It's been nearly six months and your recently hired team member is still lagging in performance. Sure, there's a steep learning curve with any newly-hired employee, but you have this nagging feeling that the lagging performance means something more.
Obviously, a performance conference is necessary. But let's take a closer look at your actions to make sure that you've set this person up for success, not failure.
Was the hiring process rushed? Oftentimes, employees are fast-tracked through a hiring process because you have a role to fill or there's urgency in getting a project off the ground. Perhaps this employee was a referral from a solid performing employee and you just assumed this new employee would be solid, too. Or maybe you didn't take the time to fully vet the employee with a second interview and background check.
Was the position posted different than the actual duties needing performed. Did you review the job description or job posting prior to soliciting candidates? Is it possible the employee was initially not qualified to perform the job?
Did you outline the expectations of the job at time of hire and periodically throughout the initial learning/probationary period? If there was no cross-training or job shadowing with the outgoing employee, the employee may have been left with figuring the job out on his/her own. Did the employee have access to documentation of the role? If not, the employee may have been left in the dark without clear direction.
Did you have regular check-ins with the employee with feedback for areas of improvement? In too many situations, managers turn over a project or duties to a newly-hired employee too soon and with little or no guidance of follow-up. Did you check-in at the end of the first week, end of the first month and periodically throughout?
Was there good communication - in person and in writing? Once again, this goes back to outlining expectations and ensuring regular check-ins are occurring. Don't forget that casual conversations can be a good way to create a comfortable environment in which employees may be more forthcoming with their questions or concerns.
Did the employee have access to tools and equipment needed to perform his job? This includes access to network drives and folders, team members and team meetings.
In the end, it's also possible the employee was simply a bad fit. If she didn't fit in with your team or your culture, or is just not a good performer, then do the right thing - let the employee go. Keeping a poor performer or an employee who is a bad fit can do more damage to your culture and/or the performance of others in your organization. Chalk this up to a learning experience and get the next hire right.