Employee Performance Management

Employee Performance Management

Performance Management Overview | The Performance Interview | Download Warning Templates & Flow Chart | Do's, Don'ts & Tips | Phrasing for Negative Feedback

The Performance Interview

Each region of the world has different industrial legislation. The content in this section is likely to be applicable to your region, but you will need to seek local advice from an industrial relations specialist before issuing any performance warnings. All good managers check with an adviser prior to issuing a performance warning.

The Performance Interview is the first stage of formal employee performance management is not considered a pre-disciplinary conversation and is not informal which means that you:

  • Will need to have a well-planned employee performance management interview with your employee
  • May need to give your employee time to respond to any allegations you are putting forward about their performance. Phrasing for a performance interview
  • Will need to keep detailed notes on your employee’s responses to the allegations about their performance
  • Will give your employee an opportunity to have a support person present during the performance interview

What is a Performance Interview?

A performance interview is a formal meeting where the employer has a candid conversation with their employee about their recent performance. During the meeting, the employer submits the allegations of poor performance to the employee, and the employee is given the right to respond. Sometimes, the employee may request time to respond to the allegations (this request is normally made by the employee when the allegations are more serious in nature).

Prior to the Performance Interview the employee is:

  • Advised of the possible outcomes of the meeting (i.e. disciplinary action)
  • Offered the opportunity to have a support person present during the meeting
  • Normally given 24 hours notice of the performance discussion
  • Advised what the area of performance concern is....Note: Some Human Resource managers will advise you to avoid being specific about the nature of the performance concern. Others will ask you to provide the allegations against the employee in writing prior to the meeting. Seek local advice about which way you should go

During the Performance Interview you will:

  • Provide allegations of poor performance to the employee
  • Allow the employee an opportunity to respond to the allegations
  • Reiterate performance expectations
  • Explain the consequences for not improving
  • Agree and document actions to resolve the performance issue
  • Formally document the key points of the discussion

At the end of the Performance Interview you will:

  • Take time to consider your employee’s responses to your interview questions
  • Make a decision on the appropriate disciplinary intervention (Again seek advice of your HR/IR adviser before issuing a performance warning)

Tip: Always include a break between the performance interview and your counsel to the employee concerning the performance outcomes. This break demonstrates that you took time to consider the employee’s responses before making a decision.

After the Performance Interview you will:

  • Advise the employee of the outcome of the employee performance management discussion, first verbally and then in writing.
    Note: You are not obligated to issue a performance warning. You need to wait until you hear your employee’s responses before making a decision on the appropriate consequences
  • Place a signed copy of the outcome in the employee’s file
  • Place a documented copy of the performance interview discussion in the employee’s file
  • Provide the employee with documented outcome of the discussion
  • Set a follow-up date to evaluate the employee’s performance during the post-interview period

Preparing For a Performance Interview

There are five easy-to-follow steps that ensure you are well prepared for your performance interviews. These steps ensure you avoid the common employee performance management mistakes that some less experienced managers often make.

  • Clearly define the employee performance gap
  • Seek advice from your local HR/IR specialist
  • Prepare questions to ask the employee during the performance interview
  • Notify the employee of the need to discuss performance
  • Book a room and ensure you have a witness lined up who can confirm or verify the content of the discussion

Preparing Interview Questions

The questions that you prepare for your performance interview will determine the success of your performance discussions. A well-structured set of interview questions will help you uncover the true reason for poor performance. These interview questions will establish whether your employee:

  • Knows what your performance expectations are
  • Has the skills and knowledge required to meet your expectations
  • Has the tools and equipment needed to meet your expectations
  • Has any explanation for their performance that would justify them not meeting expectations

While you prepare your interview questions, you should also prepare a chronology of previous discussions, training or coaching that the employee has had in the past. This chronology or list of events in order of dates can be concise as it is for your use only. You do not need to give a copy of your notes to your employee.

For example: Summary of John's previous discussions:
  • Commenced Work on the 5th Jan 2012
  • Training on customer service skills on 6-10 January 2012
  • Assessment on 11 Jan 2012
  • On the job coaching support provided by David P 14 Jan - 21 Jan 2012
  • Fireside chat re: customer service 1 Feb. service expectations reiterated
You will only use this information in your employee performance management discussion if required.

Sample Performance Interview Questions

Asking the right questions will lead you to the right conclusion. The following example questions will provide you with a framework to follow when developing your employee performance management interview questions. It is always good practice to have someone review your interview questions, preferably your Human Resources or Industrial Relations adviser.

Here are some sample questions where the employee did not meet your Customer Service expectations:

  • Can you please describue what the performance expectations are?
  • Can you please describe the service expectations that you are required to meet when a customer approaches the counter?
  • Why do we have this service standard?
  • What would happen to the business if we did not provide this level of service?

You will note that these questions are designed to verify the employee's understanding of the performance expectations, and then to confirm the employee's understanding of why you have these expectations in place and the consequences for the business if the expectations are not met.

Check your employee has the skills and knowledge required to meet your expectations:

  • Do you recall attending customer service training on the 24th of August?
  • Do you recall being assessed at the end of the training session?
  • Can you recall how you went in the training and assessment?
Check that your employee has the tools and equipment needed to meet expectations:

  • Are you aware of the customer service checklist?
  • Do you have access to the customer service checklist?
  • If you have any questions about customer service do you know who to ask?
  • Are you aware of our customer service values?
  • Do you have access to our customer service values?
  • Is there anything else you need from us to help you to provide a high level of customer service?
Check if your employee has any explanation for their performance that would justify them not meeting expectations:

  • The expectation is that you greet every customer with a smile and make an offer of assistance when they approach the customer service counter. On the 4th February you were seen engaging in personal conversation a number of times while a customer waited. Can you tell me why this might be?
Once you’re prepared, the next step in your employee performance management journey is to notify the employee of the need for a performance interview.

Notify the Employee of the Performance Interview

Without exception, you should verbally advise your employee of the need for an employee performance management discussion. To do this you will need to take your employee to a quiet location where you can have a confidential discussion. This conversation is brief, so don't get drawn into giving your employee too much information.

For example:

    "John, in some areas your performance is not meeting my expectations. Specifically, your customer service is not meeting my expectations and I need to discuss my concerns with you. We discussed this informally on Tuesday last week and your performance has not improved. I now need to have a formal performance discussion with you. As this is a performance discussion, which depending on your response may result in disciplinary action, I am required to give you 24 hours notice and advise you that you can arrange a support person. The meeting to discuss my concerns will be at 10:00 am tomorrow in meeting room 6."

After you have told your employee about the performance discussion, it is a good idea to follow up with a written notice of the pending performance discussion. This can be distributed via email or in a letter that you hand to the employee.

Now, let's continue our employee performance management journey by finding out how to deal with common employee responses to being notified of a performance discussion.

How to Deal with Common Employee Responses

    The Employee wants to have the discussion straight away
    If the employee wants to have the discussion straight away, you need to follow some specific steps. These steps exist to protect you from future claims that you did not allow the employee to have the required notice period.

    Step 1: Ask them to think about it for 30 minutes, and in that time talk to a support person. At the end of this time, if they still insist on having the discussion straight away, speak to your Human Resource Adviser.

    Step 2: Arrange a quiet location for the discussion, such as a meeting room.

    Step 3: Arrange a support person for yourself, a company witness who can confirm the specifics of the conversation, if required, at a later date.

    Step 4: Open the meeting with a statement similar to, "John, I have scheduled a performance discussion with you for tomorrow, and you have requested that this meeting be moved up. Is this accurate?" You note John's response and then continue the meeting as planned.

    The employee requests more information from you
    Sometimes an employee will push you for more information about the performance interview, and you will need to mange this situation carefully. Essentially, you can advise the employee that this conversation will follow developments from previous conversations.

    If you do not consider the situation to be serious enough to warrant termination of the employment contract, tell the employee that you are not considering terminating their employment. This will reduce unnecessary worry.

    The employee gets angry and resigns
    Here is a trap; be careful not to fall for this one. Do not accept the resignation. Instead, advise the employee that they will need to confirm resignation the next day, and advise them to take some time to calm down.

    Accepting the resignation may later be seen as a constructive dismissal and may result in a wrongful dismissal claim (depending on your region’s industrial relations laws). Don't fall for this common employee performance management pitfall.

Now that you have dealt with the common employee responses, the next step in effective employee performance management is to make sure you have a room for a confidential discussion.

Book a Room and Arrange a Company Witness

Employee Performance Management conversations are private conversations between the employer and the employee. If any part of the conversation is held in public it may humiliate the employee, which is something that must be avoided.

It is important to ensure that you have your employee performance management discussions in a private place such as a meeting room. It is wise to ensure such a location is available and booked for your use when you schedule the discussion.

At the same time, it would be wise to plan who is going to join you in the discussion as your witness. Typically, this is either a co-worker on the same level as you or your human resource adviser. It is not acceptable to have a more junior staff member attend the discussion.

Ideally, you do not have your superior manage the discussion unless the discussion is likely to result in termination of the employment contract.

Site Links
Performance Management Overview
The Performance Interview
Download Letter Templates & Flow Chart
Do's, Don'ts & Tips

Performance Management Checklist PDF MS Word
Behavior Anchored Rating Scale For Employees PDF or MS Word
Behavior Anchored Rating Scale For Manager PDF or MS Word

Further Employee Performance Management Reading

HR Bartender: How to have a performance conversation with an employee

About: 10 Phrases for performance reviews