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Olympic performance

1st October 2012

Sometimes managing performance can seem like
a bit of a marathon. Here are our top Olympic themed tips to help you keep your staff on track:

Set Expectations
Like the Olympic events, you need to have clear rules. Make sure your employees know the standards of behaviour and level of performance expected. They also need to know the penalties if they do not behave or perform appropriately. You can use your employment documentation (such as a staff handbook and/or an employment contract) to set expectations.

Monitor, monitor, monitor
The performance of Olympic Athletes is continually monitored. To get the best performance from your employees you need to be aware of how they are performing generally. While formal appraisals are an excellent idea, one or two meetings a year are rarely enough to manage performance adequately. Regular discussion with staff is vital to make sure that any concerns are addressed before serious issues arise. Your staff may also have good ideas to contribute to the business – frequent informal discussions will give them a chance to make their suggestions and air any issues.

Adequate resources
Athletes can not train without the right equipment. Not only sporting equipment but their lifestyle – what they eat, how they sleep – is examined. We are not suggesting you get involved in your employee's private lives – they are entitled to their privacy! But you need to make sure they have adequate resources to perform in the way you expect. For example, if an employee is struggling with a new role, do they need training? Do they have all the equipment they need, such as an appropriate computer with appropriate software? Do they have enough time to complete the allocated tasks?

Identify and deal with problems quickly
Athletes in training need to solve problems affecting their performance quickly. If they strain a muscle, they rarely limp along without treatment hoping it will just go away! Dealing with issues swiftly can prevent them getting worse. It's the same for performance managing staff. Failure to deal with issues usually means they get worse. Then when you do try to manage employees' performance you may be met with resentment, as you are challenging the way they have been used to doing things.
The longer you allow poor performance to continue without managing it, the harder it will be to discipline or dismiss an underperforming employee.

Giving them a fair try out
We expect all Olympic hopefuls to be given a fair trial to determine whether or not they make the team. You have got to give underperforming employees a fair chance to improve. An employment tribunal will expect an employer to make the employee aware of the problem, give them reasonable time to improve and reasonable resources to help them reach the required standard. What is 'reasonable' will depend on the employee, the job and the performance required.

Be professional
Athletes need to be professional in their interactions. Stepping outside the bounds of their sports accepted professional behaviour can lead to suspension, fines and disqualification. Performance management is always risky. You need to make sure you always behave professionally with your staff. Avoid using phrases like 'not up to the job' and never give the employee the impression you are keen to be rid of them. If performance management is handled in an unfair or inappropriate way an employee may have a claim for constructive unfair dismissal. Depending on the circumstances, they may also have a discrimination claim. For example, age discrimination claims may result from badly handling performance management of older workers.

Lastly – a quick word about performance management policies.
These are also known as capability policies or capability management. Some employers have formal performance management schemes which set out the steps they will take when managing performance. If you do have one of these schemes, an employment tribunal will usually expect you to follow it – even if part way through the process it becomes clear that the employee is unlikely to meet the required performance levels. If the scheme is contractual and you do not follow it, the employee may have a claim against you for breach of contract.
We hope this ezine has been useful. If you have any questions you can
call Law Express on 01275-378727.

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