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Clear, fair and under control: 6 tips for effective performance management

Performance management is one of the more difficult parts of people management. It can be a source of additional stress for everyone involved – but doesn't need to be. Here are some fundamentals of good performance management that can make the process more effective.

1 Develop a clear process – and make sure you follow it. To ensure fairness for all employees, it's important to have a clear performance management process in place. The process should map out both informal and formal stages and should include appropriate escalation where an employee's performance does not improve. Once you have a process in place, make sure you follow it and apply a consistent approach to every situation.

2 Document the process. Rigorous record-keeping is an important part of performance management, to ensure procedural fairness and reduce the risk of a claim should the process result in dismissal. Keep detailed records of meetings and communications regarding the employee's performance, including agreed outcomes and when you'll review the employee's progress.

3 Make the expectations clear. Give the employee every opportunity to improve their performance by making sure they understand the expectations of the role. Remember to cover all aspects of the position – if the employee is succeeding in particular areas, acknowledge this and then focus on providing measurable goals for areas where the employee is not at the required standard. Develop a performance improvement plan that all parties agree is realistic and achievable.

4 Listen to the employee. There are plenty of reasons why employees may not be performing to the required standard – and not all of them will be related to work. Take the time to talk to the employee and find out if something is affecting their ability to do their job. Any external factors should be taken into account when you develop a performance improvement plan.

5 Allow time for the employee to improve their performance. The goal of performance management is not discipline; it's about helping employees to perform at the required standard. In some instances, you might be trying to break a career worth of bad habits – and this may take a little time. Set clear milestones for the employee to work toward and give the employee time to meet them. Schedule regular reviews to check they're on track.

6 Provide coaching and support along the way. A key part of performance management is not just outlining the required standard, but also helping the employee to develop the skills to get there. Monitor the situation closely and provide feedback to keep the employee on the right track. Be firm and fair in your approach and track progress against the agreed performance improvement plan.

Remember, good performance management will not only help you boost productivity and get the best from your team, but will help employees feel valued, thereby improving retention. If their strengths are recognised and they are supported and given the chance to improve in weaker areas, workers will be more likely to feel satisfied and positive about work.

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