Managing Poor Performance in the workplace

Managing poor performance in the workplace is a delicate and challenging task that requires tact, empathy, and a clear strategy. Addressing performance issues promptly and effectively is crucial to maintaining a productive and harmonious work environment. In this blog post, we will explore practical tips and strategies for handling poor performance in a fair and constructive manner, ensuring the best possible outcome for both the employee and the organization.

1. Identify the Underlying Causes
Before taking any action, it is essential to identify the root causes of the poor performance. Is it due to a lack of skills or knowledge, unclear expectations, personal issues, or inadequate resources? Engage in a candid conversation with the employee to understand their perspective and gather relevant information. This step allows you to address the core issues effectively.

2. Provide Clear Expectations
Ensure that performance expectations are clearly communicated from the outset. Regularly revisit these expectations and provide ongoing feedback to employees. Clearly define goals, responsibilities, and performance metrics to establish a framework for success. Clear expectations empower employees to understand what is required of them and work towards meeting those expectations.

3. Communicate Constructively
When addressing poor performance, approach the conversation with empathy and respect. Choose an appropriate setting and time, maintaining privacy and confidentiality. Be specific about the performance issues, focusing on observable behaviours and outcomes rather than making personal attacks. Use active listening techniques to encourage open dialogue and understand the employee’s perspective. Provide feedback that is specific, actionable, and offers suggestions for improvement.

4. Offer Support and Resources
Identify any gaps in skills or knowledge and provide the necessary support and resources to help the employee improve their performance. Offer additional training, mentoring, or coaching opportunities tailored to their needs. By investing in their development, you demonstrate your commitment to their success and growth.

5. Set SMART Goals
Collaborate with the employee to establish SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals that address the identified performance issues. SMART goals provide clarity and enable employees to track their progress and milestones. Regularly review and revise these goals to ensure ongoing improvement.

6. Implement a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)
In cases where poor performance persists despite support and feedback, consider implementing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). A PIP is a structured document outlining specific performance expectations, a timeline, and the consequences of not meeting the agreed-upon goals. It serves as a roadmap for improvement and can provide a fair and transparent approach for both parties involved.

7. Monitor Progress and Provide Feedback
Consistently monitor the employee’s progress throughout the performance improvement process. Offer regular feedback, highlighting areas of improvement and acknowledging positive changes. Provide constructive feedback that focuses on development rather than punishment. Celebrate small wins and offer guidance when setbacks occur.

8. Escalate if Necessary.
If the employee’s performance does not improve despite interventions, it may be necessary to escalate the issue to higher management or HR. Follow company policies and procedures for handling performance-related issues, ensuring fairness and adherence to legal requirements.

9. Consider Alternative Solutions
In some cases, poor performance may not be entirely attributable to the employee. Evaluate whether there are external factors affecting their performance, such as workload, team dynamics, or personal circumstances. Explore potential adjustments or accommodations that can help mitigate these factors and support the employee’s performance.

10. Know When to Make Tough Decisions
If all efforts to address poor performance prove unsuccessful, it may be necessary to make difficult decisions such as reassignment, retraining, or, in extreme cases, termination. These decisions should be made in consultation with HR and in compliance with company policies and legal obligations.

Effectively handling poor performance in the workplace requires a proactive and empathetic approach. By identifying underlying causes, providing clear expectations, offering support, and communicating constructively, managers can foster a culture of continuous improvement and help employees reach their full potential. Remember, addressing poor performance is an opportunity for growth and development, both for the individual and the organization as a whole.

Managing a poor culture fit in your organisation

Managing an individual with poor culture fit in an organization can be challenging, but it is essential to address the issue to maintain a healthy work environment. Here are some strategies for managing an individual with poor culture fit:

1. Clarify Organizational Culture: Clearly define and communicate your organization’s values, mission, and expected behaviours. Reinforce the importance of culture and its impact on teamwork, collaboration, and overall success.

2. Assess the Fit: Evaluate the extent of the poor culture fit. Is it a result of a misunderstanding or lack of awareness, or is it a fundamental mismatch between the individual’s values and the organization’s culture? Understanding the root cause helps determine the appropriate course of action.

3. Provide Feedback and Guidance: Schedule a private meeting with the individual to provide honest and constructive feedback about their cultural misalignment. Be specific about observed behaviours and how they differ from the organization’s values. Offer guidance on how they can improve their fit within the culture, such as adjusting communication styles or demonstrating behaviours aligned with the organization’s values.

4. Offer Support and Resources: Provide resources, such as mentoring, coaching, or training programs, to help the individual develop the necessary skills and behaviours to align with the organization’s culture. Encourage them to seek guidance from colleagues who exemplify the desired cultural traits.

5. Set Clear Expectations: Clearly communicate the expectations for behavioural changes and cultural alignment. Outline specific actions or behaviours that the individual should work on to improve their fit within the organization. Provide regular feedback and monitor progress.

6. Provide Opportunities for Integration: Encourage the individual to participate in team activities, cross-functional projects, or initiatives that promote collaboration and cultural integration. This can help them build relationships, gain exposure to the desired cultural dynamics, and learn from their colleagues.

7. Evaluate Progress: Regularly assess the individual’s progress in aligning with the organization’s culture. Provide ongoing feedback and recognize improvements when observed. If progress is slow or insufficient, consider whether the poor culture fit is likely to be resolved in a reasonable timeframe.

8. Consider Role Reassignment or Transition: If efforts to improve culture fit prove ineffective, it may be necessary to explore alternative options. This could involve transferring the individual to a different role or department within the organization where their skills and values are better aligned. Alternatively, in cases where the cultural misfit persists and negatively impacts team dynamics and overall morale, a transition out of the organization may be the best solution.

9. Document and Follow Company Policies: Throughout the process, ensure that you document all conversations, feedback, and performance-related discussions as per company policies. Follow any procedures or guidelines established by HR or management to handle such situations in a fair and compliant manner.

10. Learn and Adapt: Use the experience as an opportunity to learn and refine your hiring and onboarding processes. Evaluate whether there are any gaps in the selection criteria or onboarding practices that may contribute to future cultural misfits. Adjust these processes as necessary to enhance culture fit during the recruitment and integration stages.

Managing an individual with poor culture fit requires a balance between supporting their development and making tough decisions when necessary. By taking proactive steps and providing guidance, organizations can foster a culture where employees are aligned with the values and behaviours that drive success.

Hiring Productive Individuals

Hiring productive individuals who are also a culture fit requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond assessing qualifications and skills. Here are some strategies and best practices to help you hire productive individuals who align with your organization’s culture:

1. Define and Communicate Your Culture: Before you begin the hiring process, clearly define your organization’s values, mission, and desired culture. Communicate this information through your job postings, company website, and during interviews to attract candidates who resonate with your culture.

2. Develop a Hiring Framework: Create a hiring framework that incorporates both productivity and culture fit as essential criteria. This framework should outline specific behavioural and competency-based questions to assess productivity levels and cultural alignment during interviews.

3. Incorporate Behavioural Interviews: Conduct behavioural interviews to gain insights into a candidate’s past experiences and behaviours. Ask questions that focus on their ability to manage time, handle deadlines, collaborate with teams, and adapt to different work environments. Look for examples that demonstrate their productivity and alignment with your culture.

4. Assess Values and Beliefs: During the interview process, assess a candidate’s values and beliefs to gauge their compatibility with your organization’s culture. Ask questions that probe into their work ethics, problem-solving approaches, and how they align with your organization’s core values.

5. Involve Multiple Stakeholders: Include key team members or representatives from different departments in the interview process. This ensures a more comprehensive evaluation of candidates’ productivity and cultural fit, as different perspectives can provide valuable insights.

6. Conduct Cultural Assessments: Consider incorporating cultural assessments or surveys to further evaluate a candidate’s alignment with your organization’s culture. These assessments can help identify their preferred work styles, communication preferences, and overall fit within the existing team.

7. Reference Checks: Contact references provided by candidates and ask specific questions related to productivity, work habits, and cultural fit. References can provide valuable information about a candidate’s past performance and their ability to thrive in specific work cultures.

8. Trial Period or Project: Consider implementing a trial period or project for selected candidates. This allows you to assess their productivity and cultural fit in real-world scenarios before making a final hiring decision.

9. Onboarding and Integration: Once you’ve hired productive individuals who align with your culture, ensure a smooth onboarding process that includes an introduction to your organization’s values, expectations, and work processes. Provide opportunities for new hires to integrate with the existing team and establish relationships with colleagues.

Remember, hiring productive individuals who are a culture fit is an ongoing process. Regularly evaluate and refine your hiring strategies based on feedback, employee performance, and evolving organizational needs to continuously improve your ability to attract and retain the right talent.

Creating a great culture in the workplace

Creating a great culture in an organization is a multifaceted and ongoing process that requires intentional effort and the involvement of all stakeholders. Here are some key strategies to help create a great culture in your organization:

1. Define and Communicate Core Values: Clearly articulate the core values that guide your organization’s actions and decision-making. Ensure that these values are communicated consistently and effectively throughout the organization, from leadership down to individual team members.

2. Lead by Example: Leaders play a pivotal role in shaping organizational culture. Demonstrate the desired values and behaviours in your own actions and decision-making. Act as a role model for others to emulate and align with.

3. Foster Open Communication: Create an environment that encourages open and transparent communication. Foster a culture where all employees feel comfortable sharing ideas, concerns, and feedback. Regularly seek input from employees and actively listen to their perspectives.

4. Encourage Collaboration and Teamwork: Promote a collaborative and inclusive work environment that values teamwork. Encourage cross-functional collaboration, knowledge sharing, and the building of strong relationships within and across teams.

5. Establish Clear Expectations: Clearly define performance expectations, goals, and objectives for individuals and teams. Ensure that expectations are aligned with the organization’s values and overall strategy. Provide regular feedback and recognition to reinforce desired behaviours and performance.

6. Prioritize Employee Well-being: Place a strong emphasis on employee well-being, recognizing that a healthy and engaged workforce is essential for a positive culture. Implement initiatives that support work-life balance, mental health, and overall employee wellness.

7. Invest in Employee Development: Provide opportunities for continuous learning and development. Support employees in acquiring new skills and knowledge through training programs, workshops, conferences, or mentorship initiatives. Show a genuine interest in their professional growth.

8. Recognize and Celebrate Success: Celebrate achievements, milestones, and successes at both the individual and team levels. Recognize and appreciate employees’ contributions to foster a sense of accomplishment and reinforce a positive culture.

9. Encourage Innovation and Risk-Taking: Foster an environment that encourages innovation and creativity. Support employees in taking calculated risks and trying new approaches. Embrace a learning mindset that allows for experimentation and learning from failures.

10. Promote Diversity and Inclusion: Embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the organization. Create a culture that values and respects individuals’ differences, including their backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Actively promote diversity in hiring practices and ensure inclusivity in decision-making processes.

11. Regularly Assess and Adjust: Regularly evaluate and assess the organization’s culture to identify areas for improvement. Conduct surveys, focus groups, or interviews to gather employee feedback and insights. Use the feedback to make necessary adjustments and continuously refine the culture.

Creating a great culture is an ongoing journey that requires commitment and continuous effort. It involves aligning values, behaviours, and practices throughout the organization. By cultivating a positive and inclusive work environment, organizations can attract top talent, enhance employee engagement, and drive long-term success.

How do you judge cultural fit?

To judge the cultural fit of a candidate you need to understand your own culture and you can define it by considering the following:

What does the company value?

  • Are you a sales at all cost or a service at any cost type of business?
  • Does the company have a formal reporting structure or is it an entirely collegiate approach?
  • Does the business need people to work all hours or does it expect people to deliver on their own volition?
  • Is the business heavily customer focused or is it a back room function that doesn’t interact with external customers?

What common language does the business use?

  • Does the business have a common language based on the industry / customer base / technology / history?
  • Are people encouraged to constantly communicate or does everyone wear headphones?
  • Is emotional language and response part and parcel of the day or is it frowned upon?

Where and how are decisions made in the business?

  • Does the boss make all the decisions or is everyone taken into account?
  • Does the company encourage input or does it actively discourage it?
  • Do individuals make crucial decisions within their own sphere of operations or are they made for them?
  • Do teams make decisions and are they implemented?
  • Does the leadership take total responsibility or does effective delegation exist?
  • Do people just execute or do they contribute to the wider aims of the business?

What are the defining “war stories” in the organisation?

  • Apart from the obvious about why a company was started or what the founder’s vision was back in the day a company has lots of stories that are analogous to its offering.
  • What was the defining product or deal or customer that made the company what it is?
  • What breakthroughs have happened, how did they happen, who made them happen?
  • What failures, what history, what moments illustrate the business as you know it?

How is work structured on a day-to-day basis?

  • Do you work 9-5 or are your hours flexible?
  • Does the company put being present as a key priority?
  • What does the business think about part time work or working from home etc.?
  • Does the team need to be together or does remote working lend itself to the culture?
  • Has any of this been done before?

Once you’ve gone through that exercise it’s probably easy to find people who will fit the culture, who are inspired by the example set, the ethos and values of the business. It’s those individuals that’ll be a cultural fit for you and your organisation and are far more likely to be highly effective as a consequence.

The benefits of a thorough process

So we’ll take it as read that a thorough recruitment process is much more likely to land an effective employee than one that is unplanned, unstructured and ad-hoc but there are other real tangible benefits to having a well thought through and structured process. For us, they are:

  • Its great personalised PR to others in your market. If you do a great job of hiring people, even those that are rejected at the end of it will be left with a positive impression and the likelihood is, they’ll know someone who you would like to hire, now or in the future.
  • It tells the market that you are a serious and professional business that takes care and interest in all that it does.
  • It’s a lot easier to effectively on-board a new employee when you know quite a lot about them. Tailoring the plan to the individual’s psychometric profile, added to the knowledge gleaned from the interview can work wonders in ensuring staff join happy and stay happy. Proper On-Boarding can be make or break for both the company and the individual.

Making offers and ensuring they are accepted

When making an offer, if you haven’t done the groundwork you’ll feel a bit blind. So, ask up front what the candidate’s current salary situation is. Don’t be fobbed off by generalist terms: “well it’s around £x in total.” What you want to know is: Basic salary? Bonus or commission (how is it made up? when is it paid? Is it realistic? What is the payment history like? How much depends on you and how much depends on the team / company / group etc.?) Pension? What do you pay and what does your employer pay? Health? Dental? Life Insurance? Car? Car Allowance? Holidays and any other benefits that the candidate values. You want to know it all and don’t pussy foot around – just ask.

Ask outright what the candidate’s expectations are and if they are wildly out of alignment, tell them that up front. They need to know and they may well be showing a number to open the negotiation. Challenge the salary expectation if appropriate and reset it below what you could offer and then when you make the offer come in above what they agreed to. People appreciate generosity even if it is a little managed.

What you really want to ensure is that what you have to offer in terms of a role is what your candidate wants first and foremost. You should probably expect to pay a premium to get someone to do a job they won’t see as development so bear that in mind when you’re drawing a job specification up.

Once you have all the information. Make the offer. If you’ve done the groundwork it’ll be accepted outright. The more you have to negotiate the less you’ve done up front. It’s a sign.

Reference Checking

Checking references should be straightforward but like a lot of aspects of hiring it’s conceptually easy and practically difficult. Some individuals will deliver references at the drop of a hat but an increasing amount won’t.

Obviously if the candidate has worked with companies you know then this could be straightforward but when they haven’t then dig in and try and dig deep. Taking references face to face is great though rarely practicable. Taking them by video call or telephone is the next best thing. For best effect speak to people above, below and equal to the individual being hired. Customers, Suppliers, Contacts could all be relevant depending on the role so don’t always think inside the business is the best place to pick up references. It’s often others that will give a more honest view.

Check dates and titles as par for the course and check facts gleaned in interview (without sounding like your hunting for issues) and leave it open for referee’s to give more than you’ve asked for.

Put confidentiality at the core of what you do in reference checking and remember you might just be getting opinion rather than objective insight. So if it doesn’t turn out quite as well as expected ask what the circumstances might be that made that happen. It’s not necessarily good but it’s not necessarily bad then either.

Conducting interviews

When you reach the stage of interviewing candidates it’s a good idea to remember that this is not code for interrogation. Ostensibly you, the interviewer are in control of the meeting but that responsibility needs to be tempered with the understanding that you’ll be judged on how attractive you and your company are on the basis of the meeting. Good candidates will always have options so if you put them off your business by adopting an interrogative style then there’ll be no going back. To add insult to injury, they’ll tell anyone else they know that the business wasn’t great at interviewing and that the interviewer was an arrogant so & so etc.

What we’re not saying is give the candidates an easy ride and don’t ask taxing questions. But before you do get stuck in, put the candidate at ease ask some light, social questions, get to know a little bit more about them and set a friendly and respectful tone. Both interviewer and interviewee will perform better if they are relaxed and feel comfortable with each other.

So to make the interview really work the key is:

  • Preparation – Understand your role in depth and in detail
  • Preparation – Read the candidates CV, check out their social network profiles and pick up informal references if you can.
  • Preparation – Create a suite of questions to create an understanding of skills match, culture fit and the candidate’s desire to join your business

…and what that means in practice is:

  • Prepare a thorough job specification with as much detail as is practical and necessary for the candidate to understand the role. Prepare to be questioned closely on detail points and other aspects. A well prepared and motivated candidate will ask questions (it’s a great sign)
  • Spend some time reviewing the candidates CV so that you can go directly to relevant points made and ask pertinent questions. If you shuffle about looking for information to allow you to ask questions then you’ll look unprofessional. The social network information will help in understanding broader interests, connections, viewpoints (good or bad) and attitudes, behaviours and values. No bad thing given what you want is an alignment in those for both the candidate and the business.
  • Spend time thinking about what it is you want to get from the candidate and prepare the questions. Using the same questions for each candidate will help you score them more effectively and ultimately build a profile that can be used for subsequent on boarding or objective setting etc.

Biographical Interviewing

Biographical interviewing whereby you interview a candidate on the timeline of the CV. “What were they doing and when?” essentially. From our own standpoint, this can be a good way to fact check in a CV and challenge where it’s obviously out of alignment. Candidates often make mistakes in their CV when they make changes to it and sometimes that means you find out more than the candidate intended.

When interviewing a candidate, we find it very useful to understand the context in which they performed their role. So understanding the company / division / team in terms of its purpose, its size (people numbers / revenues / projects etc) customers, and structure and physical bases. Leadership team make up and organogram. This will provide a useful backdrop on which to position a candidate in terms of the skills they’ve used and developed. It’s also worth understanding the culture of business as described by the candidate. If it sounds like yours and the candidate doesn’t like it you’ll hire a misfit.

So, the biographical interview has its place. It is best used in conjunction with a very well defined set of competency and behavioural questions.