In supply chain, you have an environment that’s focused on results. So if any of your employees are not performing up to standards, or are missing targets, it’s critical to correct the problem quickly.

It can be difficult to talk to your employees about performance issues, especially if you consider them friends, are concerned about upsetting someone, or prefer to avoid bad-news conversations.

So how can you facilitate effective performance discussions?

The first thing you need to decide is how you’re going to open the conversation. Think about the specific words you’re going to use, and evaluate them carefully.

Why? Because if you’re not careful, you can sound dismissive, insulting or disrespectful. This will create two separate agendas — yours and the employee’s. Your agenda is to refocus the employee on productive behavior, but the employee will want to recover his or her sense of self-worth. If they get defensive and start to rationalize and make excuses for their lack of performance, or feel they have to focus on all the good things they’ve accomplished, the conversation will turn away from discussing performance weaknesses.

To keep performance reviews focused and productive, use these principles:

  • Get into the right state of mind.  If you are upset or angry and you want to blame somebody, your attitude won’t produce the long-term results you want. Sure, you might feel better after venting, but is that the point? If you find yourself in a bad state of mind, take a short cooling-off period and delay the discussion temporarily. You need to focus on your desired outcome — improved employee performance.
  • Respect the employee, but address the performance issue. The first words in the meeting need to introduce the performance issue, not attack the person. Managers violate this principle every day during performance discussions by using comments like, “I am very disappointed in your performance!” or “You’ve got to get your act together!” Instead, ask yourself what the person is doing or not doing and let that be the focus of your opening remarks. Try something like, “Your deliveries are off by 32 percent for the first half of the month,” or “Your inventory checklist has not been completed seven times in the last month.” These statements are direct and specific and focus on the issue and not the person.
  • Take an “ask” approach, not a “tell” approach. Throughout the review, take an “ask-listen” approach by asking a question that will uncover what is behind the performance issue. For example, “Tell me, what’s happening?” This approach will help you set the right climate for a problem-solving discussion to occur.
  • Work with your employee to figure out a plan to be sure the problem will not happen again. Ask “What are your ideas for turning this around?” If the employee can’t offer any, that’s your cue to do so.

Handling issues correctly can increase the retention among your top employees, as well as build loyalty if you treat people with respect.

If you feel your employees are not working productively, you can also talk to the experts at ZDA Supply Chain Recruiting. We’d be happy to use our years of expertise to consult with you about whether you have the right people in the right roles.