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Online workshop: Managing poor performance


This is the transcript from the workshop session on managing poor performance held on Tuesday 19 September.

Jon Seaton Hi Michael, are you here for the discussion on managing poor performance?

Jon Seaton We are due to start at 1.00 p.m., so for the time being I'll wait to see who else joins us.

Michael Holland Hello Jon! Sorry for the delay in reply. This is my first one-line workshop and I've only just found the instructions at the bottom of the page. I hope to be up to speed soon.

Jon Seaton That's fine Michael, we all go through that bit. (Hi Wendy, Andy and Stephanie.)

Michael Holland Hello Chrissie, Wendy, Andy & Stephanie

Andy Waterworth hi Michael

Chrissie Collins Hello all

Stephanie Phillips Hi all, Hi Jon. Do you have an agenda for today's session we can see?

Wendy Hearn Good afternoon, to you all

Andy Waterworth I'm new to this. Has my machine frozen or are we just slow to start?

Chrissie Collins Allow me to introduce myself; I'm a materials developer working with a company producing learning and training materials.

Jon Seaton I was thinking in terms of looking at what constitutes good practice in managing performance, policies for performance, motivation and aob

Jon Seaton Does anyone want to start off by saying what they think is essential to managing performance or coping with poor performance?

Andy Waterworth Intro's are always a good way to start I,m a training Manager for a large national company i,m 29 and I,m in Stoke on Trent

Jon Seaton Thanks Andy. Is managing poor performance an issue you train on?

Michael Holland I'm T&D manager for United Mission to Nepal, a development INGO in Nepal, I am trying to implement a performance development system across the organisation of 1500 people and also develop the concept in my own team of 15.

Andy Waterworth Yes indeed! In fact I’m working on a project with our HR team now to deal with the issues when people don't manage poor performance and try to go straight to disciplinary I would welcome any thoughts

Michael Holland I'm also interested in keeping disciplinary processes as a last resort

Chrissie Collins To answer Jon's original question, it's essential that managing performance is an ongoing process, that GOOD as well as poor performance is recognised and managed.

Jon Seaton What are the root causes for poor performance that you've come across? Are they real issues or different perceptions from different people?

Rob Hudson Firstly in this vast subject are we talking about performance issues identified by the manager, individual or colleagues etc?

Andy Waterworth I guess Rod has a good point one of the major issues we face here is everyone has an opinion on what good and bad performance is

Michael Holland I encourage a work plan with specific objectives. This is followed by regular review but failure to reach objectives isn't dealt with

Jon Seaton I was reluctant to separate poor performance from performance Chrissie. You have a valid point!

Andy Waterworth Michael how often are the objectives reviewed?

Michael Holland We aim for monthly reviews by line managers leading to an annual review

Rob Hudson I believe the most valid and driving perception is the individual themselves and that the greatest time and resource is spent in matching it to the organisation..

Michael Holland Rob, can you say more, please

Andy Waterworth Rob I agree but how do you deal with the situation when the individual feels that they are performing ,but the organisation does not

Jon Seaton I think clarity of objectives has to be a central part of performance management, but are the results of failure to perform sufficiently clarified at the time of agreeing objectives?

Jon Seaton i.e. explaining what failure to meet objectives means for the organisation and other people too, not just the individual

Rob Hudson I guess the key step in the process is to reach an agreed starting point for everyone. This brings into question all the issues surrounding legitimacy.

Michael Holland Can we read benefits of performing being clarified also?

Andy Waterworth I think the mindset is very much that when objectives are set the positives are identified never the negatives

Andy Waterworth Michael do you find cultural differences to success and failure?

Jon Seaton Yes Michael, that's essential to so that the individual can anticipate and take ownership of their contribution.

Michael Holland I work in a culture where it is not appropriate to give bad news or talk about negative issues. Success is measured much more by your relationships with people than whether you completed the job

Rob Hudson Jon I agree with your concept of contribution.

Andy Waterworth I guess the British culture is one of it's ok to fail, and success is frowned upon (sweeping generalisation)

Jon Seaton Are you able to relate non-completion of tasks to spoiling relationships Michael?

Michael Holland Jon, sometimes if there is an expatriate involved. Nationals don't seem to worry as much. Fatalism is a key part of the culture. What will be will be!

Michael Holland Jon, it's a good idea that I think I can work on though.

Jon Seaton I hope so Michael, let us know at HR Zone how things go!

Jon Seaton Do any of you have formalised policies on performance management?

Michael Holland Jon: Yes we do have policies but implementation is the difficult part

Andy Waterworth the key is selling the benefits to line managers, in their eyes you are asking them to do what they always do but in a more formal manner

Jon Seaton Maybe more importantly, do 'managers' understand performance management or do they take non-completion of tasks as wrong-doing?

Andy Waterworth The key words there are ‘non completion of tasks’, surely performance management is more than just task based?

Rob Hudson The best and most powerful tool I have found around this issue is that of teamwork and peer pressure.

Jon Seaton Interesting Andy. Do you want to expand?

Michael Holland Yes, Andy. With my own staff I'm looking for them to use their own initiative and identify and win their own work.

Michael Holland Rob, how have you used that?

Rob Hudson However you have to build the team culture first!

Michael Holland Any suggestions, Rob?

Rob Hudson In the team culture the role of every team member has been to help maximise the contribution of every other member of the team.

Rob Hudson The leader/manager then becomes the observer, helper and mediator

Michael Holland Rob, Have you been able to build that into performance management?

Andy Waterworth Exactly the driving force of most operators is to achieve, however as we move to more knowledge based workers, the criteria for achievement will change. The old adages of punctuality and dress will disappear; it will be the quality not the quantity of work that becomes paramount. Now think how do we set objectives for quality?

Michael Holland Andy, is that a statement or a question?

Rob Hudson We found that the empowerment to the team was so successful that performance of the individual started to become secondary and the results of the team was the focus. Most people being much more comfortable to talk about success or improvement as a group

Andy Waterworth it's a question

Jon Seaton Gosh Andy, put us out our misery please! Words like value, standards, service are all floating before me but I suspect you're after something else!

Andy Waterworth I don't have the answers Jon, but I, like you, think that we have to start and look at criteria like value, satisfaction, which will mean that managers have to change mindset i.e. is performance about hitting deadlines or is it more long term? and performance objectives have to start including quantitative and qualitative statements.

Jon Seaton Well, activity seems to be slowing, and we are reaching the end of this session, does anyone have final comments?

Michael Holland Do we need to involve other stakeholders to identify what quality is? (Conformance to agreed requirements - but whose?)

Jon Seaton Sounds like the start of another discussion Andy - maybe for another session!

Andy Waterworth I think you're right

Rob Hudson Thanks for the discussion everyone, bye for now.

Jon Seaton Thanks for a useful discussion everyone, obviously there are elements of using performance management rather than disciplinary procedures to examine further, but take into account different expectations of different people and (at times) in different cultures. Team management and peer pressures can have an impact on performance, and we could see moves to quality based performance criteria rather than task based. Thanks to all for you contributions.

Andy Waterworth thanks all you performed beautifully!

Michael Holland Thank you everyone. I have some good ideas to think about now.

Wendy Hearn Thanks; I've really enjoyed listening to all of your discussion. It's given me some great insights for my work as a coach.

Jon Seaton I shall have a transcript of our discussion posted to the TrainingZONE workshop area. Bye all!


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