How to handle a poor performer who has to go . . .
Insure that any employee who fails to meet expectations is advised at the earliest opportunity what they failed or how they fell short
Share your observation of shortcoming or failure with HR and if appropriate another manager
Record your observations about performance failures along with the summary of how the employee was advised
Struggle personally with the balance between giving others second chances versus working with an existing problem. Good leaders do the job AND care for their charges.
At every stage develop a plan of action. Make sure it covers what will change in how you manage the individual. Avoid the trap of simply stating some desired outcome masquerading as a plan.
When the decision is made to terminate, allow others like HR the time to prepare for the exit, create separation paperwork, calculate closing pay, consider expense submissions, identify time tracking for hours worked that need to be invoiced and list company property to be returned
Remember that some employees will not understand, remember or recognize their shortcomings no matter how often they are told in so many ways and by different people. That should never prevent you from trying.
Finally, keep in mind that even though you know the employee will not recognize, accept or remember they were being treated fairly, your actions in letting anyone go are seen by others. By modeling the right way to manage difficult situations you help the junior employees learn how to lead and manage. More importantly, you demonstrate to other employees that because you have done it right with a poor performer they will know they will always receive fair and appropriate treatment.
It’s never easy to terminate an employee. It should be troubling. If it ever becomes easy it might be time to consider another level of management.