Difference between conduct and capability

I remember telling a young graduate that she hadn’t passed probation and so her contract would be terminated. She was devastated and kept asking for a second chance to prove herself, while I wanted to save her from feeling even worse (if that were possible), I had to go through all of the feedback, direction and correction that she had received over a three month period and demonstrate that improvements had not been made. It wasn’t pretty, but she needed that level of detail to understand how she had failed to pass her probation. She had potential but she failed to demonstrate that she had the capability to carry out the role.

On the other hand I had a client who had a perfectly capable Sales Executive who was bringing in sales that exceed their monthly targets, but was not working effectively as part of a team; would over promise to clients and not bring in the delivery team until the last minute, which led to clashes, disgruntled clients and more than a few heated exchanges.

Bringing him into a meeting to discuss his conduct, was far more complicated. He reasoned that he was overachieving on his objectives and what happened after the client signed on the dotted line wasn’t his responsibility. And to give him his due he had a point his objectives were not aligned to what was holistically best for the business. It wasn’t his capability that was in question, it was his conduct.

Often when dealing with issues with staff it is important to establish if it is conduct or capability issue.

To be clear “capability” is the ability to successfully deliver the objectives that have been set, whereas “conduct” is the not displaying the behaviour expected as an employee or a prerequisite for the role.

If an employee doesn’t demonstrate the capability to deliver the SMART objectives that you have given them, then you should follow a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) process. This is a detailed plan that stipulates the changes that you are expecting to see with timelines for improvement. Generally, an individual has a month to improve their performance (you don’t have to do this if the individual is still within their probation period), with regular reviews – at least weekly. Should the individual not improve then you should invoke your discipline process.

Next week, I will go in all the details you need to follow for an effective performance improvement Plan.

If an individual’s conduct is the issue. Then the first point is to check that your objectives are aligned to behaviours you are expecting (this doesn’t apply for gross misconduct behaviours, e.g. fighting, criminal convictions, fraud, not following reasonable management instructions). If the behaviours are clearly stated in their objectives, then you should start with the discipline process, generally once an official process has begun the individuals conduct should improve. But if it doesn’t you can follow your discipline process all the way to the dismissal stage, should it be necessary.

As ever with staff issues, ensure that you note all evidence and meetings, confirm informal meetings with an email so that you have a log – evidence is key.

Should you need any assistance with your discipline process or how to have effective performance conversations, that are also legislatively complaint, just get in touch and we will be happy to help.