How can businesses manage poor performance when employees are working remotely?

Addressing poor performance is a key element of a line manager’s role and since the pandemic, this means managing the performance of remote workers. To help managers’ deal confidently with performance management issues, XpertHR has published a new briefing on , Managing poor performance. It includes sample conversation s starters and “do’s and don’ts”, as well as “talking points” for training sessions.

Jeya Thiruchelvam, Managing Editor at XpertHR says, “A manager’s roles is to get the best out of their team and ensure they are hitting the mark in terms of their performance. A lot of managers just don’t feel they have the skills to tackle poor performance so resist dealing with the issue for months, sometimes years, in the hope it will resolve itself, which rarely happens. This doesn’t help the employee who isn’t performing who may be unaware there is a problem. Nor does it help the rest of the team who may be picking up the slack and working around the problem. Similarly, there will be questions around why the manager isn’t tackling the issue, it’s their job after all.

“Now more than ever managers need practical guidance on how to have those difficult conversations that are crucial to tackling poor performance effectively. Giving regular clear and constructive feedback is a crucial part of the relationship between managers and their team members – this means managers giving negative as well as positive feedback, which can feel awkward and uncomfortable. XpertHR’s briefing gives detailed guidance on how to give feedback but also what to do when feedback doesn’t work.

It also gives advice on preparing for an informal performance management discussion, barriers to success, setting targets and objectives, supervision and review, redeployment, settlement agreements and how to handle allegations of bullying and discrimination.

There is dedicated guidance on how to manage poor performance when an employee is working remotely. For instance, in a permanent homeworking situation, managers should already have ensured the employee has the appropriate equipment and workspace to do their job to the right standard. However, if it is temporary due to the pandemic, managers may need to make allowances, in terms of performance, for the employee not having access to the same facilities as in their normal workplace.

XpertHR recommends the following dos and don’ts with remote workers:

  • Do not rely on technology to impose overly intrusive supervision
  • Do make sure to keep in regular touch with employees and provide genuine support
  • Do make sure there is a common understanding of how a homeworker’s working day will be organised
  • Do make sure that difficult conversations will not be overheard by family members or house mates

XpertHR also offers the following key points for all line managers to remember:

  • Performance management is something you do every day – not just when an employee is performing badly.
  • Deal with performance issues promptly – do not let them fester.
  • Be consistent in the way in which you manage performance – do not pick on employees you happen not to get on with.
  • Make sure everyone understands what is expected of them – and how their performance is assessed and measured.
  • Be prepared to give structured and constructive feedback when an employee is not performing well.
  • Do not allow feedback to become personal – focus on how the work is being done, not on the personal qualities of the employee.
  • Try to reach a shared understanding of what improvements are needed in the employee’s performance.
  • If you enter a formal procedure, make sure you understand it fully and can follow it precisely. Speak to HR if you are in doubt about what the procedure requires.
  • Take responsibility for managing the employee’s performance – do not imply that you are being made to do it by someone else.
  • Be sensitive to the employee’s position. Avoid anything that may embarrass or humiliate the employee in front of others.
  • Do not discuss the process with the employee’s colleagues unless this is necessary – for example, if asking them to provide support or informal training.
  • Make sure that any targets set are realistic and achievable. Do not set an employee up to fail.

To read XpertHR’s briefing, ‘Managing poor performance’ in full, click here.

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