Managing poor or declining performance

There are essentially three main options:

Option 1: take no action if:

  • there are more important or urgent issues to deal with
  • the performance problem is not yet serious
  • corrective action would risk worsening the situation
  • it is not possible to establish reasons
  • the employee is likely to take note and self-correct.

Option 2: take corrective action by:

  • committing additional resources
  • insisting the work be improved or done again
  • getting directly involved to resolve difficulties
  • changing procedures or working practices
  • arranging additional training
  • reassigning work to a more experienced person

Option 3: revise the standards

  • They could be unrealistic if deadlines have changed, promised resources were not delivered, or other individuals failed to deliver dependencies.

Chapter 10 of the B628 course book also contains some useful information on how to design and conduct appraisals.

The performance management cycle

A systematic approach to managing the performance by ensuring people are meeting their work objectives and performance goals.

Stage 1:

  • Set goals and clear objectives
  • Communicate regularly with staff
  • Discuss standards and expectations
  • Communicate goals and standards

Stage 2:

  • Review processes and performance
  • Improve current processes
  • Ask for improvement ideas
  • Give ongoing feedback
  • Document discussions

Stage 3

  • Yearly assessments of performance
  • Share written records
  • Conduct appraisal discussions
  • Record results of discussions
  • Plan and undertake any agreed professional development

Performance management needs to take into account both the tasks and the people involved. Managers need to ensure that objectives are set (task-centric) while at the same time supporting and developing staff (people-centric).

Chapter 10 of the B628 course book contains much more detail, including examples of task and people-centred activities, and how to carry out supervision and monitoring as part of day-to-day performance management.

There are also excellent sections on how to give and receive feedback on performance, and how to manage poor or declining performance.

Recruiting and selecting staff

Although I don’t really get involved in the recruitment process as a recruiter, as an interim manager, I am regularly involved in the recruitment process as a candidate, so chapter 9 of the B628 course book was particularly eye-opening as a window into a side of recruitment I rarely see.

The concept of separate person specifications and job specifications was new to me, as were the ideas of person-job fit and person-organisation fit.

The chapter went into the whole process of job analysis and preparation of a job description, preparation of a person specification, marketing of a job vacancy (including writing the advertisement), shortlisting applicants, selecting applicants (including various low-cost and higher-cost selection methods), designing and conducting a selection interview, ethics in recruitment and selection, and induction and socialisation.

Some very useful information in this chapter – including a redux of effective questioning techniques (covered in chapter 2).

Managing virtual teams

One of the most useful things I learnt about groups and teams while studying for B628 was the concept of the virtual team. I had been managing a small virtual team myself, and was experiencing many problems.

The section on virtual teams in chapter 8 of the B628 course book was invaluable for me in learning how to avoid similar problems in the future, and in fact my second TMA for B628 was about resolving a virtual team problem.

Some of the key needs of a virtual team:

  • Building an maintenance of trust between members.
  • Accountability of individual team members.
  • Clear and distinct team identity.
  • Multicultural considerations.

There are lots of tips in the chapter on how to address these key needs. Well worth revising on a regular basis.

I’m hoping that one of my next courses, B325 Managing across organisational and cultural boundaries, will go into this in much more detail – making me something of an expert in managing virtual teams!

Reviewing and evaluating team performance

Adair’s model of team work (1983) is a useful framework for reviewing and evaluating team performance due to the way it highlights the interdependencies between the individual, the team, and the task in hand.

The task:

  • Are there enough resources and internal and external support?
  • Is the task fully understood? Has it been broken down into its component parts?

The team:

  • Are there the right constituent parts to achieve the task?
  • Has the group formed well?
  • Are team members communicating well and reviewing their progress regularly?

The individual:

  • Are individuals learning from the experience?
  • How are they dealing with their expectations, hopes, and fears?
  • Are there issues from previous group work experiences?
  • Do they have enough support and development opportunities?
  • Are they aware of the consequences of individual actions?

Box 8.8 in chapter 8 of the B628 course book contains a useful team function questionnaire developed by West (2004), which individuals should complete independently  in order to identify and agree on common problem areas that need to be worked on.