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Managing workplace performance problems during the pandemic

27 Oct 2020

Almost every one of us has had to adapt to new, challenging and unfamiliar ways of working this year – and for some employers, the problems haven’t ended when employees have returned to work.

A number of our clients have talked to us about members of staff who have been causing them concern, to ask how best their performance issues might be managed and mitigated whilst still remote working.

These clients have found that  they have had significant problems with quality and quantity of work during flexi-furlough and with the move to remote working, to the point that it is causing considerable cost to the business and needs to be urgently addressed.

Employees of course have a duty to perform to a satisfactory standard, but managers also have a responsibility to clarify what these standards are and to provide appropriate support, a responsibility that has become more important than ever during the pandemic.

Any employers in this situation need to satisfy themselves that they’ve met their responsibilities towards their employees before looking at possible capability/disciplinary solutions.

This includes examining whether there were any performance issues identified prior to the pandemic, whether they have received all the training and support required to carry out the role to the expected level and whether there may be an underlying cause to the performance issues?

Are managers providing the right level of regular support (whether remotely or in the office) to employees who could be genuinely struggling or feeling out on a limb?

Are there any factors that could be influencing an employee’s poor performance?  This could be structural, such as access to help and advice or the right kinds of technology, or personal, such as health, family or emotional issues.

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And just as importantly, has the manager properly explained the issues to your employee, the things that need to improve and the consequences if they don’t reach the standards required?

A formal, carefully planned and balanced approach is needed to manage these kinds of delicate situations in order to improve performance, whilst also minimising the risk of any claims arising against the business.

This includes establishing what the issues and the likely reasons for poor performance are, discussing whether anything specific can or should be done to assist with addressing them, and set out written, reasonable, measurable targets for improvement.

Agreeing a time period over which this process will be monitored, with regular progress reviews, and ensuring there’s a clear understanding of what the next steps will be if the required improvements are not forthcoming.

Alongside all this, carefully assessing whether any other employees have  similar performance issues and taking steps where required to resolve them, so that fair and equal treatment can be seen to have been given to all employees.

Managing workplace performance in the current circumstances takes planning and time. Ensuring managers are trained to provide the appropriate level of support and manage performance remotely is a crucial part of this and will pay dividends in the long run.

For further information, please contact Sarah Hall on 0191 232 8345 or via sarah.hall@hay-kilner.co.uk