As winter finally begins to melt away and the days grow longer and brighter, it’s the perfect time to look at ways you can cultivate heartier employee performance management practices across your organization.
When we think about performance management issues and how to nurture employee performance, we challenge you to see things a little differently and think about what plants need to grow. It’s very often what’s beneath the surface – the quality of the soil and the amount of water – that really matters. The same goes for employee performance.
However, what’s at the root of these problems may not be what you think. Issues with employee performance do not normally stem from laziness, bad character, a skills mismatch, burnout or employees willfully trying to undermine company productivity. Most employee performance issues, even those that seem impossibly complex and hard to resolve, arise from a simple breakdown in communication.
Take the following steps to improve communication in your workplace and watch employee performance flourish and grow.
- Provide enough details. Plants do not thrive on air alone. Similarly, employees need more than just goals – they need realistic and achievable goals that are effectively communicated. Employees tend to make mistakes and underperform when they are unsure of the expectations other have of them, and when they are uncertain about how to meet their objectives. At the end of each conversation, the manager should ensure that the employee leaves with clear action items. What are the next steps, and how will the employee know when the goal has been met?
- Talk frequently. Just as plants need a regular source of sunlight, water and nutrients, employees must have adequate and timely feedback about how they are performing. Mangers should not wait for annual or quarterly reviews – conversations should happen more frequently (at least once a month) and need not be formal. These meetings are an opportunity for managers and employees to connect and ensure they are still on the same page in terms of goals and progress. It may seem ‘easier’ for managers and HR to space out formal feedback, just like it would be easier to water a plant every 3 months – but trust me (the brown shriveled Ficus tree in my office is a good indicator of what comes of infrequent and untimely attention!)
- Cut to the chase. When it comes to pulling up weeds, there is no need to beat around the bush. Pun intended. While meetings should happen frequently, they do not need to take a lot of time. Hold shorter meetings by ensuring they are well-planned and focused on specific, actionable goals. During each meeting managers should get to the point quickly and stay focused to avoid any confusion or ambiguity that may arise. This is the time to tackle misunderstandings and sort them out. Finally, record the highlights of the meeting so you can easily access them during any formal reviews.
- Keep it positive. Without sunshine, there would be nothing. While it’s true that rain is a necessary part of life, mangers should make an effort to look on the sunny side as well. When issuing feedback, try to give employees the benefit of the doubt. Understand that even when employees fail their efforts are likely well-meant, though misguided. Try to unearth the true cause of the performance issue (were there communication problems? are poor instructions to blame?) and take responsibility for helping the employee to make it right.
- Keep a record. A blossoming flower is truly something to behold – but if you blink, you might just miss it! Sometimes it’s difficult to see growth, even when it’s happening right before your eyes. It’s important to take regular measurements and keep accurate documentation of all important goals AND accomplishments as they are met by employees. Sophisticated performance management software like emPerform can help with this, and ensure that effective conversations about performance can take place. This step can go a long way toward keeping managers and employees “growing in the right direction” when it comes to traversing complex relationships and taking on shared challenges.
To learn more about how emPerform can help you sow the seeds of better performance communication in your organizational “backyard” this spring, click here or call us at 1(877)711-0367 to set up your free tour today!