Professional services firm leaders are often inclined to immediately use discipline or use corrective action to address an ongoing performance issue. However, that would be like medicating based on symptoms, without getting to the root cause of the illness. Instead, slowing down and thoroughly evaluating the situation can shed light on possible solutions that are likely more beneficial to the employee and for the firm as a whole.
When to Use a Skills Improvement Plan
Behavioral concerns and non-compliance issues can usually be directly impacted by progressive discipline. On the contrary, skill deficiencies or job performance concerns are usually best addressed with skills improvement plans and that includes more than just the technical skills required to perform the functions of the position. They can also incorporate the other skills essential and critical to the overall scope of the job.
For example, a manager may be a high performer based on their knowledge level and ability to perform the job duties. Yet, they may struggle in the areas of interpersonal communication or may not have had prior management experience and may need to work on developing their leadership skills. Which are areas not related to behavioral or compliance concerns.
Therefore, these skills would be best addressed with coaching, guidance, and setting clear goals and expectations. Coaching can include suggested training, an outlined strategy for change, developed by both the manager and their director, as well as mediation between the manager and their reports. If there is a desire to thrive in the position the manager should be open to the plan laid out to help them improve. Usually, employees do accept and appreciate the assistance if they feel that the plan being presented is sincere and demonstrates that the company wants them to be successful.
When to Use a Corrective Action Plan
Sometimes firms have an employee that excels in their position but is also an employee that is consistently late to their shift, breaking company policy, or their behavior is causing disruption to the team or clients. In this case, a more targeted and direct approach needs to be applied for more immediate results. Cases like these are when corrective action needs to be taken using a progressive discipline plan. This technique provides the employee an opportunity to make improvements or adjustments while allowing the employer to implement corrective actions if there is no improvement.
Corrective actions can vary in severity and can include a verbal warning or a written warning as lighter punishments. Whereas suspending an employee or terminating them can be more severe. Furthermore, corrective action primarily addresses critical problems, recurring issues, and/or problems that endanger health or safety of others.
Employees are Investments
Remember that with both a skills improvement plan and a corrective action plan, the primary goal should be to identify the cause of the change and a solution that leads to positive results. Additionally, firm leaders and managers need to consider that an employee may have greatness in them and are an asset to the firm, but are apprehensive to reveal it for fear that it will set higher expectations of them that they aren’t confident they can achieve. These processes will reveal that and encourage them to embrace it and display it.