Every manager knows that underperforming individuals can have a surprisingly widespread impact on a business.
It’s not just the lost productivity from one person - picking up the slack is a distraction for the rest of the team and can seriously affect staff morale. Worse, if someone is failing to meet partner or customer expectations, poor performance can result in lost business and impossible pressure on resources.
However, while the stakes are high, improving performance is a delicate balancing act. You’ll need to combine open and honest feedback and positive encouragement, or ‘clean communication’ as we like to call it! You’ll need to build a relationship of trust, learning and improvement - coaching, not directing your employees. And it starts before you even recruit.
Your first step in achieving the best possible performance from your employees happens before you fill a role. Across your job specification and interview process, you’ll need to set clear expectations and responsibilities. Then, when the new hire starts working, your on-boarding process can set the standards for communication, your employer/employee relationship, and performance.
We recommend a structured onboarding and induction process that gets employees off to a good start. However, it’s crucial that you can tailor your onboarding to the needs of individual employees. People need different things to perform at their best, so take the time to listen to individual needs through regular 1-2-1s during any probation period.
Coaching doesn’t have to be exclusive to your most senior team members and decision-makers. As a manager, it’s easy to apply some key principles of coaching in your daily routine.
In fact, with a little training, one of our clients managed this so effectively that she turned one of her poorest performing employees into one of her best. Here’s how.
Fundamentally, resolving performance issues means understanding their root cause. To get there, you’ll need to ask the right questions.
In management, it can be tempting to ask closed questions - typically those that begin with ‘Are’ or ‘Do’. For example, you might ask:
However, these types of question only give rise to yes or no answers. Instead, you can use open questions - typically beginning with ‘How’ or ‘What’ - to get people talking and improve your understanding:
Start listening to the questions you naturally ask and find opportunities to ask open ones where possible. When discussing performance with your team we encourage you to use the www.ebi model, ask the employee to think in terms of ‘what went well…..even better if’ when giving you feedback on their performance in a task or project. Once everyone gets into using it, it becomes part of everything you do a performance improvement culture.
Whatever questions you are asking, don’t forget to listen to the answers. While it sounds obvious, it’s always tempting to jump in, rephrase your question, or add more of your thoughts and feelings while someone else is talking. Instead, take the time to really listen with an open mind about the solution.
It helps to practice being comfortable with periods of silence. Discussing poor performance may be a difficult situation, so make sure you give people an opportunity to think, reflect and present their point of view.
Employees often perform at their best when they’re responsible for their own tasks and given the tools and support they need to complete them. A coaching approach is based on the fact that everyone understands what they need to do, but micromanaging can inhibit someone’s natural performance flow.
Work in partnership with your employees to agree on what their next steps should be, then leave them to get the job done. You can’t force change and, if performance stays the same, it’ll be picked up at your next scheduled discussion.
Finally, if an employee is unmotivated or unsatisfied by their role, they are not solely responsible. Poor performance can often be an indication that your preconceptions about job satisfaction were wrong.
Thankfully, it’s easy to fix - just ask staff members whether they’re satisfied, or what they’d need to get there. Then, with this essential understanding, you can remember and deliver what your people need to stay motivated long-term.
Working with so many businesses of all shapes and sizes, we’ve seen the realities of employee performance - and that getting the best from your people takes a layered, comprehensive approach.
At Park City, we can help you manage performance from end-to-end, improving communication, identifying performance gaps, handling interventions, writing job specifications and more. All while keeping you compliant with HR legislation.
We can also train your managers to bring the principles of coaching into the way they work with their teams. Click here to find out more about our management skills training, or contact us now to discuss your challenges.
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