Steep rise in poor performance cases as employers clamp down

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Lizzie Buxton

9th December 2021

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News release

New data reveals a sharp rise in performance management issues, with UK employers opening up 44% more capability cases since July. Evidence shows that the reasons managers are increasingly tackling under-performance issues is most strongly attributed to poor productivity and poor work quality. 

The data from employee relations (ER) experts, AdviserPlus, reveals that capability cases surrounding poor productivity rose by nearly two-thirds (61%) when compared to earlier in 2021. Cases involving work quality have also increased by 38%.

The results come from analysis of ER data from over 140,000 workers across multiple UK organisations.

Amy Corcoran, HR Technical Consultant, AdviserPlus states: “Though it may appear that performance issues are increasing within UK organisations, this is not necessarily the case. Rather, our support for managers of under-performing employees informs us that the rise reflects a belated response to issues that businesses were ready to overlook while employees adjusted to changes throughout the pandemic. During this time, many managers were cautious of tackling capability issues: partly because, while working from home, they weren’t confident of pinpointing the root cause of the problem and also they showed a leniency whilst employees were having to handle so much change.

Yet as we settle into new routines, those in charge of performance management are recognising that it is imperative to drive performance – either to support business operations or to become firmer with employees that have let things slip. Accordingly, capability cases are now surging.

Managers of poor performing employees are also tackling issues sooner. The number of employees who are exited from businesses due to poor performance during their probationary periods has increased by 20% since July. Yet, despite the increase in cases, the overall number of employees leaving the business due to poor performance has increased by just 5%.

It should also be noted that the length of capability cases is dropping, with the average case duration decreasing by 64%.

Amy summarises: “Overall, the data shows that employers are now looking to bring performance issues to resolution quicker and, notwithstanding the material increase in the quantity of poor performance cases, the proportion of employees managed out the business has not risen in line. Our engagement with line managers of poor performing employees informs us that the focused attention managers are giving poor performers is having a positive effect, with many success stories in turning the employees into solid performers.

Better management of underperforming employees is largely about identifying the root cause of the problem and providing additional support by communicating expectations and regularly reviewing the employee’s work – especially when so many roles have been adjusted under COVID.

“Managers also need resources so they are empowered to address matters early, informally and efficiently, so that HR isn’t drawn into matters that don’t merit their attention, inflating their cost to serve”.

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