How to Improve Employee Performance
Employees who consistently exceed expectations and lead organizational initiatives do not excel by accident. High performers set higher goals, demand higher quality, and set higher expectations for themselves than that of their peers. They set themselves apart intentionally, through meticulous planning, hard work and consistent follow-up.
If high-performance is driven by an internal passion for greatness, how can a manager help the under-to-average performer significantly improve?
While there are countless small ways to help employees help themselves incrementally, such as offering incentives and harnessing new technology, there are three fundamental areas of focus which have an immediate and substantial effect on employee performance.
Begin at the beginning. It seems obvious, but many of the best-intentioned workers begin at the early-to-middle stage of an activity. They believe that knowing the location of the finish line (a closed sale, established metric, or project completion) is enough to get going. They hit the ground running, checking off tasks as they go. But the results of a poorly thought-out strategy are consistently below expectations. For example, sales calls that involve a pre-call plan with focused questions and a strategy to accomplish goals that are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) yield much better results than the unprepared, off-the-cuff cold-call. As a manager, you can help employees prepare in an even larger way, by offering individual and group coaching, training initiatives, and a solid support system – which involves a strong partnering culture and organizational sense of community. Empower your team with more than just the latest software and equipment: give them the internal tools to leverage their potential and settle for nothing less than greatness.
You know the saying, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. And they do. Strategic planning is essential, but unfortunately it isn’t a guarantee of success. Solid execution of a plan is necessary, and the ability to pivot effectively when surprises arise is critical. So always have a plan B; and if possible, a plan C. As a manager, ensure your team has all the tools at their disposal to achieve success. This may involve technology, personnel, or ability to negotiate. When appropriate, check-in on progress. Are benchmarks being met? Are timelines meeting expectations? Is there a need to revise the initial plan? Communication is key during the execution phase of an activity. Support your team as best you can to allow them to accomplish their goals effectively and on time.
A common mistake made in organizations is in deciding what activities to review. Typically, if a goal is not met, there is a somber discussion to try to find out what went wrong. Conversely, when goals are met, the review process may simply be a high-five or a pat on the back. Review performance no matter the outcome. Success should be valued more than failure, so analyze your accomplishments as well as your missteps. What led to that closed sale? How can that success be replicated? How were obstacles overcome? How can this experience strengthen the team in the future? As a manager, ensure your team recognizes how they succeeded, not just what they accomplished. Be sure they take the time to learn from their success before jumping into the next task (or more accurately, the next planning session for the next task). Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. In business, unexamined results can be catastrophic.