Employee capability issues – ‘”Off with their head” or, is there another way?

When a valued member of staff starts performing badly, what do you do? Do you get rid of them or try to find out what’s going on? Just imagine how different the ending to Alice in Wonderland would have been if the Queen of Hearts  had had her way!

Quite often, many employers see failing performance issues and decide the only option is to dismiss the employee. That scenario usually ends up with a period of discord for three main reasons. 

Firstly, it will no doubt have a negative effect on the rest of the team, who have to cover their workload. Secondly there’s all that extra effort and time involved in recruiting a new individual, putting more pressure on the team and you as a business owner in the meantime, and thirdly the experience accumulated, often over  a significant period of time is lost when the employee leaves.

The overall aim of a Capability Policy is to assist employees who have difficulty achieving the required standards of job performance. The key objective is to encourage and support improvement rather than to punish failure.

How does a Capability Policy help? 

A Capability Policy provides the necessary process that helps both you, the employer, and your employee, to communicate effectively.

A Capability Policy can help :

  • Assist the employee to achieve the standards required to carry out their duties effectively
  • Provide a fair and supportive environment to help the employee achieve that aim
  • Set out in more detail how the Company will deal with continued poor performance

The fact is, your employees are your most important and one of your most expensive resources. But you get what you tolerate and sometimes those difficult conversations are tricky to schedule – right? Wrong, by leaving the issues to fester they infiltrate most areas of the business, others may get drawn into the poor behaviour pattern, or be disrupted by poor performance output.

Ostensibly what you’re doing when you choose to sack an employee who you originally spent time and money on recruiting and training is throwing away an opportunity to turn that employee around and set the standards and culture you  require within the business. The Thames Valley has low unemployment, skilled workers are a commodity worth retaining within the business. Capability discussions can assist with the retention of employees who ‘once upon a time’ were a motivated and valuable resource.

Effective communication

We all know that life can be stressful, achieving work life balance can be tricky. So, facilitate a culture of open communication, talk to the wayward employee to find out what’s going on in their life, what are the reasons for the lack of output?

They may be struggling because of something that’s going on outside of work, but without talking to them how are you going to know if the situation can be resolved?

Case in point

Recently, we helped a client with an employee whose performance had drastically declined. He was a valued staff member and very highly skilled. Indeed, he had been with the company for many years, initially apprentice trained, and was considered to be a master tradesman. Our client wanted to get rid of him following a period of under-performance and demonstrating a poor attitude towards their work colleagues, and contacted us for procedural advice.

Instead of advising the client on how to dismiss this employee, we helped our client to see that the better and more cost-effective way of dealing with the situation was to communicate, to talk to their employee and find out what was going on in his life. Sure enough, through a supportive but frank discussion, we got to the root of the issue. Their employee is now back on track, working effectively and having regular conversations with his manager, keeping on top of his personal issues.

Keep positive and supportive

You may also need documents such as Sickness Absence, Disciplinary, and Drug & Alcohol policies to support the Capability Policy. We have helped numerous clients create and use these policies in operational situations, ensuring the advice and policies are tailored to the Organisation’s needs.

We know how difficult it can be when you feel let down and that your business may be suffering as a result of poor behaviour from an employee, but allow channels of communication to remain open so that the employee in question is able to share their issues and be listened to.

If your employees are not performing – tell them, set some boundaries and targets, retrain or coach them as necessary; give them a ‘time bound’ opportunity to get back on track. You will generally foster a more loyal workforce as a result. What if the employee does not respond to this approach and you later have to terminate their employment? This does sometimes happen, but by treating the employee fairly and giving them every opportunity to discuss the issues and rectify them, you will have given them every chance to get back on track. If they don’t take this opportunity to sort themselves out, they could find themselves subject to the disciplinary process, or worse, the termination of their employment. 

Meanwhile, if you need any help to devise a strategy, or if you need policies, get in touch. Call me on 07968 787182 or email me on rebecca.woolmington@hrcentral.co.uk, or fill out the form via our website www.hrcentral.co.uk. We are here to help.

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