Sunday, January 5, 2014

Staff Performance Management for Small Businesses

Managing the performance of staff can be a challenge, but if you have a performance management framework or process in place, you may save yourself a lot of money down the track. And it can be applied to a business that employs one staff member or more.

With a performance management process, you can do two things; manage the performance of poor performers, and provide productive employees with positive feedback and encouragement.
It is important to create structure early so you are prepared for when the business grows.
So how do you set up a simple performance management system?

Firstly, ensure that you have job descriptions that outline the purpose of each role and they key duties expected of this role. To performance manage your employee, decide together on 3-6 key objectives of the role, and specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure how these objectives will be measured. For example, an objective for a Receptionist role is to be responsible for reception duties. A KPI for this objective is for the Receptionist to ensure that all messages are clearly communicated in a timely manner. Write these objectives and KPIs in a word document to ensure they are recorded.
If you are big enough to have worked out strategic objectives, these should be intertwined into the KPIs.

These objectives should be reviewed at the 6 month mark to make sure that they still reflect the employee’s role, and then a more formal review at 12 months.

I always recommend that employers have regular developmental conversations to manage staff expectations and performance. These conversations may be about learning and development opportunities, how to improve processes and procedures, and how they are enjoying their role, what could be improved etc

Regular conversations generate the following benefits:

  • A better understanding of employees;
  • Instant feedback and no surprises when the performance and development reviews are conducted;
  • A more thorough understanding of your business’s challenges, opportunities and strengths; 
  • Regular opportunities to provide feedback will reduce the fear associated with feedback in a performance related discussion;
  • A practice-run in the lead up to the formal performance and development reviews.

When there are performance management concerns
The performance management process can also uncover employees who are not performing in their role. If an employee’s performance is consistently poor, the employee must be warned in writing that their performance needs to improve. The employee must be provided with guidance on how they can improve their performance and given a reasonable amount of time to improve their performance. The employee’s performance can be monitored against their KPIs.

Employers that employ fewer than 15 employees are covered by special dismissal arrangements which are different to those that apply to larger businesses. The special arrangements that apply to employers with fewer than 15 employees are:

‘Employees will need to have worked for the business for 12 months in order to be eligible to make a claim for unfair dismissal, and if a small business employer strictly follows the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code and the dismissal of their employee is not harsh, unjust or unreasonable, then the dismissal will be deemed to be fair. It is best practice to follow the code and fill out the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code Checklist at the time an employee is dismissed and you should keep the Checklist with your records as it will assist you if an employee makes an unfair dismissal claim.’

Small businesses don’t need to invest a lot of money to develop a performance management system. The more simple and user-friendly, the better. It is worth the effort because a feedback process helps to instil loyalty, longevity, and continued performance.

Diversity in the Workplace Matters

For the past 5 months, I have been working with 50 people aged 50 and over who are currently unemployed. It is a program called ‘Experience+ Work Ready Program’ and is funded by DEEWR. It has been rolled out in 17 different locations around the country.

The focus of this program has been to provide intensive job ready preparation (workshops, career coaching, resume assistance and more) followed by placement into a job.
The process has been inspiring, frustrating and rewarding.
  • Key observations include:In general, all the participants have been hard working and loyal people in their careers with over 30 years of solid work experience.
  • Many have not experienced job interviews for more than 10 years so there is a knowledge gap. The style of job interviews has changed drastically (behaviour based questions, panels, psychometric testing etc.).
  • There is a stronger focus on qualifications. Many participants have not updated their qualifications for 15+ years. 
  • Many participants are at an age where they just want to be themselves in a job interview. But it is still about playing the game.
  • Only a small percentage of participants own an iphone. Many still have older phones so they can’t sync their emails to their phones. Today’s employment market requires candidates to be responsive if there is a call up for an opportunity. Some participants may not check their email for at least a few days.
  • In general, the healthier participants have had more luck in securing job interviews and jobs. Some participants have a few health restrictions so there is a limit to career changes and work availability during the week. For example, one of the participants can only work after midday due to a medical condition.
  • Some participants are from culturally diverse backgrounds. There have been some frank discussions with some participants who have pitched themselves at customer service / help desk roles. Their strong accents may be an issue so there are some realities checks required on suitable career choices moving forward.
  • Depression is a common health issue among the men. Typically men have been the breadwinners in their families so they find it particularly difficult to cope without a job. 
  • Age discrimination is alive and kicking in Australian society. Some of the participants that I deemed to be job ready immediately were being overlooked. Age and perceptions of older people had to be the only factor because their work experience, personable qualities and qualifications were more impressive than many employed people.
Case studies:

Jack worked as a sales manager selling white goods for 30 years until he was made redundant about 6 months ago.  He was sick of dealing with customers and wanted to change to the construction industry. We provided funding for his Yellow Card and First Aid Certificate. He now contracts as a lolly pop man and loves it.

Michael worked in the manufacturing sector in a purchasing role. He was made redundant in his last role. Age discrimination posed as a real threat for him. I worked with Michael giving him intensive interview preparation. He won a purchasing role at a biomedical organisation. It was an excellent outcome because he secured a job that he wanted and it is in a growth sector.

This program has now been axed by the Federal Government post January 2014. The Abbott Government has replaced it with a $3,500 payment (up from $1,000) to employers who hire an employee aged 50 and over.  This band aid effort is insulting to our older Australians and does not provide adequate assistance to respond to the challenges of mature age workers.