The New Disciplinary Process


It’s time for a new kinder disciplinary process that champions employee growth. This is similar to a standard three or four-step progressive disciplinary processOpens in a new tab. but relies on performance evaluation, support, and training. Additionally, the new process is stretched over a long period of time to promote growth.

The new disciplinary process is called a Performance Improvement Process. First, simple performance evaluations must be done regularly; monthly or quarterly. Second, there must always be a one-on-one meeting between the employee and supervisor after each evaluation. Third, support must be given to the employee to address issues. Finally, ongoing training must be offered to the employee to promote career growth.

For the rest of this article, I will explain and expand on each of the steps above to help you better understand and implement your new disciplinary process.

Performance Improvement Process

Changing to a new disciplinary process can be hard for management and employees. First, employees will not trust the changes for some time so stick with it. Second, management will have a hard time implementing the new changes so have them be part of the development of your program. Thirdly, management will see this as additional work, not a process designed to reduce work.

Conducted by Supervisors and Managers Not HR

The new performance improvement process must be conducted by supervisors and managers. Therefore, you must have management buy-in so do everything you can to make them see that the process is theirs and will help reduce their workload in the future. Supervisors and managers are closer to the work and the employees that do that work. Subsequently, this puts supervisors and managers in a better position to implement the new process than the human resources department.

The HR department will create the performance tools, track all results, train supervisors and managers, and will support all employees through the process. However, the supervisors and managers know the work so they will know how to better rate each employee on their performance. In short, if left to HR to implement and rate employee performance the results will not be accurate because HR advisors do not do the work being rated. 

New Organization Culture

Implementing this new performance improvement process will change your organizational culture. In other words, expect change and pushback. To clarify, most changes in time will prove to be good changes. However, there will be pushback from unexpected places when you start.

Projections for Ramping Up and Corrections

Expect longer time frames for ramping up work and performance levels for new employees. In addition, performance corrections for current employees will be longer. For example, in a traditional 3-Step disciplinary process an employee could have their employment terminated in a few days. However, with the new performance improvement process, it could be a few months. In other words, employees are now given more time to learn and improve performance with proper feedback. 

New Termination Timeline

Following this new performance improvement process will extend the termination process as mentioned above. That is to say, if an employee does not show improvement at a performance evaluation three times then termination may be an option. To clarify, this gives your performance evaluations more power and meaning. Most importantly, your supervisors and managers will see the performance evaluation process as a helpful monthly tool, not a yearly annoyance.

Trust and Loyalty in a New Disciplinary Process

Massive trust and loyalty will be created amongst employees after you have begun implementing this new performance improvement process. That is to say, employees that are given proper help and time to learn will be grateful. For instance, employees can get stressed if they fear the disciplinary process but if they know that if they make mistakes help will be provided through the new performance improvement process they will have less stress. Certainly, you can agree that helping employees to succeed is better than causing stress when it comes to building loyalty to your organization.

Performance Evaluations

The foundation for this new performance improvement process is performance evaluations. Therefore, managers and employees should not dread performance evaluations but see them as great tools that will help. In short, a good performance evaluation should be simple, monthly, and tracked.

Simple Evaluations

Traditional performance evaluations are long and can take weeks for supervisors and managers to complete. Therefore, your new performance evaluation needs to be simple and short. First, make it three to five questions long and your questions should be the top employee qualities you want to track. Second, make the questions answer a rating from 0-3.

  • Zero being poor and in vital need of additional help or training. If not improved in a couple of evaluations then termination may be considered.
  • One being needs improvement so additional help or training should be given. If not improved in a few evaluations then termination may be considered.
  • Two being good and most employees should be here. No help or training is needed in this case.
  • Three being excellent and only your very best will score this. You should not give out threes very often and only when an employee has gone above and beyond. This person may be considered for advancement opportunities.

These will be added up to get an overall rating or percentage for this evaluation. 

At the bottom have a small space of only a line or two for the supervisor’s comments. The idea is that supervisors can complete each evaluation in only a couple of minutes. After that, hand the evaluations to HR.

Monthly Evaluations

Again, if we look at traditional performance evaluations we only do them once or twice a year. This is far too long a period to get an accurate evaluation of an employee’s performance. So, since our brains are wired to forget the ups and downs and only remember a few extremes and the final emotion longer periods can be inaccurate.

For instance, if last week you made a major mistake your supervisor will remember that more than the eleven months prior that you increased sales by 10% each month. In other words, you now have a bad or okay evaluation for the year. But, when split up monthly you would have had eleven excellent evaluations and only one bad evaluation giving you an overall good to great evaluation for the year.

Tracked Evaluations

The rating or percentage given for each monthly evaluation will be tracked by HR. As a result, an ongoing rating can be given to each employee. So, HR can then use this data to track the organization as a whole and create or arrange support or training as needed. Subsequently, HR can give a notice to supervisors when an employee is trending down or up so help can be provided if not readily identified.

To learn more about performance evaluations read my other article here.

Evaluation Meetings

A step that many owners and managers forget is the meeting with the employee. If you are tracking performance but not informing the employee this is bad for you.

Open and honest Meetings

The evaluation meeting needs to be open and honest. Therefore, Inform the employee before the meeting that they are allowed to bring a trusted friend (or union rep) if they so choose. So, as you have more of these meetings it will become routine and the employee’s trust will increase so they may feel comfortable not bringing a friend eventually. That is to say, employees will begin to understand these meetings are about helping them and not reprimanding them. In addition, you may also want to bring your HR Advisor to this meeting to support you and guide the conversation.

Inform the Employee

As you review the current performance evaluation during this meeting, you need to directly inform the employee of any issues that need to be corrected. Sadly, many owners or managers don’t inform employees of issues. For example, issues are tracked but managers don’t want to have a confrontation opting to just cite all the issues when they decided to terminate employment. Certainly, you can agree that this is the wrong way to justify a termination because you have not informed the employee they could have a wrongful termination case against you.

Review Previous Evaluation

Now, you need to quickly review the employee’s previous evaluations. First, make sure you note all improvements giving the employee some encouragement and congratulations. Second, review the employee’s last development action plan checking off all completed tasks. Finally, move on to creating the new development action plan.

Employee Helps Create Plan

It is vital that the employee helps to create the new development action plan. Moving forward, this will give the employee a sense of directing their own career development. For example, employees may get items on the development action plan completed better, faster, or at all if they helped create the list.

Support Your Employees

Now, you can work with the employee to complete the development action plan that was created.  Consequently, this is the most important step or stage of the process.

Non-training Employee Support

Some support you give may not be directly related to skills and completion of job tasks. Sometimes, support is allowing an employee’s shift to start 15 minutes later and end 15 minutes later so they have time for child care drop-off.

Discovery of Employee Needs

Meanwhile, you may have to discover what support an employee really needs. That is to say, people are prideful and don’t feel comfortable disclosing an issue they need support with.

Connection to Employees

As you continue your support as an ongoing process in your organization, employees will begin to trust it. Consequently, you will build a stronger connection with employees allowing this whole process to go easier.

Taking Continued Action

Actions are taken by both you and the employee during this process. So, it is very important that you complete your assigned actions even if it is just checking on the employee as they complete their actions. On the other hand, it’s important to be very understanding if a task is not completed the first time. Subsequently, if the same action is not completed by the employee over two or three evaluations then this is when lower evaluation scores are needed and termination may be considered after informing the employee.

Relationship is Changed

Employers and employees tend to have only one relationship. That is to say, traditionally employees work and employers pay them so this is the basis of the relationship. So, this relationship is not that close and can be one of animosity, resentment, or rivalry. On the other hand, employers can alter, augment, or strengthen this relationship by giving ongoing and proper support as a mentor. Certainly, a mentor and mentee relationship is a closer form of relationship thus creating an overall better work environment. Ultimately, changing to this new disciplinary process can be very positive.

Training For Your Employees

An employee that has gotten good training will stay with an organization longer even though they may be trained well enough to leave the organization. That is to say, organizations can not be scared to train employees well for fear they may leave the organization.

Standard Career Progression

A great place to start is by creating a standard career progression chart for your organization.  As a result, this may help current employees to see what advancement and learning options there are for their career advancement. In addition, this is something that can be used during the hiring process as a selling tool to get better new employees.

An example of this in a sales department is:

  1. Entry Level – Marketing Assistant (Content Posting)
  2. Low Level – Marketing Associate (Content Creation & Junior Team Lead for Marketing)
  3. Low-Mid Level – Inbound Sales (Warm Lead Qualification)
  4. Mid Level – Outbound Sales (Cold Lead Sourcing and Qualification)
  5. Mid-High Level – Account Executive (Sales & Team Lead for Sales)
  6. High Level – Account Management (Customer Success, Ongoing Sales, & Manager of Sales Department)

A rule of thumb would be to put a minimum time needed at each level before advancement based on performance, training completed, and organizational needs will be considered. Consider, one to two years at each level to learn the job properly. Likewise, create a pay grid for each level so you can better budget and help with employee expectations.

This sales team example is related to the team set out by Aaron Ross & Marylou Tyler in their book Predictable RevenueOpens in a new tab. which can be found on Amazon.

All Career Progression Levels Have Unique Training

Develop or assign training for each level that must be completed before anyone can advance. These will be used by you when working with the employee to create the development action plan.

Task-Based Training

Some training will be general, overall, or soft skills at each level but you will also have the hard skill or task-based training for each level. These hard skills will also be used by you when working with the employee to create the development action plan.

Organization Based Training

This is high-level training that explains the organization’s overall goals. Therefore, employees will learn what their part is in the overall goals are at each career level. Naturally, these will also be used when creating the development action plan.

Supervisor and Leadership training

Developing supervisors and leaders will ensure the long-term growth of your organization. As your organization grows it’s these people that will create a happy work environment for all employees. Make sure you have some sort of supervisor or leadership training as part of each level and as part of creating the development action plan.

In our sales department example above there are three places that an employee can take on a leadership role. First, at level 2 they can become a Junior Team Lead of Marketing. Second, at level 5 they can become a Team Lead for Sales. Finally, at level 6 they can become the Manager of the Sales Department. At these levels, the employee may stay longer to gain supervisor and manager experience. Before taking on these side roles the employees would have to take the next level of supervisor and leadership training.

Note: It should not be an option to progress a career from Junior Team Lead to Team Lead of Sales to Manager without doing all the regular positions. These side leadership roles are dependent on knowing and mastering all the levels below. The last thing you want is a supervisor or manager that does not know how to do the work.

Support For Process Creation

Creating new processes can be confusing and take a lot of time. Consider the use of a process creation tool like Process StreetOpens in a new tab.. Process Street can help you with your checklists and workflows in all areas so you know your team can get the processes done right every time.

Moving Forward With The New Disciplinary Process

As you can see the new disciplinary process in the form of the performance improvement process is no longer critical of issues but geared to improve issues. In other words, management works to help employees as a true team, not as enemies working against each other.

If you are truly working on this new performance improvement process you will begin to see who is a hard worker when given proper support and who isn’t. If you do not see improvement from an employee in any one area of the monthly evaluation for three consecutive months then you will consider termination. In conclusion, this process helps you give proper support to an employee and helps protect you if you have to terminate someone’s employment.

For related reading try my other blog post called How to Fire Someone Properly.

Finally, for a high-level view of HR try my post What is the Role of HR?

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Ian Hopfe

Ian Hopfe is the owner of LBH Business Services Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Ian is an Indigenous Human Resources Consultant. He has over ten years experience in HR and over fifteen years experience in management. All blog articles on this website are written by Ian unless a guest writer is indicated on the post.

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