Particularly during the pandemic where people would have been juggling many things at a time, the need to maintain a certain level of performance while being considerate to factors outside of an employee’s control is always important.
So this week, Mortgage Solutions is asking: How do you manage a team member whose performance has slipped?
It’s really important to us as a business that we create an environment where our staff are happy in their jobs, which we find results in fewer issues with productivity.
This starts right at the interview stage. Once we have the correct people in the door, a level of responsibility sits with the business to get that person to a competent level.
We will extend probation if there is a need – we would rather get the individual to the level they need to be and to a place where they feel confident. This can prevent the need for ‘performance management’ later down the line.
That being said, there are of course instances where performance slips.
Managers have weekly catch ups and formal one-to-ones with staff and we try and broach the subject as early as possible. There is usually an underlying reason and if we get in early enough, we can try and help resolve the issue.
Where an individual’s team has had periods of under-staffing due to sickness, service levels may have been impacted. General market changes or trends will be considered, as well as the overall performance of the company and other staff.
We take this into consideration before any personal performance conversations are had. It’s important that as a business we are setting targets which are stretching but also realistic.
Where performance levels have dropped, or attitude towards the role appears to have changed, that would be reason for a conversation. We can then discuss any underlying causes and support needed.
Initially, we will try and informally discuss an action plan and give them one or two months to show an improvement. If we don’t see improvements within this timescale we can move to a more formal plan, but we would rather avoid this.
If the underlying issue is one of a personal nature, we also offer our staff access to an employee assistance scheme or a wellbeing team.
Newer staff will be receiving a higher level of support and given lower targets for up to six months but expected to get up to the average levels within that time.
Annual targets can change depending on the industry and goals of the company, we assess the performance of the business and plan for the year ahead, which can alter targets.
I imagine that for larger firms, the biggest measure of performance is directly related to the financial side of business production. However, I do not use this to determine whether a colleague is under performing or not.
We have two mortgage advisers in the business, and myself specialising in equity release. One has been with me for three years, and the other only seven months, but they are both time-served, with many years of experience and honed skills. More importantly, they are both self-employed consultants, and so earn a proportion of the business they generate. This is a powerful self-motivator.
There is no ‘coasting’ with a fixed salary.
We do not have production targets, and I do not micro-manage either of them. My supervision is one of a light-touch approach. They know the standards we need to meet, and both aim to exceed them. If they want or need time off, they take it. I encourage them not to have holidays at the same time, but even a necessary clash is okay, as I can step in to cover the mortgage function for short periods.
This all means my measures of a change in performance are perhaps different to many.
One of my main focus points is whether they are meeting the professional, ethical and integrity standards for the business, which we have all signed up to. I can see this from file checks, and client feedback forms, and the lovely comments I receive from satisfied clients.
I carry out file checks over and above those done by our network, and would pick up advice and administration issues there.
Dealing with these would involve a coffee and a chat, and to try and understand what is driving the reduced performance.
I am very aware of the effects external matters can have on people, and Covid has been an obvious potential cause of stress and distractions. We meet as a team every week despite working from three remote sites, and discuss issues, problems and business obstacles and we try to eradicate them where possible.
Our only other team member is my wife, who handles the financial and admin sides of the business. I can tell you now, she is never on the receiving end of under-performance comments.
I cannot afford to have the withdrawal of labour in both the business and our home that would surely follow.
I think that everyone’s form fluctuates to some degree and that is to be expected.
First and foremost, I believe that the only way to truly compare adviser’s performance is to ensure that the appointments that they see, on paper at least, are placeable and ethical. What you put in is what you get out and quality over quantity is king.
I think that recruiting people with the right ethics and motivation is very important as you cannot instill that via training sessions, but sales targets are of relatively little use, our advisers do a great job for the clients that they see and that results in sales, you cannot look at it the other way around.
Allowances must always be made for people’s personal circumstances and as the last few years have shown, we never know what’s around the corner. Particularly during the first phase of the pandemic, we had some advisers that needed to shield, and it was our job to ensure that we used technology to make that possible.
As a company, we have advisers that have a huge amount of experience as well as some who are new to the industry. Whilst we support the experienced advisers, we effectively mentor newer colleagues to ensure that they have all the support required to be successful from day one.
There is no one size fits all, each person will require development in different areas and we very much tailor make the ongoing training to support our adviser’s individual needs.