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Labour Matters – Poor Performance Procedures

Poor Work Performance falls under the broad heading of Incapacity. Poor work performance or failure by the employee to reach and maintain the employer’s work performance standards in terms of quantity and quality of output is an ever increasing problem. It is implicit in all employment contracts that the employee undertakes to perform according to the reasonable, lawful and attainable work performance standards set by the employer. Should the employee fail in this duty, then he is said to be “incapable” and the employer

has the right to dismiss after following a fair procedure and ensuring that the dismissal is for a fair reason. You can’t say ‘Useless worker, you’re fired!’ or simply fire an employee for poor performance. Dismissal is ALWAYS the last straw. If you don’t consider alternatives, it doesn’t matter how useless the employee is – the CCMA WILL reinstate him, and you WILL have to award him back pay.

Let’s look at what you can do instead using the following scenario…

Let’s say you hire a financial manager (FM) to contribute at a strategic level. Sadly he turns out to be lousy at it. He’s a good number cruncher but his job requires more input than that. You’ve given him training and explained a number times what you need, but he still doesn’t ‘get’ your business.

Now let’s look at the following options…

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You’re not obliged to create a job for him, but you must show that you honestly tried to find another position for him within your company. Offer him a vacant post in the company.

This is the simplest way of showing you’re trying something. Let him know where you have vacancies, but a demotion may be better in certain circumstances.

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Transfer / Redeployment

Consider transferring him. Maybe a smaller department or branch, and then if he improves, you can always move him back into his position.

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Reduce his salary or change his remuneration structure

Let’s say one of your sales people isn’t meeting his targets, which are reasonable. You notice his heart isn’t in his work. You’ve already withheld his annual bonus because of his poor performance, but this hasn’t encouraged him to work harder.

Suggest a change in his pay structure as an alternative to firing him. Reduce his basic salary and increase his commission percentage as an incentive for a defined period. But remember, you can only do this with his consent!

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Change his duties / workload

If an employee is slow but does his work with reasonable accuracy, reduce his workload and adjust his salary appropriately. You can also only do this with his consent! You can come up with many alternatives to dismissals.

Maybe ask your employee to suggest alternatives. He may come up with a feasible plan that didn’t even cross your mind!