For any small or medium sized business owner there will come a time to have a conversation with your employees.  While some conversations are easy and straight forward, sometimes those conversations are around an issue you are having with that employee.  So that could be if your employee is now turning up late for work, not meeting deadlines, or not even showing up for work at all.

Those are the conversations with your employee that are, and always will be a little harder to have.  However, these ones are the most crucial you will ever have with your employees.  It also needs to be noted that any conversation you have with your employees that is related to their job performance must be documented & put into their file.

The documentation is what is used if the situation gets to a point where lawyers or arbitrators get involved.  With no documentation then it turns into a “he said, she said” situation.  More importantly, you the business owner must do your due diligence in ensuring your employees are following the procedures of your business, and if not, then you need to document that.

Two important points need to be made about having these crucial conversations with your employees.  The first is that, as a small or medium sized business, you absolutely must have company policies and procedures in place.  If you do not have any, then how are your employees supposed to know what your expectations are?  These company policies and procedures need to be written down-a verbal agreement of just “telling” them will not be enough.

The 2nd important point is that when an employee is not following your company’s policies and procedures, you must document it, and put it into their file.  The documentation can be a hand-written note that has the date you spoke with them, what you talked about and what the follow up will be and the date of the follow up.  And yes follow up is required, especially when it involves an employee’s performance.

Emails or text messages are considered to be documentation, as well any conversation you have with your employee, be it a verbal one on one, or the old-fashioned telephone call.  All of this must be documented and put into the employee file.

The reason why you must have these conversations with your employees is that if there is no communication between you and your employee how will you know if there’s a problem that needs to be fixed? You, the business owner, will not know unless you ask.  It is your responsibility to have open dialogue with your employees.

We had a client last year, in a situation with one of her employees, where out of the blue the employee started having performance issues.  The employee was making mistakes in their work that wouldn’t be typical of an employee being in the role for almost 2 years-they were mistakes that a new employee just learning the job would make.  Up until that point she never had any issues with this employee and was thinking of ending the employment relationship based on what was starting to happen.

Our first question was if she had any conversations with her about the performance issues?  My client said no, so MKS HR Consulting advised that her first step was to have a conversation with this employee to see what was causing the mistakes to happen.

We coached her by getting her to tell the employee some of the mistakes she had made and ask her what the reason was.   We also told her to the tell the employee that in order to help her, she needs to know what’s going on, otherwise my client wouldn’t be able to help her.  The first conversation, the employee did not come out with what was going on, so we encouraged the client to keep following up and to keep documenting the same mistakes and any new mistakes.

She did this and finally after a couple more meetings she discovered that working for our client was not a job she enjoyed or saw herself doing long term.  The employee said that she was hesitant to tell our client this at first because she thought she would be upset with her.  This was the farthest from the truth and once our client and the employee had an open and honest conversation with each other, it was discovered that this employee wanted to look for work elsewhere.  Our client said she would help in any way she could, like allowing her to take any time off if she had to go for interviews.

So, by having this crucial conversation with the employee, our client was able to see why the employee was doing the behaviours she was doing, and work with her to solve the problem-and of course she documented all of this and had the proper procedures in place, so she knew what to do.

Wondering where to start a difficult conversation with your employee?  Click here to download your guide of where to start, and some forms that will allow you to document the conversations.

Are you a small or medium sized business owner that does not have company policies or procedures, or wants to ensure you have the right ones?  Click here to book a free consultation with MKS HR.