5 Practical Steps to Performance Improvement
Perhaps one of the most significant challenges to any manager or HR staff member is to implement a fair, equitable, and effective performance improvement plan for employees. Employees have wants and desires, and those that feel a sense of purpose in their work are far more likely to be productive than those that do not.
Thus, performance improvement designed to assist those performing less ideally than the company desires are a prickly pear. Fortunately, there are some tips to deliver more effective performance improvement plans and hopefully avoid conflicts while making the work environment a more productive and better place for all involved.
5 Practical Steps to Performance Improvement
01. Identify and Map Out a Plan
There’s no sense or purpose in jumping to conclusions about an employee’s performance if you haven’t thoroughly dug into the roots of what may be causing a loss in performance. That’s why the first step is to identify the root causes and to create an actionable plan to encourage productive behavior.
In terms of the EQ Code – the employee is on BLACK – they likely think they’re doing ok (or, unlikely, but maybe they’re hoping they will continue to fly under the radar). Meanwhile – you’re on WHITE – wanting a fair salary trade for productive company desired outcomes. To look after the team member and the company, you must first understand BLACK.
Without breaching the employee’s confidentiality, try to discover the cause. Did the employee participate in workshops and meetings about the project they’re currently assigned? Has the employee had ample time to recover and decompress from a hectic year? All of these could be indicators of lowered performance.
02. Include the Employee(s)
This is an essential step for obvious reasons. Failure to include the employee can lead to the employee acting suspicious or distrustful, that perhaps you are working behind the scenes to have them disciplined or terminated, and that their voice doesn’t matter.
Be open with the team member. Explain it seems that you are unsure of where they are up to… so you’re not sure if you’re on the same page (WHITE). Explain the complete plan – to get clear if there is a gap, and if there is, to decide what needs to happen.
Include the employee and train your active listening techniques. The purpose is not to include them simply so that you can dictate what they should or shouldn’t do. No. Instead, allow them to voice their opinions, concerns, etc. A lot can be learned this way productively, and the potential for conflict can be lowered.
03. Establish Clear Ideal Objectives
Now that you’ve prepared a plan and discussed (and included!) with your employee the possible sources and solutions to performance improvement, you must prepare crystal clear objectives.
To make sure all the basics are covered, you consider using the tried and tested SMART format to develop objectives:
- Specific: pinpoint areas of performance improvement;
- Measurable: evaluate the change in performance;
- Actionable: who will be responsible for the performance improvement (i.e., who has moral agency?);
- Realistic: ensure that the desired outcomes are realistic;
- Time-bound: When do you expect meaningful change to occur (according to your metrics)?
Before Step 4, ensure the employee is happy and on board. And remember, if they’re not clearly and energetically happy, they’re not happy! In this case, redo the plan or gently check if the team member feels they’re in the proper role. If they assure you, they are, adjust, improve, and/or connect them to the plan until they feel excited.
04. Provide Ongoing Training & Support
Okay, you’ve set up a plan and spoken with the employee. Good to go, right? Wrong. You must provide adequate training and support to assist employees toward desired performance metrics.
Remember that hiring new employees is costly, and terminating employees – especially those with skills and potential – incurs great costs as well. Invest in them because it’s the right thing to do.
05. Review Performance
Say the employee has met the metrics outlined in your plan for performance improvement. Good. But the show’s not over yet. Maintain routine performance evaluations to ensure that performance remains at the desired level. Do this in a way that is fair for all employees; otherwise, it will certainly look like you’re picking on specific employees. This means having a follow-up performance improvement plan in place that is in writing.
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