Getting the best out of your staff means considering things like ongoing training and performance management plans.
It’s also important to conduct regular performance reviews, as well as resolving issues whenever they arise.
Make sure you have ongoing training and staff development available for your team. Not only will it benefit your business, but your staff will appreciate that you’re investing in their professional development, so they can increase, enhance and develop their skills – which will benefit their experience.
If your staff are required to undertake training as part of their role, make sure this is clear when you’re advertising – and include it in their employment agreement.
If you don’t have any guidelines about training in place, you can still consider it as long as the employee agrees. They may even come to you with ideas for professional development, and if it’s related to their job, it’s a good idea to consider allowing them to do it during their normal working day and footing the bill – or part of it.
Consider the following when deciding on training for your staff:
- Take each individual’s needs into account. Talk to them about their strengths and weaknesses, and ask them to tell you how they prefer to learn.
- Think about what training options are available. Are in-house courses available? Is there an appropriate online course? You could enrol them in a course with an outside provider, or you might want to send them to conferences, seminars or workshops.
- Mentoring is another option. Whether an employee is learning under the guidance of someone else on your team or working as their assistant, a mentor is a great way to upskill an employee, especially if they’re likely to step into the mentor’s role at some point.
Your industry body and local Chamber of Commerce are good places to ask about relevant workshops and seminars.
Although these aren’t mandatory, they’re a good way to measure an employee’s progress and performance, and to discuss future options. They’re a two-way street – seek feedback from your employees that will help keep the business running smoothly.
Reviews are usually conducted once or twice a year. But don’t save up all your feedback for the reviews. And an employee shouldn’t wait until their scheduled review to give you feedback. Communicate regularly with your staff so that new ideas can be discussed and problems avoided or resolved.
When preparing for a review:
- Schedule the review in advance, so you both have time to prepare for it. Review their job description, your notes from any previous reviews and any other performance indicators.
- Make sure the review takes place in a private area where you won’t be interrupted.
- Include discussion points such as how well they think they’re doing, where they could improve, if they need any equipment or training to do their job better, and if they’re facing any issues with their role or with their colleagues.
- Avoid hitting them with bad news. If you have a problem with them, bring it up at the time – don’t wait for the review. But if there have been problems, discuss with your employee how those problems are being resolved. Tell them beforehand that those problems will be part of the review.
Try to keep the review reasonably informal. They’re more productive if you and your staff are relaxed. Some structure might be useful, though, such as:
- Setting goals – talk about what should be achieved, and the best ways of going about it. If this isn’t the first review, discuss whether they’ve achieved their goals since their last review.
- Job satisfaction – what can be done to enhance things like gaining more experience or responsibility, taking on more challenges or improving their work/life balance.
- Pay – discuss their salary and whether it’s going to increase or not – and why – as well any bonuses.
Make sure the meeting is documented, and share your notes with your employee once the review is over so they have them to refer to.
Performance management plans
From time to time, employee performance doesn’t quite meet expectations.
If your regular chats and reviews aren’t keeping things on track, it could be time to implement a performance management plan.
- Clarify the issues. Review the employee’s job description and identify where they’re falling down.
- Meet with the employee. Request the meeting in writing (email is OK), and let the employee know that the meeting will be to discuss their performance, and that they can bring a support person along.
- Discuss their performance. Be clear what your areas of concern are, and refer back to their job description. Ask them to respond and to detail what issues they have that might be affecting their performance, such as personal problems or not enough training.
- Decide how to move forward. Discuss what needs to happen to improve their performance, and what you’ll do as their employer to help them. Agree when and how often you’ll meet to track their progress. Make sure they’re clear on what could happen if they don’t lift their performance after the conditions have been agreed to – such as a formal warning as per the provisions in the employment agreement.
- Document the outcome. Write down all the details of the meeting and agreed next steps, put a copy in their file and give them a copy so they have it to refer to.
- Track progress. Measure how well they are doing, and document anything that’s related. Note what they’re doing well and areas they still need to improve.
- Meet with the employee again. Make sure you set up this meeting when you have the initial discussions, so the employee knows when you’ll be talking to them again. They’re entitled to have their support person with them again, and you should discuss whether the agreed standards have been met.
- Decide on the outcome. If they’ve lifted their performance and you’re happy with them, you can leave it there – job well done. If more improvement is needed, you can repeat the above steps, or you can issue a formal warning.
If you’re still seeing no improvement after the performance management plan has been implemented, it may be time to issue a warning.
If you still want to see more improvement but you don’t want to take the step of alleging misconduct, sit the employee down and discuss your concerns with them.
This is not a formal warning, but you should still make it clear to the employee that you’re taking it seriously. Sometimes the problem is miscommunication, so it’s important to try and discover where your wires are getting crossed.
Find out what the employee is not understanding, and then lay everything out as clearly as you can and go through the performance management plan again.