While progressive discipline is designed to address the problem of employees who break work rules, it is not very effective when dealing with an employee who doesn't violate any rules, but is incompetent or is not performing work to an acceptable level.
For example, you may have a worker who can't seem to get much done or who keeps making mistakes that cost you a lot of money. Your business's survival demands that you get rid of this person. What do you do?
Assuming that the person has been with you for a while and that any new-hire probation period has passed, you can resolve this problem by establishing periodic performance reviews.
Periodic performance reviews. The easiest way to do this is to take some time every six months or so to meet with each employee and evaluate his or her work. During the meeting you should go over your expectations for the job the employee holds, and discuss how he or she is meeting these goals. If the employee is not meeting expectations, you should make clear exactly what he or she needs to do to correct performance, and give a time limit for improvement. If the employee needs further instruction or job training, explain how this can be achieved. Finally, write a memo for the employee's file describing your conversation, and have him or her sign and date it.
Hopefully, with this kind of feedback, your employee will be motivated to shape up. If sufficient improvement does not occur after a few negative reviews, at least you'll have proof that you tried to be fair. Only you can decide how many chances to improve you'll allow before dismissing the person, but you should consider factors such as the employee's length of service, whether good reviews were given in the past, and the seriousness of the employee's mistakes.
You should be aware that performance reviews can be a two-edged sword. A fired worker can use good appraisals as proof that he or she was not fired for incompetence, but for some reason such as racial, age, or gender discrimination. One of the worst positions you can be in is to fire an employee for poor performance, but have five years of appraisals that rate the employee as a good worker.