5 Tips for Successful Performance Counseling
5 Tips for Successful Performance Counseling

5 Tips for Successful Performance Counseling

Counseling a struggling employee is one of the toughest challenges a manager can face, but when done correctly, the associate, the team and the whole organization benefit from the effort.

Coaching, of course, is a standard part of any manager’s job with any (and every) employee; counseling, on the other hand, kicks in when coaching does not result in improvement or when the employee’s behavior is not changing.

How do you know what to do and when to do it? Karen Crone one of Paycor’s HR experts, offers her wisdom on five ways to make counseling a successful, albeit rare, part of performance management.

  1. Don’t wait too long
  2. It can be tempting to believe a new employee’s struggles will be solved with time or that a more tenured employee is simply going through a rough patch. But when poor performance or negative behavior persists, it’s important to act decisively, for the good of the employee and the organization.

    First, identify shortfalls through your observations. Assess whether the company might bear some fault for certain issues, such as a lack of training or a bad job-person match.

    Next, meet with the employee to clarify expectations for satisfactory performance. Coach the associate toward improvement through weekly one-on-one meetings. If nothing has changed after 2-4 weeks, it might be time to move to counseling.

  3. Follow a process
  4. A three-level process can make counseling more productive and successful. Remember—the goal is to change the employee’s behavior or outcomes such that everyone wins! Along the way, be sure to document each step of the process, follow up on action steps and use support available to you through your HR team or other resources. Here’s a look at the three levels:

    • Level I: At this point, meeting records stay with the manager, who should summarize prior coaching, address performance and outline a timeframe for change. The manager and employee should agree on the performance issues in question, as well as the action steps. The manager should create a summary document capturing shortfalls and improvements needed, and both manager and employee should sign this paperwork. At this point, there is no need for HR involvement.
    • Level II: If there is no improvement over the course of a month, counseling moves to Level II. In this stage, documentation needs to state the consequences of failure to improve and should become part of the employee’s record. The manager should reiterate expected changes and use the same or similar wording to the original, less formal documentation. Reinforce next steps if improvement does not occur, specify a timeframe for change and that it must be sustained and ongoing, and have both parties sign the document that goes to HR.
    • Level III: If after another 30 days the employee is not achieving or demonstrating the desired outcomes, counseling moves to Level III. Again, the manager needs to draft a formal document, this time clearly stating that failure to improve and meet standards will result in termination of employment, specifying a timeframe with no extension and co-signing the document with the employee to be included in the employee’s file.

  5. Keep it timely
  6. Different performance issues require different timeframes for change. Here are some common standards:

    • Tardiness, missed meetings, unscheduled absences—No change in 1-2 weeks might be long enough to move to the next level.
    • Controlling negativity or adapting to change—This might require more time for the manager to observe and monitor that change is taking place and is sustained. Generally 30 days is a good place to start.
    • Demonstrating ability to meet job standards—Generally one month is enough for most situations, but you can assure sustained change by extending a level for an additional time period.

  7. Drive employee ownership
  8. From the beginning of the counseling process, ask your employee to summarize the discussion and recap the action plan to you. This helps you gauge the desire to change and reinforces that the individual has a choice to improve.

  9. Recognize success
  10. After a period of time, write a note to the associate—and include it in his or her HR file—to recognize that counseling was completed successfully, progress has been sustained and the individual is performing to standards. Incorporate successful completion into annual feedback.

Want to learn more?

These tips aren’t the only things that can streamline performance management and make it more productive: Paycor’s HR solution provides a user-friendly interface for employees and supervisors to manage performance reviews, access employee documents in one location and foster open communication. Take a closer look at our products by clicking the link below.

View Products in Action

More to Discover

Emergency Sick Leave for Childcare: What Employers Need to Know About FFCRA

Emergency Sick Leave for Childcare: What Employers Need to Know About FFCRA

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is a big part of the government response to the current public health crisis, offering emergency sick leave and paid family medical leave to those affected by Coronavirus. Take a look at our guide on managing employee leave scenarios.The FFRCA doesn’t just apply to employees who are directly affected by the virus—those who are infected, caring for the infected or quarantined. It also puts in place measures for the parents or guardians of children whose schools or day care facilities are closed due to the pandemic.These measures will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. How Does the FFCRA Work for Parents? If an employee has been on payroll for at least 30 days and cannot...

Essential Business Letter (Template)

Essential Business Letter (Template)

Many states and cities are imposing complete or partial lockdowns, with most businesses forced to temporarily shut their doors or move to remote work and only “essential businesses” unaffected. This has left many employers and employees asking what exactly counts as an essential business.Download Essential Business Letter Template What Counts as an Essential Business? On March 19, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA, overseen by the Department of Homeland Security) issued guidance on what business count as critical infrastructure. Some businesses are obviously essential—hospitals, pharmacies and law enforcement. The list is extensive—other essential businesses include stores selling supplies which allow people to...

Webinar: COVID-19 Summit- BROKER HAPPY HOUR: Your Clients’ Most Burning Questions - Answered - 4/23/20 @4pm ET

Webinar: COVID-19 Summit- BROKER HAPPY HOUR: Your Clients’ Most Burning Questions - Answered - 4/23/20 @4pm ET

Join a panel featuring Paycor experts and broker partners as they discuss the newest coronavirus legislation, what it means to businesses and what resources Paycor offers to stay on top of the changing regulations. They’ll also cover the most frequently asked questions brokers are hearing from clients and how to best address these topics. Bring a beverage of your choice, come ready with your own questions and join us.Speakers: Shaun Scott, Senior Vice President of Strategic Channels at Paycor and Scott McGohan who is the CEO of MCGOHAN BRABENDERThursday, April 23, 2020 4pm ET

Webinar: COVID-19 Summit - CUSTOMER EXCLUSIVE: 10 Paycor Product Features to Leverage - 4/23/20 @3pm ET

Webinar: COVID-19 Summit - CUSTOMER EXCLUSIVE: 10 Paycor Product Features to Leverage - 4/23/20 @3pm ET

Join Paycor’s Director of Product Marketing, Tim Ruge, for an inside look at a 10 product features available within Paycor’s HCM platform to help your organization during this crisis. Tim will walk through each of the features to help ensure your organization is aware of all the ways Paycor’s technology can support your business. Speaker: Tim Ruge Tim Ruge is Paycor’s Director of Product Marketing, focusing on the HR Center of Excellence and various compliance topics. Since joining Paycor in 2012, Tim has led their efforts in getting customer feedback and helping deliver product features and content that helps Paycor’s customers make a difference in their organization. Tim has led the planning, development and launching of Paycor’s...