Jan. 8, 2009

Posted by Shawn Sher

How To Manage Poor Performers

When an employee starts to non-perform, many organisations adopt a ‘warnings driven’ system where the employee is verbally warned, then issued with a series of warning letters (warnings 1, 2, 3 ,final) before ultimately is dismissed from service. The problem with this system is that the managers (in charge with managing the poor performers) find this process too emotionally distressing. When faced with a poor performer, a manager typically soon discovers that the process from confronting a subordinate and telling him that he is not performing on to engaging him in a series of high-tension meetings laced with warnings before finally managing the dismissal stages simply too overwhelming and disconcerting. Consequently, they find ways to avoid dealing with the issue altogether and the result is – THE ORGANISATION SUFFERS as no action is taken against the non-performer(s).

Since the scenario above is prevalent in most organisations today, why then do companies still persist with  a ‘warnings driven’ system ?

Our research involving some 375 companies that practiced this ‘warnings driven’ system uncovered the answer. We found that the reason these organisations practiced it was because they thought Malaysia’s labour law required this approach. They had in essence assumed that the system was devised in line  with the law and they had no choice other than to follow it.

This isn’t true. Malaysia’s labour law does not mandate or require that 3 written warnings be issued,  show cause inquiries be held or transfers considered in order for an organisation to demonstrate it had treated a poor-performer fairly. The Industrial process has over the years evolved in terms of how it expects a company to manage a poor-performer. Instead of the old ‘warnings-driven’ approach which is perceived negatively by both the manager and his subordinate poor performer, the courts today recognise the need for a more ‘positive centered’ approach toward managing poor performance. It has accordingly laid forth the following 3 fundamental requirements for organisations in managing a poor-performer:

1)      The organisation must show proof that it established performance targets which were clearly communicated to the employee;

2)      The organisation must show proof that it trained or guided the employee in relation to helping him achieve the performance targets; and

3)      The organisation must have given the employee a reasonable time to improve.

With these fundamental requirements clearly laid-forth, the challenge now is for organisations to develop a better system that meet these needs.

How Lyons Shers Can Help You In This Endeavour?

We recognise that you want a system that (1) better identifies and manages your poor performers. We also know that the system (2) must make it easy for your managers to execute. Finally, the system must (3) conform to Malaysian labour law.

Our goal here will be to help your organisation implement a more proactive driven approach to manage your non-performers. We will ensure that this approach/system, 

a)      is positive or ‘improvement’ centered;

b)      blends with any performance management system you have in place, be it a balanced scorecard, KRA/KPI or lean sigma initiative;

c)       is in-line with the requirements of the law;

d)      makes it easier for your managers to proactively identify and manage non-performers; and

e)      where required, phase out the continuing non-performer.

It is not difficult, time consuming or costly to implement a new initiative for managing poor performance. All that’s required is a change in ‘mindset’ toward how your company approaches the subject of non-performers! Call us at 03-4270-3666 and we’ll do the rest for you.