to help them to tackle their poor performance?
Evaluate whether the poor performer needs further training or re-training to address their performance issues. But do not accept a training course as a panacea: you must place it in the context of goals, support and a regular performance evaluation process, to help them to embed their learning into new practices.
You may want to consider incentives – or even their flip-side, penalties. You should not need to and, if you do, ensure that these will fall wholly within your organisation’s policies.
One option is always to re-structure the under-performer’s job either temporarily or permanently, to allow them to perform more effectively.
Even more radical is the possibility of re-deploying the poor performer into a new role that they can thrive at. Be careful though: don’t use this as a means to off-load trouble on other managers. Also be aware that you cannot lawfully change someone’s contract without their consent in most jurisdictions (all?), so only do this after careful consultation with your HR experts and maybe even an HR lawyer.
As a last resort, you need to work towards reviewing your poor performer’s wider options with them. This is, of course, a euphemistic way of alluding to next week’s post about what to do if you cannot create a turnaround.