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Q&A: Ensure staff performance measures up

Peter Done

Q: I want to introduce a performance measurement system for my staff and I have heard key performance indicators are the best way forward. What HR laws do you need to be aware of if you are planning to introduce KPIs?

A: Introducing anything new to the measurement of performance in the workplace could create some employee relations issues as it can be interpreted that you think they do not do enough – which is not always the case. Incorporating any new contractual provisions will require the staff’s agreement, including contractual key performance indicators, otherwise they may try to argue that their terms and conditions have been changed.

If staff have not been measured in this way before, there may be some resistance to the introduction of new targets. However, if you introduce them in the right way you are more likely to achieve buy-in from your staff.

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You should talk to your staff and tell them what you are planning, why you are doing it and the benefits it will provide. You could make this initial contact with your staff in writing, by letter or email, however it is sometimes more advisable to add the personal touch to communications like this and introduce the new targets verbally.

While targets are generally implemented to keep productivity high, you need to make sure the targets are reasonable and are reasonably achievable, otherwise they may turn out to have the opposite effect to what was intended. This is a very significant part in achieving acceptance of the KPIs because you must be able to show you have thought through the process and reached a logical and attainable target.

On a separate note, you need to consider how you will deal with those who do not meet the required standard. If you choose to take action, you should first investigate why the individual has not performed well. If standards are lacking because of an individual’s disability, then reasonable adjustments may be required to the KPI set to ensure they are not being treated less favourably because of their disability.

Also, if absenteeism leads to unsatisfactory performance in relation to KPIs, you would first need to look at the reasons for the absence because treating all absences the same might lead to difficulties. Again, absence because of the employee’s disability may need to be considered in this way, as would absence because of the disability of an employee’s child, as discrimination legislation now covers discrimination by association. This means that employees can claim that they have been treated less favourably because they are associated with someone who has a disability.

While KPIs are great for business performance, advice should always be taken where circumstances arise where you wish to take action for failure to meet them.

Peter Done is managing director of law firm Peninsula