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How to get the best performance from your employees

Remember the dreaded annual performance review process? We've all been there. Once a year, we sit down with our employees and go through a long structured form each of us was required to complete. We would spend 30-45 minutes talking through each point, while the employee waited patiently for us to get to the end, where they guessed their performance rating and whether or not they were receiving a raise. One employee may have gotten a "keep up the good work", while another employee received surprise feedback on areas that have needed improvement for the last several months, with little to no explanation beyond that. This is still a current practice in some companies, but with some supplemental conversations, performance reviews can provide much more value to you, your employees, and the company.

Let's talk about how to create a successful performance management strategy, with engaged, adaptable employees. A process that everyone can look forward to!

Job Descriptions and Goals and Expectations, Oh My!

From the beginning, you want your employees to know what they're doing, where they're going, and how they're going to get there. Does each of your employees have a job description? Do they set their own goals? Do they know what is expected of them? Having these three things in place is the foundation on which we're going to build.

A well-written job description acts as the roadmap for the job. Your employee uses this map to help write their individual goals and align them with the company's goals and objectives. Then we, as managers, will set clear expectations - the guard rails, if you will - for the employee so they understand how they can achieve their goals and reach top performance. (Also worth noting, Colorado will soon require job descriptions under the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.)

No News Is Good News Communication

In the opening scenario, would your employee be surprised if you gave them a low-performance rating? Think about how demotivating that would be. The 'no news is good news' philosophy, doesn't work in performance management. By not having on-going conversations with employees throughout the year, they have no way of knowing if their performance has taken a wrong turn.

Our friends at CodeGeek, do 'performance walks'. About every six weeks, their manager will schedule a 30-minute walk with each employee, as a time to check-in and see how everything is going. Because this is a regular occurrence, he is able to provide feedback in a timely manner, giving the employee an opportunity to make adjustments to their performance if applicable or continue on the current path. This is a great example of manager collaboration, and where you, as the manager, can shine.

Communication and feedback shouldn't only come from the manager though. Look at ways you can encourage peer and customer feedback on your employee's performance. Maybe that's through a customer satisfaction survey or an anonymous 360-degree feedback process.

Detour Ahead

Nobody likes to give reviews to an underperforming employee. They're uncomfortable for both employee and manager. We need to navigate performance issues before they reach a dead end. Yes, we're looking at past performance, but we want to switch to a forward view. What is missing, and what can we do to get the employee on the right road? Is it more training? Do they understand their job responsibilities? Have we had regular check-ins and documented those conversations? The earlier we can identify the warning signs, the better chance we have of fixing the problem.

The Lease is Up

Whether a voluntary or involuntary separation, it's expensive to lose an employee! Not only financially, but also the time you invested in hiring, onboarding, and training the employee. Thinking back on the employee's time with the company, was there anything we could have done to keep them? This question should be asked of both low and high performers. There is a correlation between employee engagement and performance.

Consider implementing the ideas mentioned above in order to get the best performance out of your employees. And as always, we're here to help you navigate performance discussions, implement forms and documents to keep everything organized, and help you elevate your performance management strategy.

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