I consulted with a large client once who held several management meetings daily. Upon leaving a meeting, common employee feedback went something like this,
“I’m not sure what we accomplished, but I feel really good about it”.
This interaction illustrates a fundamental problem that we find in organizations today. Leaders often mistake meetings and general activity for employee performance. In the case above, employees would attend meetings unprepared to learn what they would need for their next meeting. This was a large consumption of human capital but delivered little employee performance that created real organization value.
So what is Employee Performance?
Employee performance is the act of accomplishing work through the execution of tasks. Performance that is desired should produce valuable work ethically while contributing to a worthy purpose and vision. If the work being accomplished does not fulfill this definition, it is not adding value to the organization. Improved employee performance comes by increasing value delivered through work while reducing energy consumed by the work.
In the absence of work that increases value, knowledge, capability, good ideas, and intention do not improve performance. In addition, performance is not worthy if it leaves behind a negative impact on employees. Enlightened management produces high performance that increases purposeful value for the organization while reducing employees’ negative impact.
12 Actions that Improve Employee Performance.
So what are the elements that deliver improved employee performance? Shown here are 12 specific actions that any employer can take to create performance that delivers purposeful value for the organization and reduces the negative effect for employees.
1. Equip employees with the knowledge, skills, intention, and capability to do the job
Begin by hiring and equipping employees with the essential traits to succeed. Employees must know how to do their job, have the ability to do their job, want to do their job, and have time to do their job well.
2. Provide direction and purpose
Knowing the where and the why of the work improves the ability to execute the what.
3. Clearly communicate expectations, responsibility, and authority
Employees must clearly understand what they are expected to do, what level of responsibility they carry with their work, and the commensurate authority they have to accomplish the work.
4. Provide necessary information, instructions, procedures, tools, and technology
The expectations of work must be accompanied by the necessary support that enables their work to be accomplished effectively and efficiently.
5. Remove barriers to performance
We know from clients that greater than 70% of all organizational problems and opportunities come from business process deficiencies. Removing barriers is an essential element to demonstrating a commitment to improving employee performance.
6. Involve employees in improving their work
Those to do the work should define and improve their work. Employee engagement is an essential prerequisite of employee performance improvement.
7. Solicit employee feedback, views, and concerns
As Stephen Covey once said,” Seek first to understand, and then to be understood”. Because employees are often fearful of providing direct feedback, leadership should think creatively to obtain unfiltered employee feedback and concerns that must be addressed.
8. Measure what’s important to the job accurately and timely
Most organizations measure what’s easy, not what’s important. Effective measurement must be timely, accurate, and complete. Most importantly, it must accurately assess the extent to which the desired performance is being achieved.
9. Give prompt and regular performance feedback
The general principle concerning employee feedback is that feedback should be given at the most frequent interval practical. Rarely do organizations provide feedback in a timely fashion. Feedback is the breakfast of champions and a key to fast, substantial, and sustainable improvement.
10. Provide positive reinforcement
Not all feedback is productive feedback for improving employee performance. It is well documented that the most powerful feedback available to a leader is positive reinforcement of desired employee performance.
11. Pay fairly
While fair pay alone will not drive employee performance improvement, the absence of fair pay will certainly contribute to its demise.
12. Hold accountable
James P McLaughlin of United Parcel Service articulated this best in 1974 when he said,
“Where we have problems, we find lack of accountability. Problems exist because someone failed to do a job and was allowed to get away with it.”
Improved Employee Performance
Improved employee performance comes from the accomplishment of valuable work while simultaneously reducing the effort required by that work. By first understanding the tasks that form together to comprise work, the organization can focus efforts on the 12 actions outlined above that set the stage to definitively improve employee performance.