MANAGE POOR EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE

Manage Absence, Employee Complaints Swiftly & Professionally

Absence Management

If there's one thing you need to know about HR, it's that the relationship between any worker and their employer is a contractual one by nature. Whenever there's an issue, the first question is "What does it say in the contract?". If you don't have one, it's hard to answer.

Poor Performance

It's not enough for each employee to simply have an employment contract. With an employee handbook, you can communicate not just the relevant employment legislation, but the principles and guidelines that define the desired culture of the company.

Employee Complaints

HR policies set out how the company should deal with specific situations in the workplace, from straightforward ones like maternity leave, employee illness, promotion opportunities, or holidays, to more complex topics which may be specific to your company.

Employee Absence Management

WHAT IS ABSENCE?

The Official Definition

Eurofound, the EU Agency for the improvement of living and working conditions, provides the following internationally-accepted definition of absenteeism: ‘the manifestation of a decision by an employee not to present themselves at their place of work at a time when it is planned by management that they should be in attendance’.  A Eurofound study cites evolved HR policies as promoting good health and attendance, not penalising absence.

The Employer’s Definition

The first word most employers use when defining absence is not loss or inconvenience, but frustration.  And the Latin root of this word really brings home the problem with absence, because it derives from the word frustra, which means ‘in vain’, or ‘for nothing, to no purpose.’  No one wants any part of their business to be definable in this way.

So, instead of managing sick pay levels, let’s do what we’re paid to do, which is manage people.

WHAT IS ABSENCE MANAGEMENT?

Question: does your Company have Return to Work interviews with Employees who’ve been on sick leave?  If not, chances are you don’t have an Absence Management Policy.  And that’s probably costing the Company more than just money.

Absence Management (and let’s face it: more often than we’re talking about Sickness Absence Management) is a considered and appropriate Management response to the issue of Absence in the Workplace.   It’s the effect of an agreed Absence Management Policy and its consistent application within the organisation.

Because when employees finally return to work, or return to work again, it does not mean that underlying problems, entirely unrelated to illness or unavoidable personal issues, have gone away.

WHAT IS AN ABSENCE MANAGEMENT POLICY?

A policy is simply an agreed and adopted course of action taken by the Organisation.  An Absence Management Policy is just that: it’s what your Organisation does when dealing with Employee Absence, whether this is short or long term absence.

HOW TO DEAL WITH ABSENCE?

Absence is really just one more thing to plan for and manage, and we believe this is how it is best dealt with.

So, the first thing you need to do is consider the effects of Absence – and sickness absence in particular – on the Company’s performance in all the terms that could possibly apply: Financial; Operational; Morale – and so on.   This means working with Team Leaders and the Finance Function to understand the true and total impact of Absence in the organisation.

If this exercise alone doesn’t provide the motivation to get Absence Management right, we suggest you re-examine your organisational objectives. (Note: this comment would normally call for the use of an exclamation mark, but we can’t stand them and promise we’ll never use them)

Agree it. Write it down. Communicate it.

Every organisation needs an Absence Management Policy and Absence Procedures to include a clearly stated procedure.

Whatever policy you decide on needs to work for your business, its culture, and helps propel you along the path you plotted when you first wrote your business plan on a paper napkin. And the company culture point is just as important as the first: when employee talent is at a premium, and employers are competing for good people, a clear and fair Absence Management policy plays a part in any bid to attract and retain the right staff.

A policy is only as good as the degree to which it has been shared, communicated, and if necessary, discussed.

And any policy that reduces absenteeism costs for the business is a worthwhile one.

WHAT IS ABSENCE MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICE?

Successful Change Management has a structural dimension that ensures that what is planned and built is fit-for-purpose and robust.  It’s a subject that many management authors have written about, but the success of the initiative will always rely on the skills and guile of the Practitioners of Change: the people and teams within the Organisation – supported by HR – who have to deliver on the promise.

Best Practice: any method accepted as superior to any alternatives, producing results derived from other means.  And so Best Practice becomes a standard way of doing things.  Best Practice is only possible in any area of your business if you have an intelligent and fair Absence Management Policy and Procedure is something you can discuss with, and explain to, your team, and have no problem presenting to everyone when it’s first introduced, or amended or improved.

If you don’t manage sickness properly within the Company, you may as well give it a permanent line in your P&L.  Why?  Not managing sickness is the same thing as accepting it, and at any level.

And HR Duo’s clients are helped frame their own HR Management needs within the context of what is universally considered Best Practice.  We don’t believe sick leave – beyond what’s is genuine and certified – should be part of any employee’s remuneration package.

The HR Function knows how to move people (and in more ways than the physical), to take any guiding principle within a process and make it a real, achievable objective, and to take the management models that underlie Change Management and reduce them into actionable and measurable tasks.

This structure derives from ensuring the principles of any Change Management Initiative are firmly in place:

  • Understanding fully the precise problem or opportunity that Change addresses
  • Having a clear, persuasive and memorable Vision for Change
  • Understanding how any embedded Company culture may need to ‘change for change’
  • Total buy-in and engagement from the Company’s Leadership Team and Management
  • A programme that involves every layer within the Organisation
  • First-class Communication – at the start and at every stage
  • All necessary Training and Resources (no cutting corners)
  • An ethos of Ownership and Accountability across the Organisation
  • Continuous Measurement against the Plan – and immediate recalibration when needed

The skills and determination to being about a Change Management Initiative reflect a Business that is aware, responsive, agile – and properly lead and managed.  And within this, the HR Function is where the management professionals who can deliver on Change Management operate.

WHAT IS ABSENCE MANAGEMENT IN HR?

Every organisation has to deal with Absence Management.  But not every organisation has a comprehensive policy and set of procedures for dealing with Employee Absence.  Absence Management is a considered and appropriate Management response by the Management and HR Function to the issue of Absence in the Workplace.   It’s the effect of an agreed Absence Management Policy and its consistent application within the organisation.  And it’s part of what HR Duo provides its clients.

WHAT IS EMPLOYEE ABSENTEEISM?

Besides being a business Fact of Life, what is Employee Absenteeism?

Employee Absenteeism is what happens when you think running your business is straightforward.  Just apply the following formula: number of employees x working days x average daily profit per employee.

You’ve got your pricing right, you know your overhead, so – no problem. Right?

But unless you have a magic Excel column that predicts how many duvet days your employees are going take, or how bad this winter’s ‘flu outbreak is going to be, you can’t know what your Absentee Rate for the year will be.

Remember, you pay for the absence in at least three ways: loss of income; sick pay; cost of Line Managers’ time that could be spent increasing sales or productivity.

HR Duo realises that Employee Absence can be defined by these three categories of cost, and we help clients manage and mitigate the problem.

WHAT IS ABSENCE MANAGEMENT IN THE WORKPLACE?

Running your business should be straightforward, especially where applying the following formula is concerned: number of employees x working days x average daily profit per employee.

If you’ve got your pricing correct, and know your overhead, it should be no problem. Right?  But unless you have a magic Excel column that predicts how many duvet days your employees are going take, or how bad this winter’s ‘flu outbreak is going to be, you can’t know what your Absentee Rate for the year will be.

So, you pay for employees’ absence in at least three ways: loss of income; sick pay; cost of Line Managers’ time that could be spent increasing sales or productivity.

Add to this the fact that every decision (or indecision) by Management in relation to Absence means that employees will expect ‘whatever goes’ in terms of, and dealing with Absence will apply to them too.

After all, the if the amount of available working hours you base your financial projections on is wrong, then so is your budget.

And so, Absence Management is worth doing well. And with HR Duo’s platform, you only need to do it once.

WHAT CAUSES ABSENTEEISM IN THE WORKPLACE?

Absenteeism in the workplace can be caused by many things, due to illness and family problems on the part of the Employee, all the way up to the most unforgivable of all reasons – poor management.

That’s right.  Poorly managed or motivated employees will often be absent from work.  If Managers are not looking after Employees’ welfare in terms of workload, deadlines and so forth, absence can prove the only salve for the Employee.

Equally, Employees who for some reason have not bought into the Company culture, or have been allowed ignore the effect avoidable absence has on their colleagues, may use Absence as a harmless entitlement.

Whether due to sickness or other reasons, Absenteeism can become a problem for your Business if you don’t have a clear policy, clear procedures, and supporting company-wide communications method to protect the Business from its effects.

Absence Management is less time-consuming than any related disciplinary procedure.

HOW TO REDUCE ABSENTEEISM IN THE WORKPLACE?

It’s not possible to prevent Employees becoming ill, or having domestic problems that prevent them from coming into work.

But it is possible – and necessary – to manage and reduce avoidable and unwarranted Absenteeism in the workplace.  Absenteeism of this type is does not just impact your Business and its survival/success: it’s a problem for Employees who don’t feature in the Absence statistics but who have to make up for the gap in effort and output when they cover for their absent colleagues.

Every organisation needs an Absence Management Policy, to include a clearly stated procedure.  And managing absenteeism needs to be a collective goal of all Managers.

Whatever policy you decide on needs to work for your business, its culture, and helps propel you along the path you plotted when you first wrote your business plan on a paper napkin. And the company culture point is just as important as the first: when employee talent is at a premium, and employers are competing for good people, a clear and fair Absence Management policy plays a part in any bid to attract and retain the right staff.

A policy is only as good as the degree to which it has been shared, communicated, and if necessary, discussed.

Agree it. Write it down. Communicate it.

Reducing absenteeism will increase the efficiency, productivity and performance of your Business (which are probably all part of your job description).  So do your job – and ask HR Duo to help if you need us.

HOW TO DEAL WITH EMPLOYEE ABSENTEEISM?

The bad news is: if your Business doesn’t have a clear Absence Management Policy, along with supporting procedures, Employee Absenteeism is very difficult to deal with in a meaningful way.  The issue of occupational health is an integral part of any organisation that has a workforce, regardless of its size.

The good news is: if your Business does have a clear Absence Management Policy, along with the necessary supporting procedures, Employee Absenteeism likely to be straightforward to deal with.

Every organisation needs an Absence Management Policy, to include a clearly stated procedure.  That is, unless you want an unsustainable and harmful level of absence to establish itself over time.

Whatever policy you decide on needs to work for your business, its culture, and helps propel you along the path you plotted when you first wrote your business plan on a paper napkin. And the company culture point is just as important as the first: when employee talent is at a premium, and employers are competing for good people, a clear and fair Absence Management policy plays a part in any bid to attract and retain the right staff.

A policy is only as good as the degree to which it has been shared, communicated, and if necessary, discussed.

Agree it.  Write it down.  Communicate it.  Act on it.  Stick to it.

HOW TO DISCUSS ABSENTEEISM WITH AN EMPLOYEE?

For the purposes of providing a reply to this question, we are assuming that – as a professional Manager or HR Officer – you know you are not dealing with genuine illness, domestic issues, bereavement, or similar.  And in these cases, the Employee needs to be helped and protected in keeping with both Employment Law and the Company’s own stated beliefs or culture.

If the Absenteeism is caused by a lack of Management support, or insufficient training, or harassment or bullying in the Workplace, then it’s your job to uncover these reasons in respectful, one-to-one meetings with the Employee.

However, if Absenteeism is a function of an Employee’s lack of interest in the job, the Company, or an unsustainable lifestyle, then the only way of discussing absenteeism is by putting the Company’s Absence Management Policy ‘front and centre’ within the dialogue.

Every organisation needs an Absence Management Policy, to include a clearly stated procedure.

Whatever policy you decide on needs to work for your business, its culture, and helps propel you along the path you plotted when you first wrote your business plan on a paper napkin. And the company culture point is just as important as the first: when employee talent is at a premium, and employers are competing for good people, a clear and fair Absence Management policy plays a part in any bid to attract and retain the right staff.

A policy is only as good as the degree to which it has been shared, communicated, and if necessary, discussed.

Any Line Manager worth his or her salt will value a clear and fair policy as they manage their staff.

So, agree it.  Write it down.  Communicate it.  Act on it.  Stick to it.

Employment contracts

HOW CAN OWNERS USE OUTSOURCED HR TO AVOID POOR PERFORMANCE AND UNDERPERFORMING EMPLOYEES?

Managers are paid to manage people – including the underperforming employee.  They must confront problems in the Organisation and manage conflict.  With Poor Employee Performance, they often get to do all three.

If the performance problem exists – apply a performance improvement plan.  Now.

Unfortunately, Poor Employee Performance is sometimes down to poorly managed HR practice. The problem is only made worse by something even the most successful Managers or Team Leaders decide they can get away with from time to time, and that’s indecision, or worse, preferring to avoid conflict. Managers are paid to do many things, and one of these is to deal with underperformance.

If you have a properly thought-out and managed Employee Review Process, the issue of Poor Employee Performance is easier to manage.  At HR Duo, we believe in the power of Positive Employee Relations, and have built our HR Cloud services entirely around this belief.  And it’s served us well.  Proper process and the relevant training for Managers means the poorly performing employee and poor performance generally can be dealt with swiftly, professionally, and to the benefit of all parties.

HOW TO DEAL WITH POOR EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE?

The Underperforming Employee Review is an essential part of every Management toolkit.  It needs to be applied quickly, fairly and must be supported by facts.  Managing the Underperforming Employee needs to be done as soon as the problem is identified, and needs to be seen to be addressed by all: other members of the Team may be carrying the person involved and they will welcome intervention.  Ironically, you may find the act of managing one employee – professionally and fairly – motivates your employees.

The most effective way of dealing with Poor Performance is by focusing the conversation on the agreed and measurable Performance Deliverables to which the Employee signed up when joining the Company.

  • Headline the Performance Deliverables against which the Employee is measured and reviewed
  • Remind the Employee how his or her job performance affects the overall Organisation
  • Ask for reasons for performance falling below the required standards
  • Agree what corrective measures will be taken
  • Set down the defining metrics for the Performance Improvement Plan
  • Propose required Company supports as part of the process
  • Agree a timeline and review process

An Underperforming Employee affects the Company in more ways than are immediately evident, and quite often this means pulling other Employees down as they observe sub-standard performance, or have to compensate in their own work for this lack of performance.

WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR POOR PERFORMANCE AT WORK?

This is fairly straightforward if you can identify the performance issues. Most of the time, either the Employee is wrong for the job, the job is wrong for the Employee, the resources and training available are inadequate – or the Manager is wrong for the Employee (and possibly other Employees).  To break it down:

  • Employee is not skilled or capable enough
  • Objectives of job are poorly defined
  • Quality of training and resources supplied
  • Employee is going through a temporary personal problem
  • Surrounding HR processes are weak, or poor work environment
  • Manager is not providing sufficient direction and feedback
  • Lack of motivation due to change in workplace dynamic

But these are the obvious or most common causes.  The fact is there can be any number of reasons, and it’s the Manager’s job to start the conversation, ask the right questions, listen closely, establish the causes and agree the next steps.  The Manager’s not simply responsible to the Business, but also to the rest of the team.

WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL TYPES OF POOR EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE IN SMES?

  • Not performing the job required
  • Not reaching the agreed standards
  • Repeatedly unable to meet targets of whatever nature
  • Lack of accountability or motivation
  • Disregard of Company rules in relation to time-keeping, absence, Health and Safety, Company property
  • Persistent inability to perform in conjunction with colleagues
  • Poor onboarding process for new Employees

These are just some typical problems, but many behaviours of the Underperforming Employee will relate to particular corporate cultures and processes.

HOW TO HAVE THE PERFORMANCE DISCUSSION WITH AN EMPLOYEE?

This “Why” conversation is the first step to resolving one of the most difficult and resource sapping exchanges in the workplace.  Sometimes it will reveal matters that relates directly to the Employee and what’s going on in their world.  But the conversation may also reveal underlying problems in the Organisation, of which an underperforming Employee is only a symptom.

If the Small Business Owner or Manager can point to agreed performance levels and compare these to what has been agreed in the most recent Annual Performance Review then they have the basis of a conversation. The Owner/Manager can then:

  • Outline concerns clearly and calmly, connecting these to the role and the agreement between Employee and Employer
  • Listen to all answers carefully, reading between the lines where necessary, and avoiding the temptation to respond immediately
  • Make file notes
  • Make the gap between the agreed and expected performance and behaviours the focus
  • Explain the effect of the poor performance
  • Agree the steps needed to correct matters – and how these are to be measured
  • Set a review date
  • Give the Employee an assurance of your full support and confidence as ‘your side’ of the process.

Employee Complaints

HOW TO HANDLE THE COMPLAINT AND THE EMPLOYEE?

Professional Employers see complaints as opportunities to take negative feedback from employees, manage them, and avoid any more disruption in the business.  Or worse, legal proceedings.

If you fail to deal with them, complaints become Workplace Grievances.  Smart employers take immediate action to manage complaints and grievance, so they are resolved quickly and without great expense or disruption to the Business.  Having a clear procedure in place to deal with these issues makes good business and HR sense.

Managers need to know exactly what to do when an employee makes a complaint, because it’s a chance to deal with an issue early and stop it escalating into something very expensive and harmful for the Business.

If dealt with properly, any employee grievance can be seen as a positive.

WHY DO EMPLOYEE COMPLAINTS ARISE?

Typical reasons include:

  • Employment terms
  • Working conditions
  • Changes in workplace practices
  • Bullying or harassment
  • Problems with other employees
  • Lack of management support.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN EMPLOYEE COMPLAINT AND AN EMPLOYEE GRIEVANCE?

In simple terms, a grievance is an expression of someone’s unhappiness with a situation or event, while a complaint can be seen as a formal confirmation of that grievance, and one that must be formally addressed by the Employer.

How to manage Employee Grievances is just one aspect part HR Duo’s outsourced HR service, and it has been designed to give the Business Owner all the tools to deal with this important area.  We see a clear Employee Complaint procedure (or any good HR policy for that matter) in terms of having a valuable asset and insuring against its damage or loss.

WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR DEALING WITH EMPLOYEE COMPLAINTS?

  • HR Duo makes sure the following are all accessible and clear:

    • A clearly understood procedure open to Employees
    • Who to contact, how and with what information is required
    • Procedure that starts with an informal approach, moving to formal as required
    • Transparent, honest and fair manner of treating the issue
    • Guide to using a mediated approach
    • Step-by-step guidelines for the Small Business Owner or Manager

    The Workplace Relations Committee clearly outlines the principles of Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures.

    HR Duo provides all of the necessary information and instructions for the Small Business Owner or Manager, allowing them to focus on the business and their core skills, while having expert HR Services to hand and ‘on tap’.

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