Managing Staff Performance

Five tips and some leads on managing performance

We all know that if you only maintain a machine when it breaks down, you don’t get the best performance from it. It is the same with human systems. Teams are human systems. Getting maximum performance from teams in the workplace is about maintaining them before they break down, oiling the right parts and spelling and fixing worn parts.

Maximising performance in the workplace can be as simple as maximising performance of a machine. When you approach it systematically, all goes smoothly. If you leave it to hazard, Things can go wrong.

Encouraging good performance and maximising it starts with a performance management system. This is what you’re reading. Part of its aim is to achieve company objectives of innovation, performance and partnering. Our people (human systems) drive company direction and achieve shared objectives. Successful companies do not happen accidentally. They happen because their human systems are maintained and kept up to date.

Do you want to meet or improve on your targets? Is it useful for you to have happy and self-correcting, knowledgeable staff? Would you like to stop worrying about things going wrong?

Managing performance is all about these things. When it’s properly done, your staff are happy and the problems you do have are smaller. Here are five tips:

  • Give consistent feedback – both good and bad
  • Remember they’re individuals – find out what motivates them
  • Make any correction you give do-able
  • Monitor how your technique works
  • Use good feedback as well as negative.

1. Give consistent feedback – good and bad

First, give consistent feedback – good and bad. As you’re measuring performance consistently, you’ll have information. The more consistently you then give people information about how they’re going, good or bad, the more informed they are. They can self-correct when they know what’s going on. There is little point in waiting for quarterly or half-yearly performance reviews. It it’s a surprise to them then, it’s too late to fix. Let them know every day, every hour if possible, how they’re doing. The sooner you tell them when they’re on or off track the more likely they are to meet performance targets.

2. Remember they’re individuals – what motivates them?

Everyone is motivated by something different. Research shows that “hygiene” factors, like being paid more or shorter hours aren’t as useful in the long term as having a decent place to work, friends, or the chance to duck out quickly if the kids are in trouble. Find out what motivates your people. Give it to them as a reward. Take it away if there’s a problem. Tell them why. If you’re stuck for what motivates them, just ask them.

3. Make corrections do-able

If you want staff to change something they must have a step-by-step method for improving. Concrete actions they can take to change for today, at their next meeting, with their next client. “Being more positive”, or “communicating better” isn’t good enough. Make a call, say good morning, organise an event. These are do-able.

4. Monitor how your technique works

Try the sandwich technique when you’re delivering bad news – positive, followed by negative, followed by positive (so the negative is sandwiched between the positives).

Pay attention to whether behaviour changes from the sandwich technique. If they’re saying “2 out of 3 ain’t bad” rather than “they’re being nice by giving me 2 positives”, then take out the positive. Just make sure the correction is do-able.

5. Use good feedback as well as negative

It’s important to give good feedback too. Say what they did well, why you appreciate it, and then say thank you. Australians are especially suspicious of “empty” praise. “Thank you for taking that meeting with John yesterday. It meant I could deal with the end of month issues, and we all got out on time. “I appreciate it” works better for most Australians than “Thanks, you’re a star”. It also tells them what you want them to do more of!

More information

If you’d like to read more about performance management, try these books (or Google them to see what you can find on the web). Any of Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager series. Deborah Tannen You Just Don’t Understand, or That’s not What I Meant. Kris Cole’s Supervision (this is an Australian book).

This article was written by Cindy Tonkin. For more articles, click here.