Managing Performance in the Workplace

  Author: Chris Miceli
  Dated: 2018-12-06
  Uploaded: 2018-12-17
  Last Edited: 5 years ago


This evaluative report provides industry perspective on a number of criteria pertaining to effective management of employee performance in the workplace. These include setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Timely) objectives, recording progress, defining objectives, composing action plans and monitoring performance. Information is provided on promoting self managed performance, and identifying development needs. As a final resort, disciplinary and grievance procedures are provided for when employees and management cant reach informal agreements on concerns they may have raised.



Performance management involves an ongoing monitored process undertaken by each employee from the start of employment, with the aim of improving and maintaining performance in accordance with an organisation’s objectives (Jonny Gifford, 2018). A variety of tools and methods exist which are each focused on addressing subsets of the performance management process. This personalised and ongoing process requires amendment over time, based on performance changes which are identified during regular communication with an overseeing manager. Ensuring procedures are in place to address issues of concern between employees and management is fundamental to maintaining  an unbiased and safe workspace.


Managing Performance in the Workplace

Employing effective performance management techniques is crucial to success when you consider that an organisation’s employees are its greatest creators of value. Managing employees performance can increase efficiency and improve productivity; in fact, studies have shown that companies which carry out employee performance reviews at least quarterly are 45% more likely to achieve above average financial performance, as well as 64% more likely to be effective at maintaining or reducing costs when compared to competition (Jenna Puckett, 2015). Managers should not make employees feel as though they are being negatively judged during such ongoing processes, but rather provide improvement based support environment aimed at tackling performance shortfalls. When executed effectively, a performance management strategy is beneficial as it creates a more productive workforce and an improvement-oriented environment. 


Devising a Work Plan


“Managers use work-plans to communicate the objectives and strategies to staff members and develop individual agendas of work” (United Nations, 2015). Therefore creating and maintaining individual work plans at the start of a performance management process is crucial as it provides a clear understanding of expected results, as well as a definition for successful criteria within the workplace. A work plan can be in place for intervals of up to six months, during which time the employee’s performance should be regularly monitored and documented using appropriate methods outlined in this document (Australian Capital Territory, 2013). It is important that when populating your work plan with objectives, both organisational requirements and the individual employee’s circumstances are fairly considered.


Setting SMART Objectives


Individual objectives are defined by the goals and target achievements of the organisation, and can be set by implementing the SMART tool. Specific and Measurable objectives provide clear goals and targets to be met, Achievable and Realistic objectives motivate and engage employees, whilst Time-bound objectives ensure there is agreement between stakeholders on the expected timeframe for completion (Chartered Management Institute, 2011). These are the characteristics defining the SMART acronym, which are applied to an individuals objectives with the intended purpose of providing guidance, motivation and structure throughout the achievement process. They aim to answer the who, what, when, where, why and how of what would otherwise be an unreasoned and possibly unattainable objective.

Anyone is capable of defining and deploying SMART goals, minimising the need for specialist tools or training. However, as a consequence of its widespread use, a variety of interpretations for SMART objectives have arisen based on its use case, resulting from its the possibility for misunderstanding or a loss of effectiveness. Some persons believe more appropriately suited tools exist which can be applied to long term goals, as it can be argued that the SMART tool potentially lacks flexibility and stifles creativity over extended periods (MindTools, 2016).

The underlying concepts for SMART objectives were laid out in Peter Drucker’s 1954 book ‘Management by Objectives’, although the acronym was never explicitly used. The term was later coined by G.T.Doran in 1981, and has since commonly been utilised within appraisal & performance management systems (Mike Morrison, 2010). Various companies have undertaken research into developing models on how to effectively use the SMART tool, contributing to its widespread use. The process of setting SMART objectives can be applied to both new employees in order to introduce performance evaluations and ensure their expectations are clear, as well as existing employees who are either undergoing a performance review, are being introduced to a new area of work, or have been reported for misconduct. See Appendix A for a formula on setting SMART goals.


Setting & Monitoring Performance Objectives


Monitoring employees performance objectives can be effective when measurable criteria are being reviewed, such as through the use of SMART objectives. Whilst SMART objectives help to identify, structure and keep track of progress towards a departmental goal, performance objectives focus on the physical aspect of carrying out the activities required to achieve specified tasks. It is important to establish both performance criteria which focus on specific aspects within activities, and the desired quality or outcome of the task. These criteria then stand as a baseline for comparison during the monitoring phase. Emmanuel Erastus Yamoah (2014) states that “the monitoring of employee performance in an organisation stands as an integral aspect and segment of organisational growth and development”, outlining the importance that monitoring and managing objectives can have.


Identifying & Supporting Development Needs


“Employee development is the main route followed by most organisations to improve organisational performance” (Muhammad Saeed Mustafa, 2013). Throughout the performance management process, clear and systematic monitoring, identification and recording of progress can help to identify shortcomings or knowledge gaps. The development process “demands an appropriate mapping of organisational needs linking the learning to the desired business outcomes” (CIPD, 2018).

It is ideal to keep meetings regarding employee development separate from performance or salary reviews, as this focuses the discussion and targets on talent management in a productive and beneficial setting. It is usually the employee’s responsibility to drive the development discussion and its outcomes; involving setting the agenda, scheduling the meeting and leading the conversation (Paul Terry, 2015). Refer to Appendix B for a diagram showing perspectives of manager vs employee driven development conversations. The ideal situation is where where a mutually supportive training plan can be established, considering the organisation’s objectives and the employees career objectives. Ross Tartell (2014) argues how culture is vital to the success of an organisation, and notes how employee training can help to shape a culture of development within a workplace.


Encouraging Self-Managed Team Performance


One of the main aspects contributing to enhanced employee motivation, satisfaction and productivity is reinforced positive psychology in the workplace, even more so within departments and teams (Andrew J. Martin, 2008). Surveys spanned across forty years in the 20th century show that factors such as achievement, recognition, and the work itself are the core motivators for psychological growth, whilst factors such as wages and loyalty merely prevent dissatisfaction (Kenneth A. Kovach, 2001). When employees are satisfied on the job, they intrinsically gain motivation to perform at a high standard and to improve; therefore from a manager’s point of view, it is important to ensure and promote such an atmosphere.

Self managed performance within teams relies on three criteria: the identification of strengths and weaknesses, communication and clear objectives (ILM, 2017). When determining the most appropriate performance management techniques to deploy, it is important to consider that the actions and behaviour contributing to success will likely differ between teams, just as they would for individuals. Both individual and team strategies would need to be revisited, reviewed and altered over time to keep up to date with changes to the team or its objectives (Team Technology, 2018). Applying techniques to assist in achieving self managed performance can be beneficial for employees or teams who have been identified as poor performers.


Defining Poor Performance & Composing Action Plan


It is crucial for a manager to address issues regarding poor employee performance quickly and effectively in order to regain the individual's productivity levels and maintain steady workflow in the team (Employment New Zealand, 2018). When poor performance is being discussed, it is usual for employees to take a defensive stance, fabricating excuses for the points being raised against him. It is useful to maintain both a set of standards of performance and a log of performance history which the employee may be measured against. It is important for the manager to “know his state of mind going into the performance discussion” and to “respect the employee, but attack the performance issue”, keeping the focus on the desired outcome (Denny Strigl; Frank Swiatek, 2011). 

It may be helpful for the employee to compose an action plan or a performance improvement plan (PIP); a definition of the necessary steps and strategies required to achieve a performance objective. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2018). This should include the use of milestones and setting review dates to monitor progress (Ivan Luizio Magalhães, 2015). Once an employee’s performance does improve, it is important that feedback and guidance on the topic are maintained nonetheless to ensure expected levels are being maintained (Employment New Zealand, 2018). Action plans exist at all levels of a business, as they provide a solid foundation for reaching both personal and organisational objectives (Queensland Health, 2015).


Monitoring & Recording Progress


The ongoing process of setting aside time to monitor objectives allows the employee to reflect upon the effectiveness of related actions, and make necessary improvements throughout his progression (Drutas, 2017). Various aspects of the performance magnet process should be reflected on during this stage, such as SMART targets and the action plan. Any progress made should be recorded, helping to define a baseline for the next monitoring process, as well as provide accomplishments with a sense of value.

Studies have shown that self reflection, as undertaken in the monitoring and recording process, correlates to performance improvement, emphasising the importance of this stage within the management process (Magdeleine D. N. Lew; Henk G. Schmidt, 2011). Without adequate monitoring or recording of progress, one can not conceptualise progress made in relation to any goals and objectives which he may be required to achieve. Without such knowledge, it is extremely difficult to be aware of, let alone undertake the necessary action in order to succeed. 


Applying Disciplinary & Grievance Procedures


Regardless of the motivation of employees or the effectiveness of management techniques, issues will inevitably arise in any organisation between staff and management concerning working conditions or relationships and the conduct or absence of work. It is the usually the responsibility of human resource managers to devise disciplinary and grievance procedures which work to fairly and productively address such situations in a way which minimises any negative effects and maintains adequate workflow (Margaret Foot; Caroline Hook, 2008). These resources should be made available to all employees, ensuring they are made aware of the associated severity and risk factors causing disciplinary procedures to be initiated, such as the failure to meet objectives set in a PIP.

Disciplinary action against an employee should initially be undertaken informally, although it is not unheard of to initiate a formal disciplinary or dismissal procedure when substantial issues arise. During appropriate hearings, the employee should always be given the opportunity to provide their account of events as well as any considerations which they believe should be taken into account (Crown Works, 2018). During the undertaking of a disciplinary procedure, although a rare occurrence, it is possible for the employee to be suspended from work.

Grievances are problems or complaints raised by staff with their employer regarding discriminatory, unfair, concerning or unsafe events or practices taking place at work (ACAS, 2015). As with disciplinary practices, it is preferable if the grievance is first addressed informally by line managers and employers prior to initiating formal procedures (NIDirect, 2010). Filing a grievance is considered a protected act, providing the employee with legal safeguards against victimisation under the Equality Act of 2010 (Sue Dowling, 2015).

The LRA publishes a code of practice to be followed by both parties to ensure best conduct is followed throughout the process (Labour Relations Agency, 2011). Refer to Appendix C for disciplinary & grievance procedures suitable a software development company, modelled from procedures by Timothy Russel (2006). The ACAS Code of Practice (2015) advises that grievance and disciplinary practices be kept independent, however it is not rare to find organisations providing appeals for disciplinary action in grievance procedures. The option for appeal following any formal decision as a result of these procedures should be provided.



As proven through a study of almost one thousand firms, employing performance management practices has an economically and statistically significant impact on both employee outcomes and measures of corporate financial performance (Mark A. Huselid, 2017). When it is considered that employees are the backbone of a company’s success, it becomes crucial to gain clarity on goals and expectations through such a process. Performance management also manages to tackle two major challenges faced by all companies: employee engagement and retention rates; therefore saving time and money (Pedro Fernandez, 2017).



Further Reading



Appendix A: Formula for Setting SMART Goals 

Formula for Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Based/Timely) Goals and Objectives

(County of San Mateo HR Department, 2017)


Appendix B: Development Planning Perspectives

Workplace Development Planning Process

Paul Terry (2015)


Appendix C: Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures




1.1 The Disciplinary Procedure set out below is applicable to all employees who have completed their probationary period of service.  It is designed to ensure that employees are dealt with fairly and consistently in disciplinary and other related matters affecting their work with Software Development Company.

1.2 This Disciplinary Procedure is intended only as a statement of policy and management guidelines.  It does not form part of individual contracts of employment or otherwise have contractual or other legal effect.  Software Development Company reserves the right not to follow this Procedure where it considers it appropriate to do so.



2.1 Where it is the employee’s performance that is in issue, this will usually be dealt with in accordance with Software Development Company’s Performance Procedure (unless the unsatisfactory performance is such that Software Development Company considers that it would be more appropriately dealt with under this Procedure).

2.2 No disciplinary action will be taken against an employee until the matter has been fully investigated.  The investigation will be completed as soon as is practicable in the circumstances.

2.3 Employees will normally receive such advance written notice of a disciplinary meeting as is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.  This will include, where appropriate, the receipt by an employee of documents, or information in any other form, which will be referred to by Software Development Company at the disciplinary meeting.

2.4 In appropriate circumstances Software Development Company reserves the right to suspend an employee while carrying out its investigation, in which case the employee will receive full pay and benefits for the duration of their suspension.

2.5 At each stage of the Procedure, the employee will be informed of the nature of the complaint against them and shall have an opportunity to state their case before a decision is taken.

2.6 Employees must take all reasonable steps to attend disciplinary meetings. However, the employee must notify Software Development Company forthwith if they are unable to attend a meeting and a re-scheduled meeting will be arranged within (usually) 5 days of the date originally proposed for the meeting. 

2.7 Employees may be accompanied at disciplinary meetings, and any appeal, if they wish, by a work colleague of their choice (provided that presence of such colleague does not prejudice the hearing or where such colleague may have a conflict of interest), or a suitably qualified trade union official.  If the person proposed by the employee is unable to attend the meeting at the scheduled time, the employee will have the right to propose an alternative time provided that it is both reasonable and falls within 5 days of the date originally proposed for the meeting.  During the meeting, the person accompanying the employee may consult with the employee, and address the meeting, but may not answer questions on the employee’s behalf.

2.8 Where appropriate, help and guidance will be given to the employee to enable him/her to achieve the required standards of conduct and/or attendance.

2.9 Warnings will normally give details of the complaint(s), the improvement(s) required and timescale, as well as informing the employee of the consequences of failure to improve conduct to acceptable standards.

2.10 All warnings will remain upon an employee's personal file indefinitely.  However, subject to satisfactory conduct, verbal warnings will be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after a period of [6] months and written warnings after a period of [12] months [(18 months in the case of a final written warning)] from the date of the letter/memorandum confirming the warning.  These periods will still apply where any time for improvement specified in the warning letter expires before the period set out in this paragraph.

2.11 At each stage of the Procedure, Software Development Company will inform the employee of his/her rights to appeal against the disciplinary penalty imposed.  Should any new evidence emerge during the appeal, the employee will be given an opportunity to comment on this before the final decision is taken.



Minor faults or areas of concern will usually be dealt with initially on an informal basis by way of an informal verbal warning and/or counselling where necessary. After establishing the facts, Software Development Company may consider that there is no need to resort to the formal Procedure, and that it is sufficient to talk the matter over with the employee. A note of the informal warning will be kept on the employee’s personal file. The purpose of an informal written warning is to provide an opportunity for improvement in the matter to be corrected without the necessity for the Procedure be instituted. However, where the matter is more serious, the stages of the Procedure set out below will normally be followed.  

There are three stages to the Procedure.  Software Development Company may, however, initiate the Procedure at any stage, or jump stages, depending on the circumstances of the case and the seriousness of the misconduct/gross poor performance. 

3.1 Formal Verbal Warning

In cases of minor breaches of discipline or misconduct, or where the employee has failed to improve or remedy the problems identified within an informal verbal warning, an employee will be given a formal verbal warning which will refer to the misconduct and of the possible consequences of any repetition or failure to improve within a set time limit.  A note of the verbal warning will be entered on the employee's personal file and a copy provided to the employee.

3.2 First Written Warning

In the event of more serious or further misconduct, the employee will normally be given a first written warning.  This will state the reason for the warning and will give a time limit for improvement, including any action required by the employee to remedy the situation.  The employee will be informed of the consequences of any failure to improve his or her conduct.  A copy of this written warning will also be kept on the employee's personal file.

3.3 Final Written Warning

If, after previous warning(s), there is further misconduct or failure to improve standards, or if the misconduct is sufficiently serious to warrant only one written warning, (but would not justify dismissal), a final written warning will be given to the employee.  This will state the reason for the warning and will give a time limit for improvement, including any action required by the employee to remedy the situation.  It will also include a statement to the effect that dismissal may result in the event of failure to improve conduct.  A copy of the final written warning will be kept on the employee's personal file.

3.4 Dismissal

If conduct remains unsatisfactory, and the employee still fails to reach the prescribed standards, or where conduct is sufficiently serious to warrant it, dismissal will normally result. The employee will be provided, as soon as reasonably practicable, with written confirmation of the dismissal and the date on which employment terminated or will terminate.



Software Development Company will only dismiss an employee summarily in the event of gross misconduct, or some other serious breach of Company rules or of the contract of employment.  Summary dismissal is dismissal without notice; before deciding upon this course of action, Software Development Company will usually undertake an investigation and hold a disciplinary hearing with the employee.  




The following are examples of the type of misconduct that may lead to verbal or written warnings.  These examples are provided for guidance only and should not be seen as exhaustive. 

Examples of minor misconduct may include occasional lateness, minor work errors, minor breaches of health & safety obligations, time wasting, lack of diligence, failure to comply with reasonable instructions and general unsatisfactory conduct, including inappropriate behaviour towards colleagues.  Repeated minor misconduct of this sort may be treated as more serious misconduct.

Examples of more serious misconduct may include persistent lateness and extended periods of unauthorised absence, persistent or serious work errors, persistent lack of diligence, persistent failure to carry out reasonable instructions, repeated or more serious breaches of health & safety obligations, discrimination on grounds of sex, race, etc., harassment of another employee, using offensive language, breach of Software Development Company’s email and internet use policy and failure to respond adequately to a verbal warning.

Gross Misconduct

Examples of gross misconduct may include fraud, theft or dishonesty, contravening health and safety obligations so as to put others at risk, breach of confidentiality, unauthorised disclosure of client information [(including, but not limited to, [list any particular concerns])], being under the influence of drink or drugs during working hours, violent or abusive behaviour, deliberate damage to Company property (or that of employees, clients or visitors), tampering with any of Software Development Company’s systems or loading or using on Company systems software that has not been specifically authorised for such use.


6.1 At any stage of the Procedure (including dismissal), an employee has a right to appeal against the disciplinary decision. The employee should inform the [Human Resources Manager] in writing within 7 working days of notification of the disciplinary decision setting out the reasons for the appeal.  All appeals will be dealt with as soon as is practicable in the circumstances.  As with the hearings at earlier stages the employee may be accompanied by a colleague (or trade union official).

6.2 Wherever practicable, the appeal will be heard a more senior manager than whoever decided to take the disciplinary action.  Their decision shall be final within Software Development Company.  

6.3 Software Development Company will confirm to the employee in writing the results of the appeal, and will outline the reasons for the decision reached, as soon as is practicable after the appeal has been heard.

6.4 Where Software Development Company has taken the decision to dismiss an employee, dismissal will still take effect where the employee wishes to appeal.  Where an appeal against dismissal fails, the effective date of termination will be taken as the date on which the employee was originally dismissed.  If the appeal is successful, the employee will be reinstated, with salary and benefits backdated to the date of dismissal.





It is the policy of Software Development Company that all employees should:

  1. Be permitted to have any grievances in relation to their employment dealt with promptly and fairly by an appropriate manager.
  2. Have the right to appeal to a more senior manager against a decision made in respect of their grievance.
  3. Have the right to be accompanied by a work colleague of their own choice (provided that the presence of such colleague does not prejudice the hearing or where such colleague may have a conflict of interest), or a suitably qualified trade union official.  If the person proposed by the employee is unable to attend the meeting at the scheduled time, the employee will have the right to propose an alternative time provided that it is both reasonable and falls within 5 days of the date originally proposed for the meeting.


The aim of this Procedure is to settle any grievances raised in a fair and timely manner.  The main stages are:

  1. It is envisaged that the majority of routine grievances can be resolved on an informal basis.  Therefore, the grievance should first be discussed with the employee’s immediate manager who will investigate the matter in an attempt to resolve the issue on an informal basis. 
  2. If it is not appropriate to raise the matter informally, or if the employee does not receive a satisfactory outcome, the grievance should be made in writing to the [Human Resources Manager] setting out full details.  
  3. The [Human Resources Manager] will arrange for the grievance to be investigated and will arrange for a hearing to be conducted by an appropriate manager.  The hearing will normally be held within [ten] working days of receipt of the written grievance, although this may need to be extended depending on the length of the investigation and the availability of the appropriate manager.
  4. Employees must take all reasonable steps to attend disciplinary meetings. However, the employee must notify Software Development Company forthwith if they are unable to attend a meeting and a re-scheduled meeting will be arranged within (usually) 5 days of the date originally proposed for the meeting.
  5. During the hearing, the person accompanying the employee may consult with the employee, and address the hearing, but may not answer question on the employee’s behalf.
  6. Following the hearing, a written response will be given to the employee, normally within [five] working days.
  7. If the employee is unsatisfied with the response, he or she may appeal in writing to the [Human Resources Manager] setting out full details.  The [Human Resources Manager] will arrange for a further hearing to be conducted by a more senior manager than the manager responsible for the original decision.  Their decision will be final and there is no further appeal from this decision. 
  8. Following the hearing, a written response will be given to the employee, normally within [five] working days. 
  9. If the employee wishes to lodge a grievance after their employment has ended, Software Development Company and the employee may either go through the hearing and appeals part of the Procedure, or the parties can agree to deal with matters on the basis of a written grievance and response (without a hearing). The parties will discuss whichever option is easiest at the time.


  1. At all times the Procedure will be carried out in confidence and any documents produced in connection with the implementation of the Procedure will remain confidential.
  2. In the event that it is not possible to deal with the matter in accordance with the timescales set out above, the employee will be informed of this at the earliest opportunity.
  3. This Grievance Procedure is intended only as a statement of policy and management guidelines.  It does not form part of individual contracts of employment or otherwise have contractual or other legal effect.  Software Development Company reserves the right not to follow this Procedure where it considers it appropriate to do so.

(Timothy Russel, 2006)


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