How Do I Improve My Employee’s Performance?

When addressing the issue of poor behaviour and performance with employees, proactive management action can turn an otherwise confronting situation into an opportunity to initiate improvement. Let’s take a look at some important steps to take when dealing with underperformance:

Poor Performance Versus Misconduct

It is important to understand the difference between poor performance and misconduct. Confusing the two may result in the wrong approach when dealing with the matter.

Poor performance is when an employee puts in the effort but keeps falling short of expectations because they lack skill, experience, ability or training. Quite often these employees are unaware they are not performing to the required standard. Misconduct is determined when an employee could perform better but (for whatever reason) chooses not to.

Gather the Facts

When an employee is performing below expectations, gathering the evidence that explains your concern is relevant and important. You’ll need to demonstrate that as part of their role, the employee is required to meet key performance indicators and that you have communicated this to the employee, and that their performance has fallen short of the requirements of the role.

When the issue relates to behaviours or attitude, the more objective or unbiased you can frame the evidence the better. Keep the focus on the behaviour, not the person.

Provide Notice

Notify the employee in writing that there will be a meeting where their performance and/or conduct will be discussed. It is also important that you inform them of the choice to have a support person present.

If you don’t address underperformance as soon as its identified, it provides an opportunity for the issue to become more serious and it may start to affect the performance of the entire business.

Address Concerns

At the meeting, explain your concerns supported by the facts you have found. Provide constructive feedback and encourage open lines of communication by showing empathy. Be specific with your information and tell the employee exactly what the issue is to help them understand, learn and grow from the experience.

Invite a Response

After you have provided the details of your concerns, allow the employee an opportunity to present their side of the story. You must listen to and document the employee’s response. If there are multiple concerns, go through each of them one by one allowing the employee to respond to each of them in turn.


Genuinely consider the employee’s responses before deciding on a course of action. You should also consider any other information relevant to the situation such as any witnesses, policies, procedures, position descriptions, legislation and employment contracts. At this time, you might also consider talking to your HR Consultant about available options.


Notify the employee in writing of the outcome of the disciplinary process. This should also be documented and a copy saved in the employee’s personnel file. The outcome will depend on the severity of the situation and may include offering counselling support or further training opportunities, developing a Performance Improvement Plan, or issuing a formal written warning.


Discipline will be ineffective if you don’t monitor the agreed steps put into place. Schedule a follow-up meeting between 2-4 weeks after the disciplinary meeting (consider the nature of the situation when determining the timeframe). Monitor the employees progress between the two meetings and during the follow-up meeting discuss and re-assess their performance.



For many businesses, there will always be a need to manage poor performance. Delaying or ignoring underperformance is a costly mistake for any business. Action should be taken promptly by Managers to develop and guide employees to a higher standard and provide ongoing feedback to foster a culture of high performance and employee engagement.

HR On-Demand’s team of consultants provide Managers with on-the-spot coaching and advice to help them manage demanding people issues, and our monthly webinars are designed to develop your employees and help them be more productive. For more information, call us on 1300 55 99 62 or email