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Performance Management - Why Not?

The 2016 State of the Service report from the APS cites performance management as an ongoing issue for the APS. Performance management has continued to be an issue in the APS report for almost as long as the APS has been producing the State of the Service Report.

So if it's an ongoing issue, why isn't anything being done about it and why isn't aren't the outcomes changing?

Performance management isn't a difficult process. There are some fundamental principles that need to be followed but, if it's really not difficult, why are Departments and Agencies avoiding dealing with the poor performance or behaviour of some of their employees. And related to not managing underperformers (which usually only add up to a couple of percent of a total workforce) the vastly larger proportion who are doing pretty much what is needed of them (and in some cases much more) don't get told that consistently and constructively either! Pretty much the 'perfect storm' of performance management inaction.

Let's call it for what it is - poor performing and behaving employees are a drain on productivity. These people have a negative impact on your customers, staff and the overall reputation of the Department or Agency.

So what should you do about it? Ensure that you have the fundamental principles in place and then get on with it. The fundamental principles are:

  • A business planning process that clearly sets out the objectives and outcomes sought from all parts of the organisation
  • A well structured Performance management policy and procedure.
  • Up to date detailed position descriptions.
  • An established and published expectation around employee behaviour and values.
  • A group of supervisors and managers who want to performance manage and an executive team that demands this and supports the process and actions of the managers and supervisors strongly and consistently.
  • A clear and easy to follow 'managing underperformance' process - which is not the same as the performance management process - this process only typically applies to 2-3 % of employees, with the remainder operating under the performance management system.

And that is basically it. If an employee is doing what's expected of them - tell them and manage them consistent with the performance management system. If an employee who has had the appropriate training to fulfil the requirements of their role but is not performing to standard or behaving inappropriately, then managers need to enact the managing underperformance management policy and processes as soon as possible. Work with the employee to determine appropriate levels of performance, support them to improve and establish a plan for their improvement.

Being told that they are underperforming rarely comes as a surprise to employees who aren't delivering on expectations.

Give the employee the opportunity to improve to the appropriate level of performance or behaviour. In most cases people will strive to improve. If however the employee is unable to improve to the desired level then termination of employment must be considered - at a point in time once this process has run for a while, it might be obvious to the employer and employee that they are 'a square peg in a round hole'. Neither benefits from continuation of employment in the same role when this becomes apparent.

Poor performing or behaving employees take up considerable management time and as we know they have a significant negative impact on the productivity of those around them - sometimes called 'collateral damage'. By not moving on underperformers, good performers get tired of management inaction and carrying extra workload and make their own running by leaving. Why wouldn't you then as a Manager commit the time and energy to fix the problem for good!

The team at HBA Consulting has considerable experience assisting organisations to:

  • Review their current arrangements for performance management and managing underperformance; and
  • Identify improvement options that will deliver real outcomes and help managers and supervisors to separate out good performers from those that aren't and manage them consistent with good HR practice and procedures


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PH : 02 6247 4490