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					                                LANCASTER UNIVERSITY

                              Capability Policy and Procedure

                                   Management Guidelines


These guidelines are intended to help implement the above policy and procedure in a fair and
consistent way. The guidelines are applicable to all University staff and the principles and
approaches outlined are relevant to minor or more serious cases instances of capability.

In following these guidelines managers will be helped to exercise their duty of care towards
member of staffs in a positive and structured way and at the same time avoid practices that
might give rise to legal challenge. Issues of capability can be difficult and complex to handle
and it is recommended that you consult Human Resources before taking action.

In all cases of capability the initial approach should be timely and appropriate.

Contents                                                                            Page

1. Important Points to Bear in Mind when Handling Capability Issues                 2

2. Capability Process Diagram (informal stage)                                      3

3. Notes on the Capability Process Diagram                                          4

4. Giving Feedback                                                                  6

5. Conducting a Feedback Meeting                                                    6

6. Examples of Performance Issues and Possible Responses                            8
1 Important Points to Bear in Mind when Handling Capability Issues

   Performance issues are best addressed as early as possible.

   The University has a duty of care to other members of staff affected by poor performance.

   A judgement needs to be made about whether a problem is one of capability or a
    disciplinary matter. Simply put, the difference between someone who wants to do the job
    but for some reason cannot (capability) and someone who can do the job but chooses not
    to (disciplinary). This can sometimes be very difficult to make in practice and it is
    advisable to treat all ambiguous cases as ones of capability in the first instance.

   Most cases can be dealt with informally by giving feedback and support.

   An informal approach should aim to provide a positive framework for both sides to
    explore and address the problems.

   Wherever possible, underlying causes of poor performance need to be identified in a
    sensitive and open-minded way.

   There is often more than one underlying cause.

   Performance problems may reflect work issues or management practices that are the
    responsibility of University managers.

   They may be symptomatic of personal or health difficulties

   If an individual accepts responsibility for their contribution to a performance problem and
    is willing to address the situation positively, the University will support him or her in
    whatever way it reasonably can.

   Addressing a capability issue is unlikely to be a one off act and support may be needed
    over a period of time.

   Normally, entry into the formal capability procedure should normally only take place
    after an informal approach has been attempted.

   It is advisable to discuss all capability cases with Human Resources before taking action.
    This is particularly important before taking a decision to invoke the formal procedure.

2. Informal Capability Process Diagram (See the accompanying notes)

                        i. Establish the nature of the performance gap

                               ii. Meet with the member of staff

                                           Is further
                                             action                   To be
                          No               required?                reviewed


                                 iii. Agree a written action plan

                   iv. Review progress and take further action as necessary

                                           Has the
End                                        problem
                    Yes                      been


                                           progress                  Yes
                                         been made?


               v. Consider entry into the formal procedure (to be discussed
                                      with Human Resources)

3. Notes on the Capability Process Diagram


    The diagram applies to all capability or performance problems. However individual
    cases will need to be handled on their merit, with judgements about where and how to
    enter the process made. For example, an initial meeting with a colleague could simply
    take the form of a quiet word, with subsequent meetings held in a more structured way if
    this does not work.

    This section should be read in conjunction with the University’s Capability Procedure.

 i. Establish the nature of the performance gap

    Gather evidence of under performance, for example:

        Failure to meet standards of performance as communicated in the job description
         or other documents
        Failure to meet timetables for the completion of work
        Delivery of work that differs from what had been specified
        Lower output than other colleagues carrying out comparable work, or who work at
         a comparable level
        Higher error rates than other colleagues carrying out comparable work, or who
         work at a similar level.

    Investigate the background:

        Are there any obvious explanations related to the work environment (e.g. changes
         in work practices, new equipment, new expectations, higher levels of demand)?
        Is anything known about the individual that may help to explain the performance

 ii. Meet with the member of staff.

    Approach the discussion openly.

          Give feedback on the person’s performance (see section 4 for guidance)
          Gain agreement that a performance problem exists
          Jointly explore the reasons for it (see section 6 for examples)
          Agree who is responsible for addressing them
          Keep a record that the meeting has taken place

    Bear in mind questions such as:

          Does the person understand the expectations placed on him/her?
          Are the expectations reasonable?
          Is sufficient managerial guidance or support being made available?
          Is there a resource issue?
          Has appropriate training been given?
          Are there underlying personal or health problems?

    It needs to be remembered that a range of University policies and resources exist to
    support members of staff including the:

         Drugs and Alcohol Policy
         Sickness Absence Policy
         Staff Development Policy
         Premature Retirement/Voluntary Severance Scheme
         Counselling service
         Careers Service.

   Some problems may not be easily resolvable, if at all. However it is reasonable to expect
   that the individual takes whatever steps he or she reasonably can to manage their
   circumstances and to minimise the impact on their work.

   If the capability problems are wholly or partly related to long-term health issues, Human
   Resources should be consulted about the University’s potential responsibilities under the
   Equality Act.

iii. Agree a written action plan

   If the problems are sufficiently serious or persistent, a performance improvement plan
   may be required in line with capability procedure.

iv. Review progress and take further action as necessary

   Regular review and follow-up action is essential. Review outcomes should be
   documented and shared with the member of staff.

v. Consider entry into the formal procedure

   Discuss the case with Human Resources before taking any further action.

4. Giving Feedback


    Feedback in this context is aimed at giving a member of staff information about how
    well they are judged to be performing in their role. It is the first step in engaging with
    capability issues and therefore needs to be handled carefully.

Guidelines on giving feedback

    Performance feedback is intended to help a member of staff to improve their work
    performance. It is not a judgement on an individual, their personality or their underlying
    motivations. To that end feedback needs to:

        be honest, open and factual.

        based on evidence of actual events, results or observed behaviours

        be clear, direct and specific (wherever possible give specific examples)

        focus on aspects of performance that can be improved

        be given in a non-judgemental way.

    Feedback needs to be given so that the person receiving it can both to hear it and (if
    appropriate) learn from it. To help achieve this the following approaches are relevant:

        own the feedback you are giving (use ‘I’ statements)

        be descriptive about the incidents or behaviours (rather than judgmental)

        encourage people to come to their own understanding of what needs to be done
         (ask open questions, eg ‘How did x respond to your behaviour?’, ‘How could you
         handle this situation differently next time?’)

        select key issues to comment on (there is a limit to how much feedback someone
         can take at any one time)

5. Conducting a Feedback Meeting

    One way of conducting such a meeting is described below:

     Step 1. Be direct.
       The purpose of this meeting is...

     Step 2. State why you are having this conversation.
       I have a concern about...

     Step 3. Describe what you know
       When I found out, I looked into the issue by…

     Step 4. Describe the consequences of the continued behaviour
       If this continues, then the consequences for the department are …

    Looked at from a student’s/customer’s point of view …

Step 5. Describe your response
  I am concerned that errors keep occurring...
  I do not think it reasonable that.....

Step 6. Encourage the person to give their side of the story.
  Is that the way you saw it...?
  Why do you think this is happening…?
  When did you realise this…?
  What can you do to make things better?
  What is getting in the way of your work?
  What can I do to support you?
  What other help might you need?

Step 8. Ask questions to clarify what the person is saying.
  And then what happened?
  Who said that…?
  How long has…?
  If you did that, then why did...?
  What don’t you understand…?
  How do you know that...?
  What has prevented you from mentioning this before?

Step 7. Decide what specific actions need to be taken
  At the next meeting … I want you to ... and I will ...

Step 8. Summarise the conversation and arrange to follow up
  I want to recap the main points…
  Can we meet again on … to discuss progress against the action points we have
  I will confirm the action points to you in writing.

6. Reasons for and Responses to Performance Problems


    The following tables offer examples of possible reasons for performance problems; the
    examples are meant to be suggestive rather than comprehensive. Since there may be
    several causes of a performance problem it is important to keep an open mind.

Reasons for Performance Problems

                            Explore issues across all categories             

 Examples of          Examples of work        Examples of work          Examples of
 work factors that    factors that may be     factors that may be       external factors that
 may not be           the responsibility of   the responsibility of     may not be under
 under the direct     the line-manager        the member of staff.      the direct control of
 control of the                                                         the member of staff.
 line manager
  Restructuring,        Lack of direction      Lack of job              Short term or
     reorganisation       to the member of        knowledge or job          long term health
     of role              staff                   related skills            problems
  Changes in            Poorly defined         Lack of flexibility      Mental health
     the nature of        job role                in approach to           Disability
     work                 (objectives,            work                     Addiction
  Introduction           standards,             Inability to             Family problems
     of new               priorities,             understand task or       Relationship
     technology           reporting line)         objectives                problems
  Increased             Inadequate feed-       Lack of                  Bereavement
     expectations         back about              application              Financial
  Demand for             performance            Frequent mistakes         difficulties
     new skills          Unreasonable            and/or
                          expectations            carelessness
                         Uncooperative          Unwillingness to
                          colleagues              develop to meet
                         Inadequate              new work
                          training                demands
                         Inadequate             Poor relations with
                          induction for a         colleagues and or
                          new starter or          manager
                          recent promotee        Inability to deal
                         Inadequate              with the pressures
                          resources               of the job
                         Poor relationship      Poor attendance
                          with the person         record/lateness

Responses to Performance Problems

    Again, a successful approach may involve actions across more than one area.

                           Explore issues across all categories             

 Actions to be       Actions to be taken     Examples of actions      Examples of actions
 taken by the        by the manager in       by the member of         by the member of
 manager in          respect of work         staff in respect of      staff in respect of
 respect of work     factors for which he    factors for which he     external factors that
 factors not under   or she is directly      or she is directly       may not be under
 his or her direct   responsibility          responsible.             his or her direct
 control.                                                             control.
  Manager              Update and agree       Accept                Accept referral
     addresses as        job description.        responsibility for       to occupational
     appropriate/       Delegate work in        work and                 health advisor
         possible        a more structured       standards of output  Undertake
  Manager               way.                   Clarify and review       counselling or
     relates            Set clear,              objectives with          other referral
     concerns to         appropriate             manager                  activities in good
     those               targets and            Seek and act on          faith
     responsible         standards.              feedback about        Consider seeking
                        Provide active          quality of work          support from
                         and appropriate        Attempt to meet          external agencies
                         support.                agreed targets        Use leave to help
                        Provide regular        Further develop          manage absence
                         feedback.               skills and               problems
                        Recognise and           knowledge
                         value                  Seek support as
                         contribution.           required from
                        Address conflicts       manager and/or
                         in team.                other team
                        Develop staff in        members
                         their work via         Work co-
                         coaching,               operatively and
                         training,               flexibly
                         mentoring.             Inform manager of
                        Consider                circumstances
                         temporary               which influence
                         adjustments to          ability to carry out
                         duties or               work, or of any
                         performance             changes if these
                         standards.              have been reported
                        Consider               Keep manager
                         permanent               informed of work
                         changes to              in progress,
                         duties.                 obstacles and any
                                                 problems that arise

Colin Clements
May 2003


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