Why don’t we performance manage our staff?

Why don’t we performance manage our staff?

Human Resources

Author: Bruce Macgregor

As a busy litigation lawyer, I literally have hundreds of disputes that I deal with at any one time. The large majority are misconduct related as I rarely have performance disputes. A brief look at the CCMA statistics confirms that CCMA matters are largely misconduct related and revolve around the breaking of some rule or other, ultimately resulting in a dismissal, whereas performance dismissals are few and far between.

A quick glance through the cases that I handle, and, as the statistics tell us, there are very few incapacity issues pursued by business – the bulk of which relate to illness or injury, and only a few to poor performance. The inference being that either all employees are star performers, or that performance isn’t managed as it should. And from my experience, the second is the applicable explanation.

Performance management is perceived as difficult to do, and incredibly time consuming. Managing a poor performer takes energy, skill and patience, and there is a common misperception that it’s not worth the trouble.

Hidden benefit

I find in many workplaces that employers revert to retrenching when times are tough, without reference to the hidden benefit of performance managing those already in the business in boosting productivity and profitability.

Personally, I like to place all employees in one of three brackets, namely under performers, satisfactory performers and super performers. I then recommend to my clients that they focus on moving their under performers to become satisfactory performers, and satisfactory performers to become super performers. This should be happening continually. Energy and time should also be spent in teaching supervisors and managers to manage performance and keep their people engaged.

If progress isn’t made by an employee, then the performance management needs to be intensified. This will either get you to a point where your employee starts performing, or you’re entering possible dismissal territory. At this point, a retrenchment might be the only option.

In this difficult time we find ourselves in, businesses need to be optimised with the correct number of employees, all performing at the full extent of their ability to ensure that the payroll costs are worthwhile. This takes an effort from day one, ensuring the right employee is recruited and then trained, managed and kept productive. A dismissal as a result of poor performance speaks more to a failure in the business systems and comes at a large cost to the organisation.

The cost of dismissal

Whether for misconduct or performance, a dismissal is a costly exercise. Besides the cost to the employer in recruiting and training the employee and then dealing with the dismissal, a dismissal also means that a business has lost critical skills, and the process of recruiting, training and development will have to start again.

As a result, dismissals shouldn’t be taken lightly as they have a serious impact on the employer as well as the employee. In South Africa, we are told that employees support between six and seven dependents, and the loss of employment is a significant and serious development in the life of those dependents when it occurs.

Our challenge

This leaves us with a challenge – that being to carefully consider whether we have a clear picture with regards to each and every team in the business, and whether employees are under, satisfactory or super performers. If that question cannot be easily answered, then it’s time to act.

At HRTorQue, we offer specialist high-level consulting to help you with any litigation challenge you may have. Email us for more information.

Bruce Macgregor is a South African attorney and English solicitor who specialises in employment law, business agreements and commercial litigation for local and international clients. He has a simple and uncluttered business orientated approach to employment issues, with a view to finding practical solutions to workplace issues. Bruce is English and Zulu speaking, and served his articles under Ray Zondo, the current Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court.