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By Key Business Advisors
Human Resources

To be successful, a business needs employees who are passionate about its purpose, values, and vision. It is up to business owners and/or managers to ensure team members are always engaged and motivated. But what can business owners and managers do when some employees may be providing customer service but not achieving the desired results?

As soon as you have identified that a team member is underperforming, do not wait for things to go from bad to worse. You need to let that team member know that his or her performance is unsatisfactory and conduct a performance counselling session with them to get them back on track. You need to ensure that you have a formal communication process between a manager and the team member, and that process has to be documented. Follow the five steps below for effective performance counselling:

1. Inform the team member about their performance and have a coaching discussion.

Give the employee all the relevant details. Advise the employee in writing of the date and location of the meeting, ensuring it is in a private setting (for example, not in the staff tea room). Put the meeting in both of your diaries/calendars, and ensure the employee knows they can bring a support person of their choice if they would like to. Remember, you want a positive outcome, and they might only need more training or coaching and mentoring to get back on track.

2. Do your homework.

Take into consideration all issues with the team member’s performance. Be sure to gather all relevant documents, such as the employee’s position description, monthly targets, and any previous discussions/counselling sessions that addressed the same concerns. Fill in the performance counselling form prior to the meeting and be specific when outlining your concerns.

3. Conduct the performance counselling discussion as scheduled.

Discuss the team’s performance and your expectations. Provide specific examples of your concerns. Keep in mind that it is a two-way discussion – allow the team member to respond to your concerns about their performance, and listen to what he or she thinks is the reason for it. Identify where the gaps are and what the team member needs to do to improve his or her performance. Work out what specific training needs be put in place that will assist with improving their performance. It may be a behaviour problem that also needs addressing.

4. Create a performance/action plan.

Based on your discussion with the team member, develop a performance/action plan that would best support the team member in improving his or her performance. Be sure to include a specific period of review and conduct a follow-up meeting at the completion of this period. Team members like to be challenged, so set some goals that work for you, the business and the team member, and be committed to making improvements. Provide the team member with a copy of the action plan, and place another copy in the team file.

5. Follow up with the employee.

At the completion of the set performance period, it is essential that you conduct another meeting with the employee. During this meeting, you will go through the performance plan you set at the last meeting, and advise the employee whether or not they have been successful. If they have successfully completed the performance plan, congratulate them and ensure that they know you require them to continue to perform this way moving forward. If they have not been successful, you may need to take further action such as setting a new performance period, a verbal warning, a written warning or, in extreme cases, termination of employment.

Keep in mind that the purpose of performance counselling is to assist employees to improve their performance, not to terminate them at the first sign of problems. Use positive language and focus on the behaviours and actions of the employee, and do not attack the employee personally. Most cases of under-performance are the result of lack of training, not understanding the requirements of the role, or not having the required skills or abilities. With further training, clear expectations and constant feedback, most employees will be able to improve their performance and become aligned with the business’s purpose, values, and vision.


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