• Mark Shaw

Overcoming HR’s biggest mistake


Jose has worked for the business for about four years and has been an average to above average employee until about six months ago. That’s when people noticed the following. His work quality dropped a little, he started taking more sickies, his engagement in meetings dropped off and people found they could not rely on him as they could in the past.

Over the past three months, his manager, Susan, has had three informal meetings with him about these issues and has walked away each time felling Jose did not listen. Nothing changed either.

The HR mistake

Susan therefore approaches Mavis, her HR Business Partner, for help and receives the reply “have you developed a Performance Improvement Plan?”

We know Jose’s problems are not about his ability to do the job because he has been performing well for his first three and a half years. Rather, review the list of Jose’s issues and you’ll see that it is his behaviour that has changed in the past six months.

A PIP involving multiple meetings over a three-month period is not needed to correct Jose’s behaviour. A different approach is needed.

While I accept Mavis is following the policy and applying the prescribed tool. My argument is this policy and the PIP tool is outdated and ineffective.

That’s HR’s biggest mistake; following a policy setting that was deemed outdated over 50 years ago. (Source:

The solution

I recommend you focus on the business problem caused by Jose’s behaviour. Then have a difficult conversation to resolve that problem. I call it Proactive Reengagement Program (PRP).

In this case let’s assume the problem can be defined as “When Jose does not fully engage as required, his colleagues have to pick up his workload”.

One correctly constructed difficult conversation can now result in an agreement where Jose acknowledges he understands the problem and agrees to correct his behaviour to stop the problem reoccurring.

Sure, Jose may resign. Or if he breaches the agreement, his employment may be terminated. Yet statistically, when PRPs are used, about 65% of people correct their behaviour, become re-engaged, and remain productive employees.

The outcomes

After applying this approach consistently for over 20 years, I have a 100% success rate of permanently resolving the problem and a 100% success rate of defending the management process and decision where an unfair dismissal claim is lodged.

Your challenge

Is my recommendation the only solution? Probably not.

Is my recommendation better than the status quo. Absolutely, the evidence is clear.

Is my recommendation better than alternatives? I am not sure, but if we focus on all solutions that are better than the status quo, surely the outcome for you must be better than the current policy and tools.

It’s up to you. Do you want to continue to use a 50-year-old approach or one that works

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