In order to execute this approach, it can be useful to sit on the same side of a table or desk with the employee and put the performance problem on a white board or flip chart opposite you. This technique works wonders to get you and the employee on the same team.
Although it is imperative to have the employee involved in determining the solution to a performance problem, it can be helpful to have a few options to suggest if the employee is unsure of how to fix the problem. Keep in mind that the employee needs to be part of the decision as to which solution works best for him/her.
Persist Until Things Change
Persistence pays off in many things and managing difficult performance situations is no exception. The main action managers can take to encourage employees to follow through is to set a follow-up meeting with an employee. The follow-up meeting shows the employee you care and also gives him/her a timeline of what is expected. It's also an excellent way to hold the employee accountable for his/her behavior. When the employee knows that there is an additional meeting scheduled to discuss his/her progress, he/she has a vested interest in making sure some progress has taken place.
Other ways to make sure that employees take action would be to suggest a specific class, book or CD to give them the skills they need with a report due back to you about what they learned by a certain date. You could also require them to install and use performance management software if time management is an issue, or assign a mentor - someone who has mastered the skill or task that you need - in order to help them learn what they need.
You might also have the employee create an action plan of what he/she is going to do, resources he/she will need to follow through, and when he/she plans on having each activity completed.
How long should you give them to improve? It depends, right? If it's misconduct - theft, harassment, or the like - obviously they have to improve immediately. If it's some other kind of performance issue, I generally recommend that you give them whatever amount of time you would give a new person to learn a new task or job. So if the new person would take six weeks, I would give those six weeks.
Longer term employees should be given more time since, presumably, the reason you've kept them around so much is that they've earned a certain amount of tenure and respect, but furthermore, the courts always give a lot of deference to long term employees.
Y Why are you Doing This?
Throughout this communication process, it's important to remember the underlying reasons why you're doing this. Performance reviews - even difficult ones - are for the purpose of helping people learn and grow. Also, remember that you need to provide them with "why" in order to get them to improve their performance. They need to know and understand why they would even want to do such a thing.
Important Keys to Success
In the HAPPY model, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you must first clarify the issue with the employee. If you can figure out what is really going on and why...then you can usually help the employee figure out how to move forward.
In my experience, the number one mistake managers make when dealing with an employee issue, is that the manager may assume that he or she knows what is causing the employee's problems instead of asking the employee what is going on and trying to see the situation from an employee's perspective. It's also critical to include the employee as a partner when determining solutions to the performance problem because if the employee takes part in creating the solution, he/she is more motivated to achieve it.
Lynne Eisaguirre is a former practicing employment attorney whose media credits include CNN Headline News, ABC News, Bloomberg TV, U.S. News & World Reports, The Boston Globe and The San Francisco Chronicle, among many others. She presents speeches and workshops on management issues to clients such as Bristol Myers Squibb, Harley Davidson, Sun Microsystems and Southwest Airlines. You can reach Lynne at www.workplacesthatwork.com .