New Zealand: Training and development in performance management

Last Updated: 22 March 2017
Article by Amanda Douglas
Most Read Contributor in New Zealand, September 2019

Training and Development in Performance Management

It can be costly and frustrating for employers to have members of staff who aren't performing. However, employers have an obligation to ensure that employees are provided with the required training and development necessary to complete the job they are hired to carry out. We outline when you may need to focus on training and development in relation to performance management of staff.

Human Resources planning

Effective Human Resources planning is vital to ensure training and development needs are met both collectively and individually, and that performance levels are appropriately managed. Human Resources planning is relevant throughout the employment relationship.

It all starts with recruitment and ensuring that the right person for the job is hired. At that stage, a thorough job analysis of the available role, with the resulting job description, will help to ensure that a person with the appropriate skills and fit for the job is appointed. A job description is also a useful tool for the employer to set out their expectations, as well as providing the employee with delineated boundaries.


Once an employee is appointed to a role, it is essential that the employer assists him or her to become a fully functioning member of the organisation through an induction process. An effective induction can reduce turnover, long-term training costs, and improve employee well-being. A thorough induction process can also identify, from the outset, any areas where the employee may require further training or supervision, and inform the employee of the employer's expectations.

In New Zealand Meat Processors etc., IUOW v Prestige Meats Ltd a young person with no formal educational qualifications and no work experience was hired as a general purpose worker in a poultry processing plant. His duties involved killing, boning and processing birds. After two days, the employer was not satisfied with the employee's performance and dismissed the employee. The dismissal of the employee was considered unjustified by the Employment Court as the employer's expectations were unrealistic and the skills required for the job were difficult to master. The Employment Court highlighted the lack of a proper induction process in coming to that decision. Without adequate training and supervision, the employee could not be expected to adequately fulfil the role.

This will be even more relevant where an employer hires an employee knowing that they may not possess the entire skill set required for the role to which they are appointed. Therefore, before appointment, the employer should consider the amount of training that an employee may need and discuss that with the employee. That identified training should then be provided to the employee.

"An employer is required to provide the amount of training to an employee which is enough to enable the employee to fulfil the job"

How much training does an employer need to provide?

This question was considered in Auckland Provincial District Local Authorities Offices IUOW v Mount Albert City Council. An employee temporarily covered the position of Computer Systems Co-ordinator and was eventually asked to be appointed to the role permanently. The employer pointed out to the employee that the role would be difficult because it involved managerial aspects, and, more so, because a new computer system was about to be introduced. There were problems with the new computer system. The employee persisted and was eventually appointed to the position. The employer had arranged for a person to give the employee training on the new system, however, as this person was kept occupied trying to solve the numerous computer issues, the training never happened. The employee could not cope and asked to be transferred. The employer had no other roles available and the employee was dismissed.

The Employment Court held that the employer failed in its duties to the employee by not providing adequate training in management skills and in the new computer system, and by leaving her to work without adequate supervision or instruction. This failure by the employer was considered to amount to a breach of the implied term of the employment agreement that the employer would provide all that was reasonably necessary in carrying out the overall purpose of the contract.

An employer is required to provide the amount of training to an employee which is enough to enable the employee to fulfi l the job. This was elaborated on in Walker v Telecom New Zealand Limited, where the Authority said that the implied duty on an employer to provide training is limited to training which ensures that an employee is capable of fulfi lling his or her current position. Not providing that training could give the employee grounds to raise a personal grievance for disadvantage.

Managing performance issues

Employee performance should be monitored throughout the employment relationship. This can be done through regular performance appraisals and continued training, amongst other initiatives. However, if an employee is still not performing to the required standard, an employer can begin a formal process to address the poor performance. If the employee does not improve during this process, dismissal of the employee will normally be justifi ed.

The employer needs to be patient and proactive throughout this process; it requires setting time frames for the employee to improve, and regular monitoring of performance.

As a general rule, the employee must be put on notice that his or her performance is not up to the required standard, and be given an opportunity to reach that standard. To demonstrate that a decision to dismiss an employee for poor performance is justified, the employer should:

  • discuss the performance with the employee and communicate any dissatisfaction with the level or standard;
  • provide the employee with a clear statement of the expected standard or level of performance;
  • warn the employee of the consequences, including the possibility of dismissal, if performance does not improve to the required level or standard;
  • provide the employee with the training, supervision and other assistance needed for improvement;
  • give the employee a reasonable opportunity to improve; and
  • consider and discuss with the employee, what changes have occurred, and whether they meet the employers' expectations and requirements.

Training needs and other assistance for improvement are relevant considerations. If further reasonable training needs are identifi ed during the performance management process, this should be provided to the employee.

Generally speaking, this performance management process should be forward looking and focused on improvement, and not used with the intention of dismissing the employee at the end of it, although that may become the correct and justifi ed outcome.

As with every process in employment law, it begins with the employment agreement and any policies in place. Employers must be familiar with their own policies. If there is a policy in place relating to poor performance by an employee, this must be followed. Case law is clear on this point – strict adherence to the contract and policy is an absolute.


Generally, managing performance issues is essential to building a high performance workplace. Combined with effective human resources planning, it will increase productivity and reduce staff turnover. Although it requires investment of time and money, it will likely result in effi ciencies. If that is not possible, employers need to demonstrate they have met their side of the bargain in meeting training and development needs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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