Organisations need to operate both effectively (how well they do their job) and efficiently (controlling their costs) and managing staff individual performance is of course a key ingredient. So there is no argument about the need for performance management which is not a new concept. The Civil Service for example operated Management by Objectives systems with numerical and other targets as far back as 1972.

But, and it’s a very big but, performance management puts as much pressure on line managers, as on the people they manage. The scope for line managers to try to shift their own failings on to employees is considerable and good performance management requires analytical skills, precise management and clear communication, not to mention honesty. If the performance cases we’ve dealt with recently are anything to go by, Lloyds has a problem in this area.

The Issues

A significant proportion of the cases have involved one or more of:

  • Persistent failure to follow the Bank’s own procedures, which are now more honoured in the breach than the observance.
  • Manipulation of the procedures.
  • Blatant breaches of the Equality Act 2010, where disability discrimination is concerned, to try to facilitate dismissal.
  • A failure to set reasonable performance improvement objectives and timescales for improvement.
  • A failure to understand the distinction between individual under-performance and the need to make technical changes in systems.

“Let’s Change Direction – Overnight!”

Looking in on Lloyds from the outside it’s been blindingly obvious that the current Chief Executive wanted and went after a much harder management style.

In 2023, the Bank moved rapidly and radically (removal of home working agreements, forced decompression of compressed hours etc.) from soft to Hard HR, a term used to describe personnel management with a tight focus on the achievement of top management’s objectives and much reduced concern for the views and rights of employees. The role of HR as a cartilage between management and worker has disappeared in Hard HR organisations: HR is now about achieving strategic objectives.

Strategic direction is the prerogative of top management and Mr Nunn certainly has his work cut out delivering shareholder value. But, although it’s his job to set the agenda, he operates in a Western European democracy with a complex set of rules and however compliant most bank staff are, he isn’t going to be able to operate as though he is in, say, California where employers can sack employees ‘at-will’ in most circumstances.

So launching an offensive to cull staff through some sort of fast-track to dismissal won’t work.

Defending Members

It’s our job to defend decent, hardworking and loyal staff from unjustified attacks on their job security and we are going to do just that.

BTU is the only independent union in the banking industry (the others having been captured by employers) and our members pay a necessary subscription premium for a genuine, professional service rather than the weak offering from Accord, a machine set up by HBOS and sustained first by that bank and now by Lloyds.

It is very likely that there will be a significant number of Employment Tribunal cases which we will win because Tribunals remain independent arbiters of fairness and reasonableness and defenders of employees’ rights under the law.

Who Are Most At Risk?

Certainly, anyone working in an area where the Bank has already signalled large scale reductions in staff numbers (i.e. non-Branch Network staff) should regard themselves as being particularly vulnerable.

And the more complicated someone’s job is and the higher the grade, the more he or she will be potentially vulnerable. Why’s that?

It’s a simple question of economics: in many companies severance pay for people in higher grades with longer service, can be considerable and dismissal or forcing people to leave with much lower settlement payments can save a lot of money.

The second reason is less obvious. The greater the complexity of a job and the less easy it is to measure outputs, the easier it is to criticise performance.

So, for a number of reasons, people in non-branch jobs are now most at risk of unjustified disciplinary action, under the guise of performance management.

The other area in which, unsurprisingly, pressure is going to be exerted is sales and we will pick that up in a newsletter shortly.

Even Dodgier Severance Offers

Some Lloyds cases have involved highly questionable criticisms of performance leading up to equally questionable severance offers where people are being offered fractions of the severance pay they would otherwise have got, with the threat of disciplinary action being dangled in front of them as an encouragement to leave.

Now, there will always be people who are happy to take cut-price severance offers because they are desperate to leave their employer. We are not concerned with those situations here.

And where there is genuine poor performance it can make sense to offer a compromise. We are not concerned with those situations either.

Our objective is to ensure that if someone is clearly redundant that member of staff receives the full, contractual severance payment to which he or she is entitled.

Help Us To Help You

Contacting us after months of criticism and at the end of an informal performance plan, with a formal plan about to start, is a recipe for major problems.

We need to hear from members as soon as there is any hint of criticism of their performance or as soon as it becomes obvious that for whatever reason it is not possible to deliver what line managers want with the resources and time available.

Line Managers – The Meat in the Sandwich

Line managers are neither driving nor in control of the current offensive. As a strategic initiative this is being driven from Gresham Street down the HR line, in some cases with line managers being pushed into action that they are probably unhappy with themselves.

Genuine, ethically oriented performance management is a perfectly legitimate management activity: involvement in ‘dodgy’ dealing is not and will lead to a difficult session of cross-examination for line managers at the Employment Tribunal before members are vindicated.

Managers should therefore be wary of involving themselves in doing the dirty work of people who themselves will never be identified.

If You’re Not A Member

It’s remarkable how many people see the need for trade union membership with crystal clarity when they are about to be hung in the morning.

An ordinary unfair dismissal case i.e. one that does not involve say discrimination or whistle-blowing is going to cost at least £15,000, unless you represent yourself. And, to quote the old adage, a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client!

Virtually every day we receive requests for representation from people who have just joined or who want to join. All are turned away because although we fight members’ cases with professionalism and tenacity we do not help non-members, irrespective of sob stories.

So, if you’re a non-member you need to decide whether being unrepresented is worth the risk?

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