How to manage performance

Managing the performance of your staff is something you'll do every day, often without thinking about it. It doesn't need to be an activity over and above normal management practices.

The following pages will explain how performance is managed through well known mechanisms and processes such as induction, probation and SRDS that most of us already use and engage with.

Designing your job

Although you won't have anyone in post, managing performance starts at the point of you designing your job. Doing this well gives applicants a clear understanding of the job and the skills needed to do it, and you a solid base from which to manage once you have recruited.

To design a role effectively you need to identify:

  • what the job is there to achieve;
  • how it will fit into your team;
  • who are the key parties it will interact with.

This will give you a clear understanding of:

  • how you want the job to work and what you expect it to deliver;
  • how this helps to achieve the overall objectives of your team and your School/Service;
  • who else the member of staff will need to work with to achieve these objectives;
  • what responsibility the member of staff will have for making decisions and identifying solutions to issues;
  • where the overall responsibility for key outcomes lies;
  • what the key knowledge, skills and experience are to be successful in the job.

When you've done this you'll have the information you need to write a job description and person specification. Getting this right means you'll:

  • attract the right people and can select the person who has the skills needed to be successful;
  • have a clear and defined set of expectations and a shared understanding of these;
  • have a clear record of the job requirements which can be used as a baseline for a development plan for your member of staff.

Please remember that designing your job and writing an effective job description and person specification are only the first stage of recruitment. Making sure you plan an effective recruitment campaign, or process, is also crucial in getting the right person for your role.

Further guidance on an effective recruitment and selection procedure can be found in our recruitment guidance.

Advice and support can also be sought from your local HR Manager/Officer.

Managing induction

Effective recruitment and selection should help you to find an excellent candidate with the key skills and experience to be successful in the role. An effective induction can help them to perform at their best from the start by integrating them into our organisation.

An effective induction allows you to:

  • maintain their positive view of the University developed through your recruitment process;
  • introduce them to key people within and beyond the team who they will need to work with;
  • take them through key processes and important information they will need to understand to be able to do their job well;
  • set clear expectations about the values and standards of the University (e.g University values, mission and strategy, Leadership Excellence Behaviours Framework, Partnership Agreement etc);
  • set clear expectations as a Faculty/School/Service (e.g. local strategy and objectives, local processes such as absence reporting);
  • make sure they are aware of legal and compliance requirements (e.g. Health and Safety, IT misuse, any local issues etc);
  • cover any useful information about how the team work together.

Making a new member of staff feel welcome and supported can avoid them becoming demotivated. Ensuring there is a shared understanding of standards and expectations provides the foundation for them to perform well in the role.

Further support on induction can be found on the Wellbeing, Safety and Health website.

Advice and support can also be sought from your local HR Manager/Officer.

Managing probation

You should discuss and agree a probation plan shortly after your member of staff has started in the role. This will set out clear objectives for the probation period and also allow you to pick up on any development needs noted at the recruitment stage or during the time they have been in the role.

An effective probation period will help your member of staff to perform well in the role. It is also a means of assessing their competence to do the job to which they have been appointed. Trial periods for redeployees should also be managed in a similar way.

Planning probation

Probation should be job specific, focus on deliverables, skills, attitudes and behaviours and include a mechanism to make sure all of these are appropriately measured and evaluated.

You can do this by setting objectives to monitor and evaluate against. These will need to be clear, concise, understood by both parties and include a mechanism and timescale to review. Further information on setting objectives can be found on the Organisational Development and Professional Learning (OD&PL) (formerly SDDU) website.

Being clear at induction about standards and expectations can also help to provide a benchmark for attitudes and behaviours.

As part of probation you should agree a personal development plan (PDP) with the member of staff that will help them to perform well in the role. This can draw on any development needs identified during recruitment as well as any support required to help them meet the agreed objectives.

Managing probation

Meeting regularly during the probation period will give you the opportunity to provide feedback, recognise what has been achieved and address any issues that may have arisen. It will also allow the member of staff to discuss how they have found the role and any issues they have experienced.

If you have any concerns about performance within the role these should be raised with the member of staff as soon as possible. You can explore the underlying cause and take appropriate action to help the member of staff to improve their performance. For example, you may need to identify appropriate training or re-clarify expectations to ensure there is a common understanding.

Reviewing probation

If there are no problems and the member of staff has achieved the agreed objectives you can simply confirm that they have successfully completed their probation period (probation for University Research Fellowships is slightly different). You may want to do this before the end of the planned period where an excellent performer has demonstrated their competence and achieved agreed objectives ahead of schedule.

Once probation is complete you can continue to manage a member of staff's performance through other processes, including SRDS.

If a member of staff is not performing as required and has not met the agreed objectives, you may have the option of terminating their contract providing you have set, monitored and evaluated objectives and provided appropriate support.

More details on the probation process can be found in the procedures.

Advice and support can also be sought from your local HR Manager/Officer.

Managing SRDS

The Staff Review & Development Scheme (SRDS) provides an opportunity to look back at the contribution that has been made by the individual (the reviewee) and to plan ahead for the coming twelve months. It is a process for assessing performance against objectives, as well as looking at the support and guidance required to progress within their job role.

You can view the SRDS policy and associated documents here.

Organising the review

SRDS meeting should be organised well in advance to allow adequate reflection and effective preparation time for both the reviewer and reviewee. An appropriate space to meet should be booked, free from distractions and with enough time to allow a quality discussion.

Prior to the meeting, you should make sure the reviewee has completed and returned sections 1 & 2 of the Staff Review Form at least a week before the date of the agreed meeting. 

The reviewee may also wish to ask for feedback from people who they work with using the Staff Feedback Request Form.  This may be sent directly to you and not to the reviewee to preserve confidentiality. 

Looking back

The meeting should begin with a discussion about the reviewee's performance in the previous review period. Areas of discussion should include:

  • achievement against agreed objectives;
  • completion and review of their development plan;
  • feedback (as requested by the reviewee) and also feedback regarding what has gone well and not so well.

Any formal feedback given during the SRDS session should be planned, specific and focus on the situation or issue, not the individual. A guide to 'SRDS Do's and Don't' can be found on the Organisational Development and Professional Learning (OD&PL) (formerly SDDU) website.

Planning ahead

The next part of the meeting is about looking forward, setting objectives and agreeing any necessary training and support, as well as discussing the reviewee's career aspirations.

It is very important when discussing objectives that you make sure the reviewee understands how they are directly contributing to the team and Faculty/School/Service objectives and ultimately how they support the University strategy. 

Objectives should be based on the reviewee's job description and be SMART:

Specific - objectives should state a desired outcome or what needs to be achieved.

Measurable - how will you and the reviewee know when an objective has been achieved? 

Achievable - is the objective something that is achievable but also challenging?

Relevant - does the objective relate to those of the team/department/University?

Timebound - when does the objective need to be completed?

An online resource is also available from the OD&PL website to assist you in writing appropriate objectives: 

Development Plans

Personal Development Plans (PDP’s) provide an ideal way of recording agreed areas to develop and actions to support this development. They can also be used to monitor progress and to discuss whether the development has achieved what it was planned to achieve. It is important to be clear who will be responsible for ensuring that agreed actions are put into practice in line with agreed timescales.

Both you and the reviewee may find it useful to read the Writing Objectives for Staff Review and Development Guide to assist with identifying development needs.

Completing the review

A clear set of objectives and a personal development plan should be agreed and shared in a timely manner after the SRDS meeting. Although you can review this as often as necessary, the process requires that you do this after six months.

For individuals who have just completed their probation, information from the final review meeting should feed into the planning stage of their SRDS review. 

Feedback and comments

We welcome any comments or feedback you may have on the SRDS process.

Advice and support can also be sought from your local HR Manager/Officer.

Regular discussions

Having regular meetings with your member of staff gives you the chance to talk about progress and give feedback and support. They are also a good way for you to review and update objectives and development plans to reflect any changes, and to make sure that expectations continue to be clear and understood.

Having regular reviews will give you the chance to:

  • have two way updates on day to day work activities;
  • offer help and guidance on how to progress any issues;
  • recognise achievements and raise any emerging issues in good time.

Holding regular meetings is primarily about catching up and giving you both the opportunity to discuss work. They also help you to manage performance as you will know what’s going on. Simply catching up on progress, finding out how things are going, recognising achievements and discussing any emerging issues at these meetings should help ensure that you never find yourself in a position where there are performance problems or issues you were unaware of.

These meetings do not have to be lengthy or formal and how they operate should reflect what you and your member of staff want them to achieve. Similarly, how often you agree to meet with your member of staff is up to you. You will know them best and you can both agree what is needed.

Remember to keep brief notes of any agreed actions for future meetings and to make sure these are followed up.

Advice and support can also be sought from your local HR Manager/Officer.

Developing your staff

There are many ways for you to provide support and development but which of these are best in any particular situation may depend on factors such as:

  • the development needed i.e. the gaps between their current level of skills, knowledge and behaviours and those required to achieve their objectives;
  • other factors such as their preferred learning style;
  • the needs of the Faculty/School/Service.

Below you will find some examples of the kinds of activities that could be used to help your member of staff in their learning and development. These are not exhaustive but should give you an idea of the broad range of options you may have.

On the job

  • Involvement in projects/tasks
  • On the job training
  • Coaching from manager/team members
  • Team meetings and briefings
  • Involvement in meetings
  • Networks/groups
  • Observing others
  • Problem solving with colleagues
  • Secondments
  • Work shadowing
  • Job rotation

Off the job

  • Internal/external training courses
  • Study for qualifications
  • Attendance at conferences
  • Mentoring
  • Action learning
  • Team building activities
  • Involvement in professional associations
  • Reading/journals
  • Online learning resources
  • Webcasts/Podcasts

Where you decide a formal training course is the most appropriate way forward, further details of courses run through OD&PL (formerly SDDU), IT and the LOGIK Centre can be found on their web sites. OD&PL also provides on-line learning resources and suggested reading around some key topics.

Advice and support can also be sought from your local HR Manager/Officer.