Dealing with low- or underperforming staff is a controversial topic, into which legal aspects can also play a role. Low performing personnel not only do less themselves, but also reduce the average performance level of the entire team in the long run. It can be problematic if the manager does not take action to improve performance. Because that often leads to the rest of the team seeing the work of the under performering as the new standard and also doing less.
What can be done about the problem of low- or underperformance?
- Create transparency through clear goals in the work tasks. In this way you make performance measurable and have objective criteria for fulfilling the tasks.
- First of all, clearly present the goals in an employee interview and define the tasks of the individual employees and your expectations.
- If the stated goals are not achieved, you should start the performance process. In this context, the approach taken by Jack Welch as the head of General Electric at the time is interesting. He fired the lowest performing 10% every year. But every year it came back 10%.
A fair process in dealing with low performers is a three-stage performance process. This includes the following points.
Fair process in three stages
1) Documented discussions between manager and employee
- Clear communication and presentation of the employee’s assessment.
- Make concrete agreements and measures.
- Offer support and ask specifically.
- Document the conversation.
- Arranging a next appointment.
A total of three interviews should be held in six months and progress should be recorded.
If step 1 is successful, you should repeat this after one year. If step 1 is unsuccessful, step 2 follows.
2) Involvement of HR
- Make the documented documents available to HR.
- Provide a conversation between HR, manager and employees.
- Carry out a revision of the implementation measures and check why they were unsuccessful.
- Once again clearly communicate your expectations and make the appropriate agreements to implement them.
- Document the concrete steps.
A total of two discussions should be held over a period of around three months.
If step 2 is successful, repeat this after one year. If step 2 is unsuccessful, step 3 follows.
3) Make a decision about separation
- Talk to HR, managers and employees.
- On the basis of the unsuccessful measures, you as a manager should deliver the notice of separation.
- HR leads the further process of separation.
Separation of underperformers
It is no longer a question of whether, but of how. The decision to separate has been made. “Only the process is fair,” says the works council of one of our customers. And that’s how we orient ourselves when dealing with poor performers. It is advisable to be able to explain exactly how the underperformance differs from the normal performance in a comparable environment. This can play a role in a process before the labor court. The Federal Labor Court has ruled in two judgments (Az. 2 AZR 536/06 and 2 AZR 752/06) that the criterion for performance is personal performance. A comparison with other employees is therefore complicated.