Strategies business leaders use to improve employee performance

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Mofoluwaso Ilevbare, HR Thought Leader and Executive Coach

Former CHRO/Head of HR, P&G Australia & New Zealand, Procter & Gamble

Good performance management is key to business success. In our ever-changing times, leaders need to manage and support their teams in the best possible way to achieve business goals.

In order to achieve organizational success, it is critical that employees are able to perform at their best. High-performing employees can be a major advantage for businesses in terms of innovation and positive work culture. In a constantly changing external environment, business leaders must manage and empower their employees to stay ahead of the competition. Poor employee performance is a threat to achieving business goals and targets. A study by Abaci & Pershing (2017) showed that organization leaders in the United States of America (U.S.A.) spend on average $164 billion annually to improve human performance. So, how can leaders improve employee performance? 

  1. Focus on Employee Engagement: There is a reason that engaged employees are often more productive and committed to their work. A recent study by Harvard Business School found that highly engaged employees demonstrate a higher level of commitment to their organization and are less likely to leave voluntarily. The study, which looked at data from over 4,000 employees in the U.S., found that those who were highly engaged were nearly three times more likely to stay with their company for five years or more. They were also less likely to look for other jobs, even if they were unhappy with their current situation. So, what makes employees become highly engaged? The sense of accomplishment of meaningful contributions, autonomy, inter-personal relationships at work, and a manager that cares. To improve performance, leaders must carry employees along when formulating performance management metrics and ensure these metrics are properly communicated and cascaded across the organization. Highly engaged employees demonstrated a higher level of commitment and willingness to deliver better performance. On the other hand, disengaged employees are a threat to business performance 
  2. Use relevant performance management tools:
    • Performance is the measure of the quality and quantity of effort an individual puts into an assigned task. Organizations can use appropriate tools such as the balanced scorecard (BSC), KPIs, predictive analytics, one-on-one manager feedback, and routine performance reviews to measure performance. The overall business performance is the total value and output from all employees and therefore, defining KPIs at the beginning of the year, reviewing mid-year performance in the middle and towards the end of the year, are strategies to improve performance. 
  3. Leadership Commitment to Performance Management:
    • Organizations need effective leaders who can foster and shape positive behaviors of their teams to deliver business goals There’s a reason why leaders are often referred to as “the face of the company.” They play a critical role in setting the tone and culture and ensuring that everyone is on board with the objectives. When leaders are not committed to the objectives they have set, are not walking the talk, or sometimes bending the rules, it can be extremely demoralizing for employees. It can also lead to a lack of trust and transparency within the organization. Ultimately, this can hurt productivity and hinder growth. 
  4. Monetary and Non-Monetary Based Rewards and Recognition:
    • There is a lot of discussion these days about the best way to motivate employees. Some business leaders believe that offering financial rewards is the only way to get results, while others maintain that intrinsic motivation comes from feeling valued and appreciated by one’s employer. Both sides have valid points, and the truth is that it depends on the individual employee as to what will work best. There are some business leaders who have figured out what motivates employees and have designed their reward systems accordingly. These companies can meet the challenges of today’s competitive market by creating a workforce that is intrinsically motivated. The benefits of this type of motivation are clear: Employees are more productive, creative, and engaged in their work. They take greater ownership of their projects which fosters the right behaviors. Business leaders who understand what motivates employees and design the right rewards that create intrinsic motivation can meet the challenges of today’s labor market. 
  5. Set Clear Expectations:
    • When it comes to expectations in the workplace, clarity is key. By setting clear expectations, employees can understand what is expected of them in the right way. This helps to avoid any confusion or miscommunication, and ultimately makes everyone more productive. Leaders who engage in open conversations with direct reports, give goal-based feedback, and help clarify objectives, can improve employee performance. Sometimes, leaders assume that, they need to have all the answers. And while it’s important to be knowledgeable and in control, leaders can also benefit from having open conversations with their direct reports. This allows for two-way communication and feedback, which can help leaders better understand their team and what’s happening on the ground. By being more open and receptive, leaders can create a more positive work environment and foster trust within their team.

How can leaders get started?  

Here are six basic steps: 

1. Define what “performance” means to you and your team

2. Set goals for employees, both short-term and long-term

3. Implement a system of rewards and punishments that is fair and consistent

4. Encourage employees to give feedback and offer suggestions for improvement

5. Address problems immediately.

6. Celebrate successes, both big and small

Written by: Mofoluwaso Ilevbare

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