You’ve gone through the time and expense of hiring a new employee, but you are not guaranteed the employee you hired will be the highly productive worker you hope for.

When employee performance problems arise, you need to deal with them through specific employee improvement conversations. Here are seven steps for conducting effective performance improvement conversations:

1. Start the conversation by stating something the employee does well. This will help the employee be more open to hearing about where improvement is needed.

2. Describe the problem (performance issue) clearly and in a non-threatening way. Talk about the specific behavior, and do not discuss personality traits. Discuss what the person did, not who the person is. Always remain positive, explaining that you will be an active partner in correcting the situation.

3. Ask the employee to help in solving the problem. Discuss alternative solutions and mutually agree on actions to be taken. Try to use the employee’s solution where possible. When the employee’s ideas are part of the solution, he/she is more committed to making it work.

4. Provide resources to help the employee improve. In some instances, there’s an easy remedy to the performance issue. Possibly a better process/procedure is needed to help the employee become more efficient. Alternatively, the employee may need some additional training or a class to develop a certain skill.

5. Set a specific action plan with follow up dates. Ask questions to make sure the employee understands what is expected. Then develop an action plan that specifies performance expectations and the date for completion. (E.g. the first draft of the PowerPoint presentation should be completed in one week.) Have checkpoints along the way so there’s an opportunity for changing course if necessary.

6. End on a positive note. It is important to communicate to the employee that you are confident he/she can solve this problem and make a positive contribution to the organization.

7. Follow up and recognize improvement. Remember to hold the follow up meetings when scheduled. Recognize any improvement and continue to coach the person doing the right things. If improvement has not occurred, move to the disciplinary process.

Although these steps cannot ensure improved performance, they are a start in the process.
Improving employee performance is a win-win for everyone.

The employee wins by learning what is needed to enhance performance, thereby changing behavior and becoming a more productive member of the organization.

The manager wins by counseling a person to achieve desired behavior, thereby resulting in a more productive and satisfied employee.

Lastly, the organization wins by retaining motivated employees who understand their role and the roles of others in contributing to the goals, culture, and success of the organization.