Putting the Spotlight on Older Workers (Baby Boomers – We Need You!!)

older worker

Some 20 months ago, I delivered a presentation Managing an Ageing Workforce at the National Local Government HR Conference. I want to share some of the key points I made then.

Firstly, what do we mean by ‘older workers’? Is it 60, 55, 50, 45, or even 40?!? I found some interesting contrasts. The Australian Bureau of Statistics and OECD give 65 as the threshold for ‘old age’. For the United Nations, it is 60, and some research I uncovered quoted 55 as ‘old’. Still coming down, the Commonwealth Age Discrimination Commissioner referred to 45 as ‘old’, and some international research maintains that old age begins at 40 in the workplace!

You may (or may not) know that we have a real problem/challenge on our hands. There are currently around a million workers in Australia who have recently retired or are about to retire, and we don’t have enough Gen X and Gen Y workers to replace them. These baby boomers are taking a lot of expertise with them, and various organisations are already feeling the pinch. I work with many local councils and they have relatively mature workforces, so they are definitely experiencing this problem.

Why do people retire? For various reasons, including: pursuing leisure activities; having had enough of the relentless stress/pressure that characterises our workforce; no longer having the job satisfaction they might have once had; and having finally gained financial independence to have a reasonable lifestyle in retirement. The other side of the coin is that many mature workers aren’t retiring because: they can’t financially afford to retire (they may have been badly hit by the GFC); they still really enjoy their work and see no reason to stop; their employers are supportive of them, perhaps giving them part-time or casual work that caters for their wants and needs.

There have recently been changes in the Australian working culture. Until recently, early retirement was actively promoted. Over a quarter of the men, and over half of the women were retiring before 55. Furthermore, around 80% of men and 90% of women retired before 65. Now, more baby boomers are delaying retirement (often for the above reasons), but older workers are still more likely to be retrenched and less likely to be hired in weaker times – this reflects the negative stereotypes of mature workers that persists.

Yes, folks, ageism exists. It is a real barrier to mature work participation, and the Australian Institute of Management wrote a paper in 2013, Engaging & Retaining Older Workers, which confirmed this. It highlighted the stereotype that mature workers are undervalued, seen to have lower energy, physical and mental capacity, difficulty learning new skills/technology, and are also less competent, productive, and resistant to change. While there may be elements of truth for some mature workers, this stereotype is at sharp odds with the views of many key figures who recognise what mature workers have to offer. Take M Wauchope, the WA Public Sector Commissioner, for instance. He said,

“An age diverse workforce has real benefits for any organisation. The ability to harness the skills, experience and enthusiasm of people of any age creates a cooperative work environment where the individuals, regardless of their age, can contribute.”

What are the potential benefits of hiring and retaining mature age workers? There are quite a few. These include:

  • lower turnover rates
  • corporate knowledge
  • better attendance/productivity
  • greater work experience
  • maturity and patience
  • minimal supervision
  • mentoring/corporate knowledge

So here is the inherent problem – we now have more skilled, competent people now leaving the Australian workforce than can be replaced, and we have many mature workers who would love to stay in the workforce if the organisation allowed this, and catered more effectively for their situations.

Here are some ways in which organisations can resolve this dilemma:

Develop specific plans and policies, to enable mature workers to pass on their expertise. Examples include training and mentoring, job shadowing, job-sharing, knowledge mapping, and team sharing practices

Job redesign to involve staff in organisational development projects, mentoring or coaching. Help managers redesign jobs for flexible work opportunities, meaningful work, and transfer of key knowledge and skills to younger staff.

Promote flexible work practices. Ensure line management support, highlight the flexibility in recruitment processes, ask mature employees what they would like, and identify and remove real & perceived barriers.

Health and well-being strategies. Liaise with staff, HR and WHS representatives, conduct regular ergonomic checks of the workplace, manage work safety risks for mature staff, give access to exercise and health information services, and put work-life balance on the agenda.

Reward and recognition. Give managers scope to recognise and reward staff (there are many ways to recognise workers), provide financial planning and retirement advice, and provide secondments, mentoring opportunities, job rotations, training/seminars, etc.

I’ll now make a confession. I am a baby boomer, and I am as passionate and productive in my work now as I have ever been –just ask my clients. Go, baby boomers!

Narayan van de Graaff

Older people

Why (most) performance reviews are a waste of time!

You may have heard the latest – Accenture and Deloitte are dismantling their annual performance review processes, clearly because they see them as a waste of time and energy.  They are replacing it with greater ongoing feedback to employees from their managers on completion of assignments.

While a significant number of large organisations are doing likewise, I believe that this disillusionment with performance reviews is not a fault of the performance review process. Rather, I see it as a combination of issues that have contributed to the performance review receiving a bad name.

Performance Management: Critical Success Factors

The performance review has been subjected to attack, largely because the performance management process is usually not carried out effectively. All too often, staff come to the performance review with no real idea as to how their manager viewed their performance – they received minimal feedback throughout the year.  By the way, a survey carried out some years ago revealed a very important unanswered question for so many staff: “How am I doing?”

The following steps need to occur, not just to ensure that the performance review is meaningful, but so that all staff and managers are as motivated, skilled and productive as they can/should be.

Effective Performance Planning

This involves setting SMARTA goals/objectives and related Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for all staff, and ensuring that they understand and are committed to their goals. SMARTA is an acronym, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Trackable and Agreed goals/KPIs.

This is an area of real weakness for most organisations that I have worked with.  All too often, the KPIs used are too ‘woolly’ or vague, are not SMARTA, or they simply focus on easy-to-collect numerical KPIs rather than a sufficient spread of meaningful KPIs.  By way of example, the key KPI for bank tellers of one bank I worked with some time ago was the number of customers handled.  All well and good, you might say, but what about the quality of those interactions?  Were those customers really satisfied with the service provided?

This phase should also encompass providing any new staff with proper induction and all staff with identification of their learning and development needs.

Performance Monitoring

This should be ongoing throughout the year. There should be an emphasis on proper, timely recognition of good performance and the timely addressing of poor performance. There should also be effective coaching, constructive feedback and delegation of tasks, and helping staff to address their learning and development needs.

Performance Review

There should be effectively, timely annual performance reviews, as well as a less formal half-yearly review. This should be two-way – the mantra of the manager should be ‘practice the art of no surprises’.  In other words, the employees should essentially know what feedback they are going to receive.  It is also important for managers to minimise the rating errors that can creep in with performance reviews (recency effect, halo effect, central tendency, etc.)

By the way, I disagree with the notion of having a ‘normal curve’ distribution against which  all staff are measured.  This is one criticism that has been levied against the infamous performance review.  It is important for all staff to be effectively measured against the extent to which they achieved their goals/objectives and KPIs (bearing in mind factors outside their control).

Questions for you:

How is the performance management process viewed and practiced in your organisation?

Importantly, how do YOU practice it?  How do you measure up against what is written in the article?

What one (or two) areas do you want or need to focus on?

Narayan van de Graaff

Zen and the Art of Sheer Determination

Thomas Edison

Virtually everyone will have heard of Thomas Edison (February 1847 – October 1931), an American inventor and businessman. He was a prolific inventor – in fact, the fourth most prolific inventor in history, with 1,093 US patents to his name.

While Edison is best-known for having developed a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb, he also developed many other devices with great influence on our planet.  These included the phonograph, motion picture camera, telecommunications and application of the principles of mass production and large-scale teamwork to the process of invention. He is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.

Edison’s great entrepreneurial talents led him to found 14 companies, including General Electric, still one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world today. Much of what he said during his life still lives on today as memorable and well-known quotes (refer ttp://www.thomasedison.com/quotes.html).

These are just a few of them:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work

I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent….


The above is a photo of a phonograph – this was invented by Edison in 1877 for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound.

We can all be truly grateful to inventors and pioneers such as Edison and Bell. The great majority of us would normally never think about the challenges they faced in coming up with these incredible inventions which we now take so for granted and use in our every-day lives.

Questions for today:

When have you given up, when you were maybe so close to success?

Do you need more inspiration and perspiration in your life?

Narayan van de Graaff

0438 792 300

Humour is No Laughing Matter!


I gave a presentation some time ago to around 180 lawyers and managers from a large organisation. The title was Developing a Culture of Respect. I was asked to incorporate stress management into my presentation, and as part of this, I included the importance of humour. I drew on the findings of the Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief). By the way, it is the largest integrated nonprofit medical group practice in the world, employing over 3,800 physicians and scientists, and 50,900 allied health staff. It ranked No. 1 on the 2014-2015 U.S. News & World Report List of “Best Hospitals”, and is widely regarded as one of the world’s premier medical practices.

So what does the Mayo Clinic say about the benefits of humour?

Short-term benefits:

  • It stimulates many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins released by your brain.
  • It activates and relieves your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation.

Long-term benefits: Laughter is also good for you over the longer term. It may:

  • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
  • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.
  • Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
  • Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and make you feel happier.

Norman Cousins is proof of the importance of humour. He was the editor of the Saturday Review for 30 years, and is sometimes referred to as the modern father of laughter therapy. Cousins had been diagnosed with a very painful, life-threatening form of arthritis and doctors gave him little chance of recovery. When traditional medicine failed to relieve his pain, Cousins watched Marx Brothers films and TV sitcoms, finding that 10 minutes of “belly laughter” allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep. He eventually recovered and wrote a series of best-selling books on humour and healing. So there you have it. It’s no joke that humour can seriously reduce your stress levels and have many other benefits as well.

Narayan van de Graaff

You can download our brochure and/or any of our 44 workshop templates. Go to: http://www.advancedhr.com.au/


Confessions of a Management Consultant: Why Training (Often) Doesn’t Work!

Confused businessman finding solution

“Consultant’s Curse: If your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.” http://www.slideshare.net/MikeKunkle

As a management consultant I strive to be a performance consultant where possible. This means that I seek to add sustained value by partnering clients in implementing sustainable solutions to their identified performance gaps. I seek to follow the model produced by ISPI (International Society for Performance Improvement). This framework carries out a needs analysis (not just a training needs analysis) and identifies:

(a) the gap(s) between desired and actual workforce performance, given the organisational, vision, mission, key strategies and business unit needs.

(b) underlying causes of the performance gap(s).

(c) interventions needed to address the gap(s) – training normally being just one of the interventions.

(d) implementation of the interventions, using key change management principles.

(e) evaluation of the whole process, and continuing again with points (a) to (d) as appropriate.

That’s the ideal, the theory! However, if the client asks me to run a one-day workshop (or longer), and doesn’t want to explore a more holistic solution, I oblige.

All well and good, but a few questions are in order here.

  • Was that training a response to a clearly identified performance gap?
  • Was there a serious attempt to identify the underlying causes of that gap?
  • Were there any efforts to identify and implement other interventions to address the gap and also support sustained benefits from the training?
  • Were the participants’ managers enlisted to help ensure sustained benefit from the training?
  • Was a serious evaluation made (up to five or even six levels) of the effectiveness of the training other interventions?

All too often, the answers are no, no, no, no and no! All too often, training is the quick-fix, knee jerk solution to the perceived issues – very much a band-aid solution, and therefore also not likely to have any real sustained benefit.

Around five years ago, I won a tender to develop and deliver a substantial training program for a government instrumentality. It involved delivering around twelve two-day performance management workshops to all their managers and executives.

I suggested to the HR Director that they use a model similar to the above model used by ISPI. I also suggested that the training effectiveness could be evaluated at up to five levels. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and in addition, the CEO was not a good role model himself. He certainly didn’t hold his executives and managers accountable for their performance management.

End result? Some five years later, they requested tenders for the very same training. I submitted one. Did I get the training? No! Am I surprised? No!!!

To what extent is the performance consultant approach relevant to your role as a consultant, HR staff member or client?

What needs to be done differently to embody this role?

Narayan van de Graaff

You can download our brochure and/or any of our 44 workshop templates. Go to: www.advancedhr.com.au




Decision Tables: A Great Aid to Recruitment

Successful business partnership

In my last blog, I stated that the senior psychologist in my team and I developed a decision table, when seeking a psychology graduate. This is shown below. It listed the sought-after skills and attributes (Key Factors), stated what LowMedium andHigh meant in terms of each of the key factors, and then showed a weight for their relative importance.

The score for each factor would then be the choice of LowMedium and High (1, 2 or 3 points) times the weight. In other words, a candidate with an honours degree or higher would achieve a score of 15 (3 x 5) for their qualifications. A ‘perfect’ candidate would gain a maximum score of 120.

Key Factors

Weight Low (1 pt) Medium (2 pts) High (3 pts) Score
Qualifications     5 Bach. degree – double psych Also a Grad Dip. (Psych) Honours degree or higher
Work     2 Little work experience Reasonable work experience Much experience – some relevant
Uni. grades     3 Mainly pass Credit average Distinction average
Training/eval knowledge     3 Little or none Some Considerable
Statistics     5 Knows few techniques Knows about half techniques used Knows most of techniques used
SPSS     2 Never used Used at some stage Very competent in its use
PC literacy     3 Little PC literacy Reasonable PC literacy High PC literacy
Questionnaire design     3 Minimal experience Some experience Fully competent
Interviewing knowledge     2 Little/None Some Considerable
Interpersonal skills     5 Average skills Good skills Excellent skills
Able to work with pressure     3 Challenged with pressure Usually copes with pressure Copes very well with pressure
Work with others     4 Works okay with others Works very well with others Works extremely well with others



As stated in the last blog, I rated the least and most desirable candidates as 68 and 114 out of 120 respectively, whereas my partner rated these candidates as 69 and 113. This closeness may have been a coincidence. Alternatively, it may have reflected the fact that this approach makes the whole process more objective than the unstructured approach.

I should point out that the recruitment interview is only part of the whole recruitment process. Proper referee checking, biographical information, and other techniques such as work sample testing need to be closely considered as well. It is even possible to incorporate them into another decision table.

How would such a table assist you in your recruitment processes? Try it next time!

Narayan van de Graaff www.advancedhr.com.au

Recruitment and Selection: a Positive Case Study

Businesspeople Interviewing Woman

“If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”    (Ogilvie and Mather)

I was Manager, Learning Evaluation at a major bank some years ago.  The Senior Psychologist in my team and I needed to recruit a Psychology graduate.  We completed the following steps:

A.       Preparation

1.      We summarised key requirements from the job description and our views.

2.    We listed the required skills and attributes in the form of a decision table – refer next blog.

3.  We developed questions linked to the key skills/attributes, and other relevant questions.

4.  We contacted key people from university Psychology departments, who advised graduates of the opportunity.  The gratifying response saved advertising expenses and meant we did not have to examine perhaps 80 or 100 applications.

5.    We screened applications to identify the superior candidates, and agreed to interview six graduates.

6.  We discussed our strategies, including which questions each would focus on.  We agreed to rate each candidate separately, using our decision table, and discuss our findings afterwards.

 B.   Interview

7We settled candidates and establish rapport, because the interview is a stressful experience for virtually everyone.

8.  We explained the interview format, timing and next steps, and that we would write brief notes as we talked.

9. To ensure consistency and fairness, we asked the same pre-prepared questions of each applicant.  However, we also asked further questions, both as a consequence of the applicants’ feedback, and as a result of their varying backgrounds.

10. We did most of the listening, and the applicants appropriately did most of the talking.  It was critical to listen carefully, so that we did not overlook vital information.

11. We maintained appropriate control – neither too little (e.g. when candidates rambled) or too much control (e.g. too many closed questions, cutting them off).

12.  We closed the interview, thanking the applicant for coming, and indicating the next steps.

 C.  Post-Interview

13. We separately summarised our findings when applicants left, and scored them in line with the decision table.  Incidentally, I rated the least and most desirable candidates as 68 and 114 out of 120 respectively, whereas the Senior Psychologist rated these candidates as 69 and 113.

14. We contacted two referees for the preferred applicant, who provided very positive feedback. We had pre-prepared questions to ask referees, and stuck closely to them.

15.  We quickly offered the job to our preferred choice, because we knew other employers would also be interested in her.  She was quick to accept, and told us that this was her hardest and most gratifying interview, because it enabled her to demonstrate her competencies.

16.  We promptly notified the other applicants, and thanked them for their applications.

Conclusion: Our choice was excellent – since that time she has become a very high achiever.

 What stands out for you from this approach?  What can you take on board?

Narayan van de Graaff    www.advancedhr.com.au

Behavioural Interviewing: Beyond Nice Chats & Gut Feel

Young marketers having a brainstorming

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”
Lawrence Bossidy

In the last blog, I discussed behavioural interviewing (targeted selection) and its much greater validity than the unstructured recruitment interview that far too many managers still carry out.  In this blog, I will explain how behavioural interviewing works.

 What is the underlying premise of behavioural interviewing?

Past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. 

Yes, it’s as simple as that!  It is reasonable to assume that if a person behaved in a particular way in a given situation in the past, they are likely to behave in the same way in a similar situation in the future.

We don’t have reliable crystal balls, but at least behavioural interviewing increases the likelihood of appropriate recruitment decisions.

Effective preparation can help you ascertain which applicants are most appropriate to interview, and which questions are important to ask.  Effective questioning and communication skills can then help you to determine their likely suitability for the available position.

 As Easy as ABC!

 The ‘formula’ for developing and asking questions is based on the ABC principle:

Antecedent  “What led up to the situation?”  “What brought about the situation?”

B   Behaviour    “How did you respond?”  “What did you do then?”

C   Consequence  “What was the outcome?”  “What were the consequences?”


Assume that ability to deal with tight time pressures is a key requirement for the successful candidate.  You want to know how an applicant has dealt with critical time frames in the past, and from that how they are likely to deal with time pressures in the job being advertised.  The following questions are the types of ABC questions you could ask.

 “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with very tight time constraints”

(A) “What brought about this time constraint?”

(B) “How did you deal with this situation?”

(C) “What was the final outcome?”

 (also possible) “In hindsight, is there anything else you could or should have done?”

                        “How did your manager (or client) react to the outcome?”

 It is important to not just mechanistically ask the above questions, and to simply stick to the ‘must ask’ questions given to you.  You will want to ask various other probing and open-ended questions as a result of their responses.  This means you will have to listen closely to candidates.

When you ask candidates how they deal with difficult people, challenging projects, time pressures, team conflict, and so on, they can all too easily give you a text book answer. The issue is: would they really do that? Behavioural interviewing is about asking candidates how they dealt with various challenges in the past that replicate the types of challenges they would encoutnergbbin the advertised position, and what the outcomes were.

Once you become really skilled in asking behavioural questions (open-ended, probing, etc), and actively listening to their responses (including their body language), the interview will become much more valid and reliable than it would otherwise be.

Keep in mind that behavioural interviewing is not perfect (people can be trained in answering behavioural questions!), and that other approaches such as work sample testing, effective referee checking, etc. can make a big difference to the likelihood of selecting the best candidate for the job.

Have you used the behavioural interviewing approach?  Did you receive training in it? 

How effective was it?  Do you need coaching in it to become truly effective?

Narayan van de Graaff    www.advancedhr.com.au

Recruitment: Beyond Nice Chats and Gut Feel

Business Interview

“The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”     Steve Jobs

Those of us who recruit and select staff should know better than to rely on our intuitive abilities in picking the right people.  This is a dangerous game – it overlooks errors such as primacy effect (first impressions), biases, prejudices, etc.  By the way, an August 2012 LinkMe Newsletter maintained that most hiring managers assess a candidate’s resume in just 10 seconds!

Interestingly, when appointments prove to be the wrong choice, many managers will blame external factors, rather than admitting that they made the wrong choice or recognising that they lacked the necessary recruitment expertise.

Many years ago, I was a recruitment consultant, and charged organisations significant fees for providing a shortlist of candidates for a vacant position.  I had not yet heard about behavioural interviewing (targeted selection) or situational interviewing.  I was ‘unconsciously unskilled’ – I didn’t know that I didn’t know about these techniques!  I then moved into the HR/management training departments of a major bank, and discovered behavioural interviewing.  I was now ‘consciously unskilled’ – at least now I knew that I didn’t know about this technique.  I also wondered how effective I had been in my previous recruitment role.

I completed the training in behavioural interviewing (I became ‘consciously skilled’) and trained several hundred managers and HR staff in this method.  I did an exercise once which worked so well that I employed it in subsequent workshops.  I interviewed my co-facilitator for a position, using the ‘nice chat and gut feel’ approach.  I then asked the participants what they thought.  They were very enthusiastic about Susan, and one wrote ‘10’ on a sheet, saying, “take her before someone else does.”  I then interviewed Susan using behavioural interviewing, and again asked participants what they thought.  There was a silence, as they realised they had been duped!  They had learnt nothing about Susan in the first ‘interview’ and much more in the second one.

Some years ago, Hudson stated that $17 billion pa is wasted in Australia through poor recruitment and selection practices.  This figure suggests that many managers still rely on ‘nice chats and gut feel’ to recruit and select staff.  Using unstructured recruitment interviews is much less valid than practices such as behavioural and situational interviewing, and work sample testing.

I have seen organisations pay lip service to behavioural interviewing.  Panels have a list of behavioural questions which they must ask all candidates.  They ask them but don’t listen to responses, sticking rigidly to the script, and not asking probing questions that would extract more meaningful information.  Some have also not been trained in behavioural interviewing.

In my next article, I will discuss behavioural interviewing.

Now for the $64,000 question (more than that with some poor recruitment decisions!) – if you recruit people, how effective are you?  Do you need training and coaching in this vital area?  

Crucial Conversations: Managing Poor Performance


“Develop your people. Focus on their strengths. Then make high demands based on a person’s strengths. Finally, periodically view their performance.”                  Peter Drucker

businessman and businesswoman having a discussion

My previous articles discussed the importance of recognising good performance – and amongst other points, not underestimating the power of a pat on the back.  Many managers seem to have difficulties in recognising individual and team performance in a timely, effective manner.  They have even greater difficulties in effectively dealing with poor performance – which is the subject of today’s article.

Years ago, I was the Performance Management Manager for a major bank for two years.  During that time, I encountered numerous instances of managers dealing very poorly with poor performance.  In fact, I often deduced that they were the ones performing poorly, rather than the team members they were complaining about.  All too often, they had not clearly communicated work goals/targets and their expectations, nor spent adequate time coaching and giving constructive feedback.  Additionally, they hadn’t identified and supported their staff with their learning and development needs, or provided any real feedback about staff progress – including giving a performance review, which was meant to be compulsory.

One instance that comes to mind was a manager ringing HR and saying that they wanted a particular staff member transferred because they were not performing at an acceptable level.  The HR manager investigated the relevant staff file and said, “You’ve giving this person good ratings and comments in the performance review.  How come?” The manager replied, “I know, but they really aren’t performing properly.”  The HR manager responded, “Until you rate this person the way you see them, I am not willing to take any action.”  Indeed!

I appreciate that having to give negative feedback is a big challenge for most of us – no one in their right mind likes doing this.  However, it is very important to do this in a timely, effective manner.  Not doing this can have serious ramifications for the way we are perceived by our team.  They will wonder why we aren’t taking the necessary action, as poor performance is often visible for all to see, and may question why they should work hard, if mediocre performance is being condoned.  So it can have serious implications for team morale and productivity.

Your organisation will probably have guidelines and procedures for managing poor performance.  The following guidelines should complement whatever is in place:

1.        Define the Problem

What specifically is the person doing wrong?  Don’t talk in generalities or pick on isolated incidents.  Don’t rely on hearsay or allow emotions to overrule facts.

2.   Determine the Cause

Does the person know what is expected?

Are they aware the performance is unacceptable?

When did it become apparent?  Was it gradual or brought on by a particular incident? Has the job (or your standards) changed over time?

Has the person been adequately trained?

Do they have the proper resources and support to do the job?

Are any external influences affecting their performance?

Is the person in the right job?  Would another job better utilise their abilities?

Do they have a disability or health problem?

Is the unacceptable performance largely due to failure on my part?  – Failure to properly delegate tasks, provide effective coaching and feedback, etc.?

3.   Take Corrective Action

Discuss the issue with your manager, and Human Resources staff if needed.

Keep a record of all your discussions with the relevant staff member and other key parties.

Hold a performance review with the person.  Indicate the reasons for the review, and be assertive (and empathic) in your communication.

Establish a performance improvement program, with time frames, to address the poor performance.  Assure the staff member of your support.

Hold frequent progress reviews.  Recognise any progress.

 4.    If It Persists….

Don’t keep deferring the problem.  Liaise with your manager and the Human Resources department as appropriate, and take the necessary action (including ultimate dismissal).

How effective are you at managing poor/unacceptable performance?  What can you take on board from this article?

Narayan van de Graaff        www.advancedhr.com.au