Effective Performance Management for Employees Returning to Work
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performance managing an employee on a return to work

Effective Performance Management for Employees Returning to Work

As the world begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are returning to work in unprecedented circumstances. Employee return to work refers to the process by which an employee returns to work after a period of absence. This absence may be due to a variety of reasons, such as illness, injury, parental leave, or a global pandemic. The return to work process typically involves communication between the employee, their manager, and any relevant human resources or occupational health professionals. The goal of employee return to work is to ensure a safe and effective transition back to work, taking into account any physical or emotional challenges the employee may be facing, while also ensuring that productivity and performance are maintained.

For many workers, this return may be filled with uncertainty, stress, and a need for readjustment. Effective performance management is essential during this time to ensure employees feel supported, motivated, and engaged in their work. Employers need to take a strategic approach to performance management, understanding the unique challenges employees face, and providing them with the necessary tools and resources to succeed. In this article, we will explore why effective performance management is crucial for employees returning to work, and offer strategies and tips to help employers effectively manage employee performance in this unique and challenging environment.


The 3 R’s of Performance Management

  1. Review: This step involves regularly scheduled performance evaluations or assessments, where the employee’s work is reviewed and evaluated against established performance standards. The review process should be a two-way conversation between the employee and their manager, where both parties can discuss the employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
  2. Reward: This step involves recognising and rewarding employees for their contributions to the organisation. This can include financial incentives, such as bonuses or raises, as well as non-financial rewards, such as recognition programs, promotions, or additional responsibilities.
  3. Remediation: This step involves addressing performance issues when they arise. This can involve coaching, training, or development opportunities, or it can involve disciplinary action, such as a performance improvement plan or termination. The goal of remediation is to help the employee improve their performance and meet the established performance standards.

The 3 R’s of performance management are interdependent, and they work together to create a comprehensive approach to managing employee performance. By regularly reviewing employee performance, rewarding their successes, and addressing performance issues, organisations can create a positive and supportive work environment that encourages employee growth and development.

The 5 Stages of Performance Management

The 5 Stages of Performance Management can be a useful framework to assist an employee who is returning to work. These stages are goal setting, planning, coaching, reviewing, and recognising. By using these stages, you can create a plan that will help the employee achieve their objectives and improve their performance. Here’s how you can use each of these stages to assist an employee returning to work:
  1. Goal Setting: The first step is to set clear and achievable goals for the employee. These goals should be aligned with the employee’s role and responsibilities, and they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. By setting clear goals, the employee will know what is expected of them, and they will have a sense of direction and purpose.
  2. Planning: Once the goals are set, the next step is to create a plan to achieve them. This plan should include the steps that the employee needs to take to achieve their goals, as well as any resources or support that they may need. The plan should be realistic and should take into account any limitations or challenges that the employee may face.
  3. Coaching: The next step is to provide coaching and support to the employee. This can include training, mentoring, or regular check-ins to discuss progress and provide feedback. Coaching is important to ensure that the employee is on track to achieve their goals and to help them overcome any obstacles that they may face.
  4. Reviewing: Regular reviews are important to monitor progress and identify any areas where the employee may need additional support. Reviews should be constructive and should focus on identifying strengths and areas for improvement. By providing regular feedback, the employee can make adjustments to their performance and stay on track to achieve their goals.
  5. Recognising: Finally, it is important to recognise and reward the employee for their achievements. This can include formal recognition, such as bonuses or promotions, or informal recognition, such as verbal praise or a simple thank you. Recognition is important to motivate the employee and to reinforce positive behaviours.


Effectively Managing Employee Performance

  • The Importance of Employee Mental Health

Employee mental health is a critical factor in the success of any return to work program. Employers should be proactive in addressing any concerns related to mental health and provide employees with resources and support to help them manage stress and other mental health challenges.

  • Addressing Performance Issues with Strategies

When performance issues arise, it’s important for employers to address them promptly and effectively. This can involve developing an individualised performance improvement plan, providing regular feedback and coaching, and engaging in regular performance evaluations.

  • Inviting a Support System to Work

Bringing a support person to work can help employees feel more confident and comfortable as they return to work after an injury. Employers should encourage employees to bring a support person, such as a family member, friend, or therapist, to help them adjust to their new work environment.

employee performance management software

Motivating Employees to Return to Work

  • The Benefits of a Positive Work Outcome. A positive work outcome is critical to the success of any return to work program. By providing employees with meaningful work, a supportive environment, and opportunities for growth and development, employers can help increase motivation and engagement.
  • Management’s Role in Encouraging Return to Work. Employers have an important role to play in encouraging employees to return to work. This can involve providing regular updates on the return to work program, offering flexible work arrangements, and providing employees with opportunities to develop new skills and advance their careers.
  • The Influence of Pre-Injury Work and Workers Compensation. Pre-injury work and workers compensation play a significant role in the success of any return to work program. Employers should work closely with workers compensation providers to ensure employees receive the support they need to return to work safely and successfully.


Managing an Employee’s Return to Work

  • Create a supportive environment: It is essential to create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture that values the well-being and mental health of all employees. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety during the return to work process, making it a smoother and more positive experience for the employee.
  • Establish clear expectations: Employers should establish clear expectations and guidelines for the employee’s return to work, including responsibilities, expectations, and performance goals. This can help to ensure a smooth transition back into the workplace and minimise confusion and misunderstandings.
  • Provide adequate resources: Providing adequate resources, such as training, support, and rehabilitation programs, can assist the employee in transitioning back into the workplace and recovering from their injury. This can also help to address any performance issues and ensure the employee is able to perform their duties effectively.
  • Involve the employee in the process: It is important to involve the employee in the return to work process and encourage them to bring a support person with them, such as a family member or friend. This can provide the employee with additional support and help to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Monitor and evaluate performance: Regular monitoring and evaluation of the employee’s performance can help to identify and address any performance issues that may arise during the return to work process. This can also help to ensure the employee is able to perform their duties effectively and make any necessary adjustments to support their success.
  • Take appropriate management action: If necessary, management should take appropriate action to address any performance issues that may arise during the return to work process. This may include providing additional support, resources, or training, or taking disciplinary action if necessary.


In conclusion, performance managing an employee on a return to work requires a well-thought-out approach that takes into consideration the employee’s physical and mental health, as well as their overall well-being. By following best practices and strategies for managing performance issues, inviting a support person, and motivating employees to return to work, employers can create a safe and supportive work environment that promotes positive work outcomes and employee development.

By fostering open communication between employees and employers, businesses can support their employees as they recover at work and help them achieve their full potential. By embracing these principles, employers can create a productive and successful workplace that benefits both employees and the company.

In EmployeeConnect, we help companies with the performance management of employees returning to work after a leave of absence. We provide a centralised platform to track and manage the employee’s performance, goals, and objectives. EmployeeConnect also enables HR to monitor and assess the employee’s progress and provide constructive feedback to help them achieve their full potential. This allows companies to ensure a smooth transition for employees returning to work and improve overall performance and productivity. Want to see EmployeeConnect in action? Book your demo now and experience the difference!

Carol Lin