Managing performance

How do I manage performance?

How do I manage performance? It’s a question asked by managers of large and small companies alike. Although it isn’t always an easy process to complete, especially where you have underperformance, there are steps you can take that will help.

Set clear objectives

The first way to measure performance is to set clear objectives. The acronym SMART helps here. Objectives should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timebound

Review progress regularly

Once you’ve crafted the objectives, don’t leave them on a shelf gathering dust waiting for a formal review meeting. If possible, review them regularly so that any issues can be addressed in a timely fashion. By the time that you come to formal performance reviews, they should be confirming what you have already discussed. There should be no surprises at this stage.

Dealing with performance issues

Where the above steps have been followed and an employee is not achieving expectations, these should be managed in a timely fashion. Employees should be given clear examples of where they are not performing and should be given the opportunity to improve.

At the informal stage of the performance process, it is important to address the reasons for underperformance. Has the employee been given all the required training? Have other priorities made it impossible to achieve the initial objectives? 

If there are no extenuating circumstances then you can start the performance management process.

Performance Management formal process

When you get to the formal stage of the performance management process, there are clear steps that should be taken.

The first step is to set the objectives that should be achieved over the defined period. These should be as measurable as possible so that you can clearly see whether the required progress has been made or not. So don’t write generic objectives. The time period for measurement will depend on the nature of the role. If the employee performs repetitive tasks, then you can expect a marked improvement over a short period of time, say a month. Where the role is less repetitive, there may need to be up to 3 month review periods. 

This initial objective setting meeting isn’t a formal meeting and therefore there is no right to representation. Any review meeting during the performance process equally aren’t classed as formal meetings.

The final review meeting at the end of performance review process is formal. At this meeting the manager makes one of 3 decisions depending on the employee’s progress. Either

  • Sufficient progress has been made and the employee exits the performance management process.
  • Some progress has been made but not quite enough. In this case the review period is extended.
  • No or little progress has been made and a formal warning is issued. In this case, another plan would then be established and the process would be repeated.

Capability dismissals

Where 2 or 3 formal performance plans have been unsuccessfully completed (depending on the policy), an employee can be dismissed on the grounds of capability. You should ensure that the process has been followed closely before reaching this point.

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