Setup For Success: How to Improve Employee Performance
Every individual employee contributes to the success (or failure) of your business. Of course, the goal is to continuously improve the quality and efficiency of your workforce. But without a clear understanding of which factors influence employee performance, it will be difficult to sustain success.
So what is employee performance? Which factors should leaders pay attention to, and what can you do to empower your employees to succeed?
What does employee performance mean?
Employee performance is defined as how an employee fulfills their job duties and executes their required tasks. It refers to the effectiveness, quality, and efficiency of their output.
Performance also contributes to our assessment of how valuable an employee is to the organization. Each employee is a serious investment for a company, so the return that each employee provides must be significant.
Business Insider investigated just how much revenue top tech companies make per employee. A high-performing employee is extremely valuable to a company. In fact, there is no greater asset than top talent.
Credit: Business Insider
How can you measure employee performance?
Measuring employee performance will differ across roles and departments, but generally, it can be measured by:
- Speed and efficiency – How much does the employee accomplish in an average day, month, or quarter? Are there impediments to address or possible resources to consider that could enable higher productivity?
- Quality and depth – How “good” is the employee’s work in comparison to colleagues and other employees in the same role, field, or industry? Does the employee contribute something unique to their role that brings the company added value?
- Trust and consistency – Can the employee be depended on to make good decisions and execute their duties on time? Do they need to be managed meticulously or do they self-manage well? Do they demonstrate the potential to grow within the company, or has their growth plateaued?
The specifics of these metrics will differ depending on the specific job function. All employees (and their supervisors) should be aligned on the goals and expectations that underpin each metric. By establishing clear objectives and timelines for achieving them, each employee should understand exactly what is expected of them.
How can you conduct an effective employee performance review?
Although the specifics vary, there are a few great ways to create a performance review. Out the options, choose which approach will best assess the employee and provide information that will be most effective for improving their performance:
Schedule a one-on-one meeting between the employee and direct supervisor to brainstorm. This is a great tactic for employees that are engaging, like direct feedback, and feel comfortable voicing their own experiences and opinions. It’s also an opportunity to communicate and make sure that there is transparency between the employee and leadership. Here’s a template to fill out and to help guide the meeting:
Credit: Quantum Workplace
Use a number scale rating chart. This option provides concrete metrics that allow for easy comparisons in performance between employees for context. It also can be filled out quickly and easily and therefore can be done often. A number scale rating chart usually lists performance metrics and then offers boxes to check between 1 to 5. One is the lowest level of performance and five is the highest. Have the employee fill out the same chart as you (or the supervisor) and then compare the ratings to see where there is room for improvement and greater communication.
Have the team fill out anonymous peer reviews on one another. Sometimes a manager isn’t able to see or understand what team members can. This is an opportunity for leadership to gather valuable data on their employees from the perspectives of the people who work with them and have different perspectives. A peer review should be anonymous so that employees feel safe to give honest feedback and impressions.
How can employee performance be improved?
Whether you’re a team leader or an employee yourself, it’s important to assess employee performance and see where there’s room for improvement.
Both the leadership and employees should always know the status of their performance. If performance is suffering, or it’s just time for a boost, implementing best practices for improving the quality and productivity of work can really make a difference.
Here are six ways to improve employee performance.
1. Investigate underperformance issues
It’s important to thoroughly understand why an employee might be underperforming. Avoid making assumptions by gathering data and information as well as addressing the person directly.
The employee might be lacking proper resources or maybe wasn’t adequately trained and onboarded from the start. There might be outside influences distracting them from doing their work and they could use some support from HR. It’s possible that the employee lacks clarity about the company goals or doesn’t feel valued or well-supported in their role.
It’s important to understand what the issues are in order to best tackle them and give them a chance for improvement. Trying to cover up issues with “quick-fix” solutions won’t help in the long-run.
Bottom Line: Avoid assumptions about underperformance and find out what’s really going on.
2. Encourage continual communication
Clear and effective communication is essential for improving employee performance. Receiving negative feedback can be challenging and uncomfortable — both for management and the employee — but it’s important to foster an environment of transparency and direct communication.
It’s unrealistic to expect employees to change and improve without giving them concrete feedback and specific action points to work on. Also, team members should be encouraged to communicate their perspectives as well, regarding their progress, deadlines, expectations, and available resources.
A culture that rewards collaboration and sharing ideas can improve the energy on your team, help you cultivate innovation, and improve performance levels for everyone. Check out this informative video from HR360 on practical tips for implementing successful employee communication:
Bottom Line: You can lay the foundation for employee performance improvement by clearly conveying feedback and expectations, and by fostering an environment of open communication.
3. Foster a positive work environment
According to Time Doctor, employees that feel happy with their work environments also perform better. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Think about how different you feel when the space around you is clean and tidy and the people around you are motivating and positive. Encouraging employees to personalize and de-clutter their space can encourage a more conducive environment for being productive.
This also means boosting team morale and ensuring positive communication within the team. Make sure employees have non-work related activities and events planned, and that everyone feels valued on their teams.
Bottom Line: Happier employees perform better so make sure the environment is positive.
Photo Credit: Neil Patel
4. Training doesn’t end at onboarding
New employees are initially given a lot of attention and direction during their onboarding process. But this should not be the only training that employees receive. Ongoing training is a critical part of keeping employees engaged and motivated to think and work in new ways.
Also, it’s hard to retain so much information when everything is new and overwhelming. Continuous training with contextual learning allows employees to get refreshers and follow-up information in case anything was missed during initial onboarding.
Just as training must continue after the initial onboarding phase, adoption of new applications isn’t completed when systems are rolled out to employees. In a survey of over 500 executives, Harvard Business Review Analytics Services found that nearly half of the respondents’ employees struggled when faced with multiple software applications to perform cross-functional business processes.
Bottom Line: Ongoing training allows employees to continue to develop their skills and improve their performances.
5. Utilize data and platforms
In the digital era, measuring an employee’s performance can be very data-driven. Assessing time management, quality of tasks accomplished, and even the impact of work does not have to be subjective. In fact, by using HR analytics, employees can see analysis of their performance and managers can identify areas for improvement. Data takes the guesswork out of these metrics.
If employees know the specific metrics that will be measured and analyzed, they can better self-manage and monitor their own performance. This is both empowering for employees, which promotes higher levels of motivation and conviction in doing a great job, and also gives them very practical tools for improving their performance with confidence.
Bottom Line: Support and guide employees with data so that their performance strengths and weaknesses are concrete and not subjective.
6. Manage performance to encourage growth
Overall, people are more motivated and productive when they feel supported, valued, and are set up with the necessary resources to complete their tasks. Managing the performance of employees requires an in-depth understanding of the individuals themselves and the ability to encourage their growth and development.
Setting the tone for a happy workplace also involves cultivating an aesthetically enjoyable environment. Allow employees to give input in regards to the design of their workspace. Maybe more light is needed, or maybe finally updating the old paint to something fresh and bold could add positive vibes to the space. Encourage employees to take ownership of their environment, culture, and physical space.
Management of implementing employee performance improvements should be very concrete and goal-oriented.
It’s helpful to use the SMART acronym from SHRM Global to make sure goals are approached efficiently. Make sure that your goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-specific.
Happy people are better employees
Employee performance is determined by both physical, emotional, and practical factors. By cultivating healthy and open communication, creating concrete goals, and providing ongoing training, employees will be empowered and motivated to achieve, grow, and succeed.