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Turbo-Charging Your Workforce

Jul 31, 2013

When growing your business you will no doubt be looking for more investment and more sales, but are you getting the most out of your employees? Here are my top five tips for engaging with your team to ensure that they are firing on all cylinders.

1. Set performance expectations from the outset. The company’s requirements should be made clear in the job description and any training given to new starters. It also makes sense to set a probationary period during which you can dismiss on short notice if the person isn’t right for the job. This is usually covered off in the contract of employment and it notifies the employee that their suitability for continued employment is being monitored during that first period, which is usually around six months. Don’t rule out probationary periods for existing employees either. When promoting you can agree that the promotion will be on a trial basis in case the person isn’t up to the new role.

2. Carry out regular performance reviews. Often these are overlooked as you focus on the day to day running of the business. They are important to help motivate and improve the performance of your workforce. Each review should set targets which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound.

3. Consider issuing formal warnings where performance is below expectations. It can be difficult and time-consuming to dismiss under-performing employees who have been with you long enough to have acquired unfair dismissal rights. You are required to follow a fair procedure, which typically includes carrying out a proper disciplinary hearings and issuing at least a couple of warnings whilst allowing the employee time to improve after each warning. You also need to identify if the problem is one of capability or misconduct. If it’s the latter then slightly different procedures should be used.

This process shouldn’t be all about removing the employee as quickly and as lawfully as possible. A fair process will help you identify if performance is really the issue. Perhaps the employee is experiencing problems outside of work, or is poor management or an excessive workload to blame? I see a lot of employees who are not necessarily bad at their job, but they are simply struggling to keep pace with changes to the business. Once any issues have been discussed and addressed then there is every chance that the individual will be back on track and contributing fully to your profits.

4. Offer training where it’s needed. If performance management doesn’t work and you are considering dismissal then you are expected to have supported the employee before making your final decision.

5. Is a severance package appropriate? Some employers chose to shortcut the potentially long-winded route of removing an underperformer by issuing warnings and waiting to see improvements. You could consider offering an employee a compromise agreement under which they agree to leave the business and waive their right to claim against you in return for a severance payment. There are a number of risks associated with this route but it can save you money in the long run. In light of the potential pitfalls you should always speak to an employment lawyer before going down this route.