Managing underperforming staff

February 28, 2011

A recent survey commissioned by ExpertHR found that 60% of employers were not confident in their line managers’ ability to manage underperforming staff. It highlighted the areas of concern as being dealing with sickness, capability, attitude, poor standards of work and not meeting objectives. That is quite damming stuff, a bit like saying they are good managers providing everyone works hard, is highly motivated and never cause problems. However it is when things aren’t working well, when problems have occurred and where there are issues in a team that the manager should really start performing.

If they are in charge of logistics, you can be pretty sure they will intervene to try and make sure things arrive at the right place on time, if they are responsible for customers they’ll jump in if a customer complains, and if they are accountable for production they will weigh in if the number of faulty goods coming off the production line rises. This is what they expect to do and what they are often very good at. But if they are responsible for staff shouldn’t they be able to show the same level of skill, knowledge or experience? Shouldn’t they be able to deal with the person who takes a sicky every fortnight, the team member who upsets their work colleagues, the individual who always makes mistakes or doesn’t finish what they start?

If they can cover the poor performance, make contingency plans to deal with the sickness absence and make sure certain team members don’t work together, does it even matter if they don’t know how to deal with the issues?

I believe the answer is yes. It does matter. We have been called in to businesses many times when the owner or manager has reached the end of their tether. The amount of sick days being taken has started to effect bottom line, the atmosphere is getting so bad their good employees are muttering about leaving, staff members are making complaints about their colleagues, the person on long term sick has requested their holiday pay for untaken holiday while they have been ill. They often talk about not having done anything before because they didn’t want to “rock the boat”, come over as the bad boss, or disrupt work. I believe these types of reasons mask another and that is that they are uncomfortable and nervous about saying or doing the wrong thing and making the problem worse than it is, especially when they hear horror stories about industrial tribunals and massive payouts.

Managers and business owners need three things to help them manage underperforming staff.

  • Good policies and procedures to deal the issues (sickness policy, disciplinary procedure etc). These need to be easy to follow, up to date and in line with ACAS recommendations
  • An understanding of these policies – the number of people who tell us that yes they have a policy, but no they don’t know what is in it is far too high!
  • Training.  – It is OK having handbooks covering every eventuality but unless you give managers the opportunity to practice carrying them out, to learn how to deal with different responses and to gain an understanding of why a procedure is laid out in a certain way, they will not have the confidence to act and to deal with a problem before it escalates.

Of course there is a cost involved in this but getting trained to deal with underperformance can have a healthy effect on the bottom line of your company, reducing costs, and improving performance and team motivation.

A man in a hot air balloon realised he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted: “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The woman below replied: “You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You are 51º21,32.87 degrees north latitude and 0º21,32.87 degrees west longitude.”

“You must be an IT specialist,” said the balloonist.

” I am,” replied the woman. “How did you know?”

“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help so far.”

The woman below responded: “You must be in HR.”

“I am, “replied the balloonist. “But how did you know?”

“Well,” said the woman, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it’s my fault.”

2011 will, like every year, see a raft of new employment legislation being brought in that all employers will have to become familiar with. In our latest blog we set out the six major updates coming in during the year.

1. Abolition of the default retirement age

One of the biggest legal changes employers will have to contend with in 2011 is the abolition of the default retirement age (DRA). Although the DRA will not be completely abolished until 1 October 2011, transitional arrangements will come into force from 6 April 2011.

During the six-month transitional period employers will be unable to issue new notifications of retirement but those already in motion before 6 April can continue through to completion if:

  • a notification of retirement is issued by the employer prior to 6 April 2011;
  • the date of retirement is before 1 October 2011; and
  • the requirements of the statutory retirement procedure are met.

The default retirement age will be completely abolished on 1 October and employers will be prohibited from retiring employees by means of the default retirement age from this date.

2. Changes to maternity and paternity leave provisions

In April there will be two changes to maternity and paternity leave provisions.

Fathers of children with an expected week of birth beginning on or after 3 April 2011 will be allowed up to 26 weeks’ additional paternity leave if the mother returns to work before using her full entitlement to statutory maternity leave.

On the same date, the rates for statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay will increase from £124.88 to £128.73 per week.

3. Right to request flexible working extension

The right to request flexible working will be extended to parents of children under the age of 18 on 6 April 2011. It currently applies to parents of children under the age of 17, or 18 if the child is disabled.

The Government has also announced that it intends to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees and will consult on the proposals in January 2011. Consultation will be completed by March 2011 and the Government will review the responses by December 2011.

4. Equal treatment for agency workers

From 1 October 2011, agency workers will be entitled to equal treatment on basic employment conditions, such as pay and holidays, after they have worked in a role for 12 weeks, under  the Agency Workers Regulations 2010

5. Equality Act 2010

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers will be able to treat individuals with a protected characteristic more favourably during recruitment and promotion processes when faced with two or more candidates of equal merit, if the more favourable treatment is intended to address under-representation in the workforce.

The single public sector equality duty will also be introduced and both provisions will come into force on 6 April 2011.

6. Bribery Act 2010: corporate offence introduced

In April 2011, a corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery by people working on behalf of the business will be introduced under the Bribery Act 2010.

If you have any concerns about how these will affect your business give our specialists a call confidentially on 0845 224 0048 or drop us an email

Our First YouTube Upload

December 10, 2010

We have just uploaded our first file onto YouTube. It’s a five minute demonstration of how you can use LinkedIn to create an email signature with your contact details, logo, links to website and blog as well as having a facility for the receiver to check if you have any contacts in commen.

It’s been made using Camtasia and Swish Max. We’re evaluating Camtasia at the moment and would love to hear what you think of the look feel and content of this first attempt.

The quick link to the demonstration is

New Bribary Act

December 6, 2010

Now that the World Cup shenanigans is out of the way, it’s a good time to let you know of a new peice of legislation

The Bribery Act 2010 is due to be implemented in April 2011. This will significantly reform criminal law regarding bribery and introduce a new corporate offence.

 There will be 4 offences:

  • Offering, promising or giving a bribe
  • Requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe
  • Bribing a foreign public official
  • Corporate offence where an organisation fails to prevent bribery by a person associated with it.

 The corporate offence covers actions committed outside of the UK and associated person is considered someone who performs services for or on behalf of the organisation. Therefore this may include third parties i.e. contractors, suppliers etc.

 The penalties include:

  • Unlimited fine
  • Confiscation of the benefit received
  • Bar from public service contracts for up to 5 years

 Where the offence is committed with the consent of an officer of the organisation the potential penalties for the officer include:

  • Imprisonment for up to 10 years and an unlimited fine
  • If a director – disqualification from office for up to 15 years

 The defence for an organisation will be that there are adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.

 Guidance of what constitutes adequate procedures is due to be published in early 2011.

 What should you do to be ready for the new law?

  • Review any current policies and procedures to include specific reference to bribery
  • Review whistle blowing policies to ensure any wrongdoings are reported and there is sufficient protection for those who report
  • Extend policies to include third parties
  • Consider including terms on the obligation to report bribery into employment contracts

Contact us for more information or for help putting these policies and contract changes into practice

Extra Bank Holiday

November 24, 2010

Over the next two years (2011 and 2012) there will be two extra bank holidays:

  •  Royal wedding 29th April 2011
  •  Diamond Jubilee 5th June 2012

Already on the TV the debate has started raging about how few bank holidays we have compared to other countries and how much next year’s wedding is going to cost in terms of lost output. However all the commentators and reporters seem to have bypassed one crucial point – employees do not have the right to take a bank holiday off work (unless you’ve specifically written such a clause into your employment contract – in which case you should give get in touch with us!).

The minimum standards for holiday entitlement (these will override lesser terms in your contract of employment if you haven’t updated it the last couple of years), including bank holidays, is 5.6 weeks paid annual leave i.e. 28 days for someone working five days a week.Part-time workers are entitled to the same level of holiday pro rata – eg 22.4 days for someone working four days a week.

Of course many employers will allow their employees to take the day off as an extra day’s paid holiday. They may grumble about the lost revenue but will weigh it up as less of a negative than worsening employee relations.

Why not make the most of the extra bank holiday?

If you are an employer, you are paying for it. It’s your bottom line that’s being affected. The staff are having the day off – the second extra long weekend in a row – due to your good nature.

Make sure they know!! Send out a staff communication or let them know in a staff meeting. Spell it out that you are giving them the extra day off, that you are paying them while they celebrate.

If you want more information about how to communicate your message or want to know more about holiday rights contact us.

Giving 110%

November 22, 2010

Xfactor and Strickly contestants, wingnuts on the Apprentice and premiership footballers, they are all doing it and it makes my bile froth. They all give so much of themselves that it’s mathamatically impossible to keep up with just how much effort they are putting into their journey. Up till now I’ve been forced to throw things at the telly everytime they do it. Worse is when I come across it in meetings with clients or their staff as it’s unbecoming for an HR type to scream “No, you can’t give 110%. you just can’t!!”

Now though I’ve found a cure for my pedantic reflex with a formula I found on someone elses blog (Trainer1).



Is represented as:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.



8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%



11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%

while ,


1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%



2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%



1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118%