Employee performance is directly connected to a company’s success. It impacts productivity, company culture, customer/client happiness, and the business’s overall bottom line.
Unfortunately, simply employing a worker doesn’t equate to productivity and stellar performance. A recent Gallup poll found that “quiet quitters” make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce. Quiet quitting is when an employee is dissatisfied with their job, but instead of outright quitting, they simply fulfill their absolute bare minimum requirements and continue collecting a paycheck.
It’s up to employers and HR professionals to motivate and inspire employees to perform at their very best.
But how do you know if an employee is performing at their best? How do you evaluate your team’s performance? How do you work to improve the overall performance of your team, as well as the performance of each individual?
Read on and find out.
Measuring employee performance
You can’t evaluate an employee’s performance without metrics. Before you can improve employee performance, you first need a way to measure it. After all, how can you improve if you don’t know where you’re starting from?
Be careful not to get stuck using only one metric, as it may not capture the full picture of employee performance.
For example, speed and efficiency may be markers of top performances, but in the haste of getting work done as quickly as possible, are employees more likely to make errors and burn out? Do they leave time for other critical workplace tasks, such as communicating with team members, keeping their workspace clean or responding to messages in a timely manner?
You might look at customer satisfaction or an employee’s ability to secure leads/sales. But in achieving these goals, is the employee also able to remain a team player and communicate effectively across the team or are they working in a silo to achieve their own personal goals?
There are many ways to measure employee performance:
- Quality of work
- Reaching professional goals
- Adhering to workplace standards
- Participation in office activities
- Lead acquisition
- Customer/client satisfaction
- Long-term commitment to the company
- Ability to work well with others
- Creativity and innovation
- Emotional intelligence, and
Obviously, practical output, like speed, is a lot easier to measure than employee creativity or the ability to work well with others. You’ll need to be a bit more creative when measuring these aspects of performance. You might ask an employee’s peers how well they communicate, track how long it takes to receive responses from team members or make note of any time an employee tries to express a new, creative or innovative idea.
What’s most important is that you choose a few different aspects to assess and track so that you get a complete picture of employee performance.
Before you begin trying to improve, ensure you have a clear idea of where you are so that you can determine if your efforts are making an impact on employee performance.
To help HR pros out, here are the top practical tips for improving employee performance in the workplace.
1. Set clear goals and expectations
If clear goals and expectations aren’t set, how can HR professionals (and employees, for that matter) evaluate if those goals are being reached?
Employees need to know exactly what’s expected of them to succeed. They need to understand how to fulfill their role and responsibilities, how they can go above and beyond in their performance, and how they can continue to grow and better themselves within the company.
These goals must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound).
Goals must be clearly defined, achievable and measurable. Something like “Make the company a million dollars by the end of the month” is drastic and unlikely to be accomplished. They must be directly relevant to the overall goals of the company. And finally, any goal needs a time frame in which it must be completed.
Ensure managers work with employees to set these goals instead of rigidly enforcing one set of standards. Each employee has unique abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and a different set of personal and professional goals they want to achieve.
A 2020 study on organization-set versus self-set goals suggests that “high organization-set goals will elicit anxiety due to an appraisal characterized by uncertainty and threat, whereas high self-set goals will elicit enthusiasm due to an appraisal characterized by positive expectations and benefit.”
When each team member plays a part in determining their goals, they’re more motivated and more likely to be accountable to them. They’ll take ownership of what they hope to achieve because it’s what they want.
How can you align an employee’s goals with the goals of the team and overall business?
Take time to regularly check in on goal progress, and be sure to adjust goals and expectations as needed. As benchmarks, workloads, expectations and priorities evolve, help employees to stick with their goals and adapt them to new developments or situations. The best time to check in on these goals is during regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings, where you can track goal achievement as a metric for employee performance.
2. Provide consistent feedback
Open, transparent communication, along with consistent feedback, is essential to improving employee performance and company culture. If you never ask for an employee’s opinion, it’s easy for them to feel like lemmings – tools with no autonomy, mindlessly fulfilling their master’s orders.
Constructive feedback will help your team members understand how they can improve their own performance. Be sure to be consistent with feedback so it doesn’t come as a surprise. When employees are bombarded with feedback they don’t expect, they can become defensive or disappointed in themselves, as they’re only hearing about how they can improve and not what they did well.
Successful feedback is given with consistency so that employees grow to expect it on a regular basis. Along with consistency, feedback must be constructive and paired with praise for what the employee is doing well.
Lastly, remember that feedback is a two-way street. Build feedback into your company culture by gathering constructive feedback from and for everyone in the company. Managers aren’t exempt from receiving feedback. In fact, they need feedback to thrive and grow as leaders. The same is true of HR professionals. Consistently ask your team for feedback to learn what’s working and what isn’t. Feedback is the best way for you to improve, grow and evolve in your role.
When feedback becomes a regular company process, it’s no longer feared or dreaded. It’s something that all team members can look forward to because they’ll know that feedback is essential to their growth and overall performance.
3. Offer praise, incentives and rewards for good performance
People like to hear they’ve done good work, and hearing about or being rewarded for their good work is even more incentive to continue achieving goals and exceeding expectations.
Not every success needs a celebration, but if an employee works hard, performs well, reaches their goals or continually goes above and beyond without being recognized, they’ll soon feel unseen and underappreciated. They’ll lose steam, and when they believe no one cares about their results, good or bad, they’ll stop trying as hard.
This apathetic mindset can completely derail employee performance – not only for the unmotivated employee but also for those around them. Apathy is contagious, and before long, it can lead to a culture of bare minimum effort.
Intentionally develop an employee recognition program that includes a variety of different ways to acknowledge employee performance. You might:
- Acknowledge top-performing employees at a team meeting.
- Give top earners extra time off for balance and wellness.
- Reward the entire team with an office lunch after a successful project.
- Buy a small token of appreciation for the employee who went out of their way to help another team member.
- Reward commitment to the company with verbal appreciation and a gift for notable employee anniversaries.
Keep in mind that not every member of your team will want to be centered out in public, even if it’s positive. Do what you can to celebrate each employee in the way that’s most comfortable for them. If you’re unsure what an employee would like, take time to ask.
Being acknowledged for a job well done encourages a continuous improvement mindset, and it will promote a positive work environment where team members feel valued and appreciated.
4. Provide ongoing training and development opportunities
Training and development opportunities are directly tied to an employer‘s desire and willingness to improve.
Always consider how you can help your team members learn, grow and move forward in their careers. What training and development opportunities does your company offer, and do each of your team members feel like they can prosper and grow within your company?
Training and development opportunities might include:
- Skill building
- Keeping up with new technology
- Leadership skills
- Presentation or public speaking skills
- Team building, and
- Diversity training.
The benefits of training and development are twofold. By providing ongoing training, you’re building a stronger, more capable workforce while proving to your employees that you value their development and want to help them succeed.
When employees feel like they don’t have any way to move forward, they become stagnant in their work, development and performance. What’s the point of dedicating yourself to your work when there’s no way to move up or develop your career?
Ensuring growth opportunities is more difficult for smaller companies that have fewer roles and fewer opportunities for promotions. Whether you have traditional promotions to offer or not, you must make sure all team members see a way in which they can grow and develop within your company. Otherwise, they’ll have to look for growth elsewhere at another company.
5. Foster a positive and supportive company culture
Employees don’t work in a silo. They’re part of a team, which is part of an even larger company and industry community. An employee’s performance is often directly tied to their environment and the people around them.
When other team members have a negative outlook, low motivation or disinterest in the work, those feelings will wear off on others. Just like a smile is contagious, so is a negative attitude.
This is where HR comes in. A proactive approach to workplace wellness and a positive company culture will beat out reactionary solutions every time. This is because negative attitudes and poor habits are difficult to reverse after they’ve metastasized.
When employees feel supported by the workplace and the people around them, they’re more motivated to do their best work. Your company culture and the work environment you create, whether intentional or not, are directly tied to employee performance.
Is your workplace and the individuals within it living up to your company’s core values? Have you intentionally created a positive, supportive and welcoming workplace, and do employees agree? Do all employees feel a part of your company culture, and is your company culture easily recognizable?
If you’re unsure, it’s time to begin asking around and receiving feedback from the entire team. Prioritize balance, promote company values across the organization, develop effective onboarding processes, and set up procedures to ensure everyone feels like they belong, as this will establish a healthy work environment – one where employees feel empowered and driven to do their best.
Continue to evaluate employee performance
Let’s go over those points one more time. To improve employee performance, you need to:
1. Set clear goals and expectations
2. Provide consistent feedback
3. Offer praise, incentives and rewards for good performance
4. Provide ongoing training and development opportunities, and
5. Foster a positive and supportive company culture.
Before you begin with these tips, remember that you need a way to measure employee performance, and those measurements should cover a range of different performance metrics. Use a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures, and multiple sources to ensure you’re capturing the full picture of employee performance.
To help you get started, here are some helpful resources:
- 20 employee engagement survey questions (and why to ask them)
- The ultimate guide to superior performance reviews
- Turn good people into great employees: performance reviews that work