Gone are the days when a team leader can say “You’re fired. Get out!”

Performance management processes are usually terrifying for both managers and staff alike – after all, we are mostly nice people.  The process can be both time and financially costly. There will also be negativity, awkwardness and behind the scenes muck-raking until the matter is resolved. One of the most common downsides is that the team as a whole sees change and individuals feel at risk.   Is there change in the business that has not been shared with them? They wonder who is next to be micromanaged and whether their own minor infringements have been noted. This can develop into a nasty situation all round.

When you and your staff members are not completely clear about what behaviours are acceptable and admissible in your workplace, and what performance measures they must adhere to, you are courting trouble. It is essential to be aware of potential issues before they arise and to be prepared with how to deal with them if they do.

Can you imagine a workplace where personal grievances are a distant memory?

The solution is not difficult.

    1. Robust staff behavioural and procedural guidelines: These guidelines should cover all aspects relevant to your business and your team. Guidelines should cover workplace safety procedures, communication policies, personal review and development procedures, company smoking policy, travel and entertainment parameters, workplace harassment and behavioural instructions, expense re-imbursement, drug & alcohol policy, computer usage, vehicle use and  other company specific requirements. This is certainly a long list which needs to be thought through carefully, but the more direction you provide, the better. These guidelines should be presented in the form of a clear and easy to follow Staff Handbook for each member of your team. Copies should be available at   all worksites, plus as a signed schedule in the Employment Agreement of all new team members. Make a point to review the content of the Staff Handbook on a regular basis to ensure that you are keeping up to date with changes to legislation and in your workplace.
    2. Clear performance guidelines: Clarity and realism are key. We can no longer hire a young lad from the farm, present him with his car keys and credit card, then expect him to shine – let alone be a loyal long-term employee. The best way to attract and retain the right people is to   develop  a robust position description which will include a relationship matrix, key result areas and key measurements for success. From that, you will be able to develop Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). Performance Reviews (or Staff Assessment Processes) which address  pre-agreed performance by both the employee and employer – should be undertaken either 6 monthly or annually. Your people will have a chance to address issues and seek help in areas where they are not achieving. They may even correct your performance. Once used to this process, most employees welcome two way dialogue around their role. They have an opportunity to be understood and appreciated for their strengths and to seek help in a non-confrontational manner. This process also has the benefit of giving clarity around salary review calculations. Quantifying and justifying your decisions around salary increases avoid conflict.
    3. Performance coaching: This leads on from Performance Reviews. It should be seen by both parties as a very positive form of training and mentoring. Issues have already been identified and everyone is clear about what needs to be done. The responsibility now lies with both employee and employer.
    4. Knowledge of how to productively manage grievances and chronic lack of performance: The obvious goal is to change behaviours and to assist with gaining quality output and stability from your team members. There are strict guidelines around this type of management but there is no need to race to your solicitor if you foresee a pending issue. Communication is also a very powerful tool which can avert most forms of litigious behaviour.


Featured in: Agribusiness Magazine Issue 125 November/December 2017
Written by: Deb Francis