Many managers see performance management as a negative thing – it’s something many only start doing (or think they start doing) when they need to raise a concern with an employee, point out a mistake or address unsatisfactory standards of work.
But there are many positive, proactive steps you can take to improve performance in your team, and the great thing is, these can be applied across the board, not just to staff whose performance you may be concerned about. Implement these, and the chances of you having to do the ‘negative’ bit where you need to point out performance problems is reduced, and everyone’s performance should improve.
1. Set clear standards and expectations
Does everyone know exactly what they should be doing? Do they know what a really good job ‘looks’ like in their particular role?
An employee who is fully aware of what is expected of them is clearly more likely to achieve it. Things like a decent job description, relevant measurable objectives and quality controls where appropriate can all help here. You don’t want the employee to be in any doubt as to what good performance actually looks like.
Having clear established standards and criteria for good performance also helps you as a manager. You can more easily spot an issue or potential issue that might be arising, and of course the sooner you spot it, the easier it is for you to address it without it being a big deal and involve an unpleasant process.
2. Manage performance every day
Day to day performance management is the ‘hands on’ part of managing performance effectively. It means ensuring what needs to be achieved is achieved, on time and in the correct way, not assuming everything is going to plan but making sure it is. It doesn’t take long but doing it properly is the easiest way to ensure problems don’t develop into time-consuming and expensive issues.
Day to day performance management involves:
- Talking about how work is progressing
- Discussing whether it is being done to the necessary standard
- Reviewing priorities
- Giving and receiving timely feedback
- Identifying and overcoming any obstacles to good performance
- Taking time out to remedy poor performance as quickly and effectively as possible
How day to day performance management works will depend on the individuals, working arrangements and roles involved, but it needs to involve some kind of regular communication to allow for discussion as outlined above. Regular team meetings and one-to-one meetings with staff are important, and scheduling these into the diary will help ensure they happen.
3. ‘Catch’ people doing well
Try to encourage your team and praise and thank them on an ongoing basis. Sometimes it’s easier to notice and recognise good performance if you ‘catch’ people doing well and say so immediately. Show an interest in what people are doing without ‘micro-managing’ and be available, visible and accessible. If people need support, have questions or concerns or need direction many find it easier to ask in a very informal situation rather than in a focused meeting environment.
4. Performance management includes performance development
Performance development is about improving skills, knowledge and experience to achieve better results.
It doesn’t always have to involve expensive training courses, and in many small businesses on tight budgets these just aren’t realistic anyway. Instead you could consider helping the employee maximise and use their learning from the following which may be done as part of their normal job:
- Presentations, meetings or talks they may attend
- Other employees they come into contact with
- Reading and other research they can do themselves
- Visits to other organisations
More structured performance development can also take place through using the following:
- Coaching – asking someone else within or outside the organisation to give specific advice or guidance
- Shadowing others – shadowing individuals within or outside the organisation can provide good learning about other jobs and other ways of working
- On the job learning – can be provided by the line manager
At the employee’s annual appraisal, ensure that any performance development needed to enable them to perform their job effectively is discussed together with solutions which may be possible, and plan these where possible.
This way even if the budget is very small, the employee will still benefit from a sense that their development is important to the organisation.
Planning in advance like this will also maximise the use of free or cheap personal development opportunities, and will maximise effective spending of any budget available.
5. Prioritise employee wellness
It’s well documented that employees who have a good work-life balance, good mental and physical health and are happy at work perform better, so a key part of taking positive steps to improve performance includes prioritising these areas. Things you could consider include:
- Improving the workplace environment, make it a pleasant place to be
- Consider whether your team members’ jobs give them variety and an element of control over their work, and if not, see if you can achieve this. Make sure everyone has a clear idea of how their work contributes to the aims of the organisation
- Encourage flexible working where you can, including working from home or varying working hours. Most jobs can allow flexibility of some sort if you think creatively
- Look at implementing family-friendly benefits
- Consider health initiatives such as support giving up smoking, employee assistance programmes (which don’t have to be expensive) and external advice on health issues
- Prioritise health and safety in the workplace
All of the above are positive steps you can take to manage and improve performance in your team. These should reduce the chances of the negative bits becoming necessary at all, and have a positive impact on performance of all team members, rather than the ‘negative’ side of performance management which only impacts performance of those who are not up to scratch.
If you’d like some assistance developing your performance management programme, do get in touch.