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Last Updated September 3, 2019

How to get the most out of your employees

There are a number of processes and tools that an employer can use to get the most out of their employees. 

This includes starting from day one with a robust onboarding process which encompasses a probation period.  

Most importantly though, to improve your employees’ productivity, the performance appraisal process is a great tool to identify, evaluate and develop performance and get the results you want. 

Throughout their employment, an employees’ unsatisfactory performance or behaviour needs to be addressed as soon as supervisors and managers become aware of it.  

Using all of these processes will also improve your employee engagement and assist with retaining talent and reducing turnover.

Probation Period

The probation period is an initial period of employment (in most cases 6 months in length or up to 12 months for small businesses who employee less than 15 employees), during which time both the employer and the employee can assess suitability. The probation period should include regular meetings allowing for conversations to set expectations and receive two way feedback, plus set a regular action plan.  Assessment meetings during the probation period should be documented. 

An employee should be formally notified in writing at the conclusion of their probationary period.  

If there are any concerns about the employee during the probationary period, a meeting should be scheduled to discuss those concerns further. Notes should be taken of the discussion, a course of action identified and a follow up meeting time scheduled. 

During this meeting the employee should be made aware that their employment is currently being reviewed and may be terminated.  It is important to seek external advice from a lawyer or Fair Work Ombudsman before termination.

Performance Appraisals

Of all the tools available to an employer to get the best out of their employees, the performance appraisal process is the most important. It should be carried out annually with informal meetings  regularly throughout the year.

Appraisals are an opportunity to recognise and validate your employees’ good work while also highlighting areas for improvement, discuss career guidance and development opportunities so they can grow their careers with the business. 

A good, honest performance review also adds value for employers, helping individuals contribute towards achieving your business’ goals. 

There are a number of different approaches to the performance appraisal process with no ‘one size fits all’ solution. To ensure the process is beneficial to all, look at what will work best for your business and your employees.  This will depend on the style, size and complexity of your business.

One approach, that can show success, is having monthly catch-ups to discuss an employee’s progress against a yearly performance plan, and to provide support to help negotiate any challenges they may encounter. 

You may also wish to increase the frequency of formal and informal discussions.  These are helpful in monitoring the progress of individuals towards achieving objectives, personal development plans and attendance at training.

The link between performance outcomes and remuneration should also be considered. This may vary depending on the range of positions within the organisation. Some employees’ remuneration may be linked to an award or performance-based incentives. There may also be a link with award and recognition programs if your business can accommodate such initiatives.

Whatever process you choose, the most important thing is to ask the right questions, provide the right feedback and be consistent. Asking the right questions, and providing relevant and useful feedback during the appraisal meeting itself is important.  

Having a well developed performance appraisal form will also assist in capturing this information and feedback as well as ensuring all employees are going through the same process with clear expectations and outcomes. 

Unsatisfactory Performance or Behaviour

Where an employee’s performance is unsatisfactory, it is best to act swiftly to address these performance issues. This will provide the employee with an opportunity to respond and to improve their performance.

It is important to follow fair and consistent performance management practices when managing employees performance or behaviour.  An employer doesn’t have to give an employee three warnings, or even one warning but an employer should give the employee the opportunity to respond and reasonable support to improve.

While you may have a valid reason to dismiss an underperforming, absent or ill employee, if you do not follow procedural fairness, you are likely to face and potentially end up losing an unfair dismissal claim. Procedural fairness is critical to how Fair Work Australia decides unfair dismissal cases.

You should have the performance management process documented to outline how underperformance or poor behaviour and conduct will be managed, including the possible consequences.


As it can be seen,  performance as a whole should be addressed to ensure you are getting the most out of your employees now and into the future. This is through the probation period, addressing unsatisfactory performance or behaviour and, most importantly, through the performance appraisal process.

Contact Small Business Society today to discuss how you can get the most out of your employees.

The information provided in this document is for your guidance only and is general in nature. It does not constitute as legal advice. It is the responsibility of the individual to seek legal advice where required.

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About Kate Tongue

Kate Tongue is the founding Director of Small Business Society.

She is a qualified and experienced Human Resources professional with more than 10 years of experience across the private and public sectors.

Her particular interest and experience is in managing the employee life cycle, delivering process improvements, and Human Resource strategy.

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