I AM a firm believer in performance planning and the power of a well-planned and measurable performance Improvement Plan. The performance improvement plan is designed to facilitate constructive discussion between a staff member and his or her manager to clarify the work performance to be improved.

It is applicable irrespective of whether the discussion is part of an annual review or takes place in the form of performance counselling associated with disciplinary action. It is implemented, at the discretion of the supervisor or manager, when it becomes necessary to help a staff member to improve performance. The supervisor or manager develops with the subordinate an improvement plan that is acceptable to both. The overall purpose and outcome is to assist the employee to achieve the desired level of performance. A performance improvement plan will differ from the annual performance development planning process in the amount and quantity of the detail. Employees who are performing their jobs effectively, and meeting the expectations of the performance development process, will not need to participate in performance improvement sessions Following a performance improvement session the manager or supervisor should monitor and provide feedback to the employee regarding his or her performance and may take additional disciplinary action, if necessary, through the company’s disciplinary process.

The supervisor should discuss the following:
• State performance to be improved by giving specific examples;
• Outline and discuss the level of expectation and that it must be performed consistently;
• Explain the level of support and resources that will be provided to assist the employee;
• Discuss the plan for providing feedback and specify the measurements to be used in evaluating progress;
• Explain the consequences if performance standards are not met.
Managers should be committed to helping their subordinates improve performance and that will be best achieved through counselling on performance problems. Counselling is a necessary ongoing interaction between a supervisor and an individual who works in his or her work area. Regular counselling brings performance issues to an employee’s attention and helps the employee to correct them. The goal of counselling is to work with the employee to solve performance problems and at the same time implement a performance improvement plan.

Various steps that should be followed in effective counseling or coaching include:
• Show confidence in the subordinate’s ability and willingness to solve the problem. Ask the subordinate for help in solving the problem. It is important for subordinates to feel that they have participated in arriving at a solution. That way you will get some form of “buy-in”’
• Describe the performance problem and illustrate it with specific examples. Focus only on the problem or behaviour that needs improvement and not the person. Discuss with the subordinate his/her view on the matter under discussion;
• Determine if any situation exists that might limit the employee’s ability to perform as desired. Discuss with the employee how these barriers might be removed. When a decision has been agreed, add the required actions to the performance improvement plan;
• Discuss potential solutions to the performance problem. Ask the employee for ideas on how to correct the problem or prevent it from happening again. Offer your suggestions;
• Agree on a final action plan and list what the employee, the manager will do to correct or improve the situation;
• Discuss the proposed feedback that will be given and agree when such sessions will take place. Make sure that the employee understands that the purpose of the feedback sessions is solely to establish progress with the performance improvement plan and to offer further assistance should it be necessary;
• Offer positive encouragement and reinforce your confidence in the subordinates competence and ability to make the required improvements.

Des Squire is a managing member at AMSI and Associates. You can call him on 082 800 9057 or email him at [email protected]

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