Managing performance remotely

Managing performance is more difficult if you have less contact with your employees and only meet them remotely. New starters may be unfamiliar with how you work. Some employees may find their working time loses out to home-schooling or caring for shielding or sick people in their household. Others may find it difficult to switch off now that they live at the office combined with the feeling of isolation that lockdown may provoke.

So, what should you do?

Act now

If someone is performing poorly, tell them now. Agree a performance improvement plan that sets out what the employee is doing wrong, its effect on the business and how they must improve. Warn about the potential sanction if the employee fails to improve. However, the emphasis should be on keeping the employee in the business not to moving them out. Identify the source of the problem, how you will help the employee turn around and the tools available to help them. Meet regularly, at least once a week, to see how they are progressing and whether to amend the plan.

Don’t forget the person

Work is just one aspect of your employee’s life. Poor performance may not just be a work-related problem. Your employee may have lost people they love without the opportunity to fully grieve or they may be experiencing mental health problems. Although you cannot solve these problems, you can listen and empathise. Be sensitive but professional. Be honest about their poor performance and the possible consequences. Delaying tackling the problem or playing it down will not help your business or your employee.

Be flexible

Your usual rules on who can accompany employees to formal meetings were not designed for virtual meetings or a pandemic. If an employee asks for a member of their household to accompany them instead of a colleague or trade union official, then consider it. Granting their request may help your employee engage in the meeting and prevent delay.

Get fit

Ensure that your business is ready to compete when we emerge from lockdown. Turn around poor performance and identify when you can’t. That is best for the business, your under-performing employee, and their colleagues.