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What are the most common HR challenges we’re helping our clients solve today? Read our Q&A with Kim Rummler and find out!

By the KMA Team

Graphic titled: How to Deliver a Not so Stellar Performance Review, with an image of a gage showing redDelivering a performance review that is less than positive can be a daunting task for a manager to face. However, when done appropriately, it can be a unique opportunity for growth and development for both the employee and the organization.

Here are some best practices and strategies to ensure this difficult conversation is as productive and positive as possible.

Delivering Negative Feedback

When delivering negative feedback, make sure to be fully prepared in advance of the conversation. Gather all the relevant data and have concrete examples of the performance issues in question. Choose a setting for the review that’s comfortable and private, so that your employee will feel safe to express their thoughts and feelings.

A good approach is to begin the conversation by providing some positive feedback; identify strengths first to set a constructive tone for the meeting and convey your positive intent. When discussing the employee’s performance gaps, it’s best to be honest and direct and not sugarcoat or make light of the issues. Frame your feedback by describing the specific situation, the conduct, and its impact, and keep the conversation focused on facts instead of emotions. Aim to be clear, but also supportive and compassionate.

How to Be Solutions-Oriented

Instead of focusing solely on what’s unacceptable, emphasize what can be improved. Provide actionable steps that your employee can take to improve their performance. Encourage the employee to share their perspective, and listen for insights into any underlying issues you may not be aware of that are impacting performance. Are there systemic issues, like a lack of training, that need to be addressed. Are there personal, health, or other factors affecting the employee’s performance? If it’s a health or medical-related issue, you should get HR involved to manage any accommodations and to ensure confidentiality.

Acknowledge that receiving negative feedback is difficult, and provide ample time for the employee to absorb what you are saying. Throughout the conversation, make sure to offer empathy and support for your employee’s development. The goal is to provide every opportunity for the employee to turn the ship around if possible.

Resources and Support for Improvement

Here are six ways to support and provide development opportunities to a struggling employee.

  1. Coaching and Mentoring: Pair the employee with a mentor or coach who can provide ongoing guidance, feedback, and support.
  2. Training and Upskilling: Invest in training programs to address specific skill gaps. This could include workshops, online courses, or on-the-job training.
  3. Goal Setting: Encourage the employee to set personal development goals that align their career aspirations with the organization’s needs.
  4. Regular Feedback: Establish regular check-in meetings with the employee to monitor progress and determine if additional support is needed.
  5. Recognition: Recognize and reward improvements in performance, no matter how small. This reinforces positive behavior and encourages continued growth.
  6. Performance Metrics: Use metrics and KPIs to track progress objectively. Regularly review these metrics to ensure the employee is on the right track.

Documentation is Key

Document everything. Keep detailed records of all meetings, feedback, progress, and any changes to the employee’s performance – for better or worse. Documentation is essential for accountability and for any future HR actions that may be necessary, including implementing a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) and, as a last resort, termination if the performance cannot be corrected.

Transforming a poorly performing employee into a solid team member requires a combination of structured support, continuous feedback, and a positive, growth-oriented mindset. By implementing the recommendations and strategies outlined above, leaders can create an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and motivated to reach their full potential.

Additional reading: How to Help Underperforming Employees

Reach out to the professionals at KMA for further guidance on managing a poorly performing employee.