9 Steps to Improve Employee Performance (2021)

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Employees are the backbone of any organization. You could have a great product or provide a unique service, but if your employees aren’t performing, it undermines all the effort you’ve put into your business. 

Successful performing employees meet deadlines, make sales, and build your brand via positive customer interactions. At the same time, underperforming employees hold back organizations from meeting their true potential. 

Employee performance is critical to the overall productivity, profitability, and success of a company. When employee performance drops, so does revenue and growth.

What does employee performance mean?

Employee performance refers to how well employees fulfill their job duties, complete assigned tasks within their deadlines, hit goals, and behave in the workplace. When leaders monitor employee performance, they look at an employee’s work effectiveness, quality of work, quantity of work, and overall efficiency of their output.

9 Steps to Improve Employee Performance in 2021

To stay on top growth, companies need to improve employee performance and turn their workforce into their valuable asset and high-performing team members. Organizations often believe that pay raises, bonuses, and other benefits and perks will motivate employees to work harder and improve employee performance, but that isn’t necessarily the case. 

Here are 9 efficient and positive strategies for you to mitigate performance issues in your organization and improve employee performance for better business results.

1. Set clear goals

You can’t expect employees to be engaged and efficient in their job if they don’t have clear goals to aim for. 

Employee goal-setting is a key responsibility of managers to make sure that their team members are aware of what is expected in their role. Goals motivate, inspire, and fuel employee performance. When faced with meeting a goal, employees become resourceful, putting their existing knowledge to work or innovating in new ways to find paths to success.

To define clear and measurable performance goals, consider using the SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based) framework to drive employee performance all year-round. These goals will help provide data and insights that allow managers to measure employee performance – which sets a benchmark for performance levels that can be improved upon over time.

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2. Reward improvement

One of the best ways to encourage employees to be more efficient is to give them an incentive and show recognition. Employees deserve recognition when they contribute to the success of your company – and many employees want this recognition. Recognizing and appreciating your employees for a job well done motivates team members to improve overall performance even more. On the other hand, lack of recognition may drive your best talent to look for jobs where they’ll get the appreciation they deserve.

Monetary rewards are always appreciated but aren’t the only motivator that improve employee performance. Showing your employees that they’re a valued part of the organization and giving genuine praise for their meaningful contributions to the company are many times more powerful motivators than money alone. Small gestures like a genuine “thank you” in the team meetings, an appreciation email, handwritten cards, etc. goes a long way in boosting employee morale and improving performance.

With that being said – this is not to say monetary rewards aren’t driving factors. For many personality types, money-based rewards are the biggest driving factor and motivation. A strong combination of monetary rewards and constant employee recognition is the best recipe for strong employee performance.

3. Communicate effectively

Effective communication is an essential tool for organizational performance. Most businesses rely on effective communication with both customers and employees to boost sales and enhance business growth. 

According to the European Journal of Business and Management research, effective communication in any business entity has a great influence on employee performance.

Effective business communication enhances organizational management, influences proper coordination between employees and managers, builds teamwork, promotes good relationships between stakeholders, boosts employee engagement, and consequently helps improve employee performance.

With many teams adapting to remote workforces, communication has never been the biggest challenge. Online communication tools help overcome this challenge and foster a culture that encourages employee communication across teams and organizations.

4. Identify and solve the root cause of poor performance

Poor employee performance not only impacts the team’s productivity, but also affects corporate culture, employee morale, and productivity across the organization. This is why you must identify and address employee performance issues as soon as possible.

Here’s how managers can handle performance issues:

  • Understand the root of the problem – Take time to understand what is causing the issue. Perhaps you have the wrong team member for the job? Or perhaps your employees need more focused training and specialized experience. Maybe they feel demotivated by their current work environment or have too heavy of a workload. It could even be something in their personal life impacting their performance.
  • Devise a plan – Once you have identified the problem, devise a plan to tackle and resolve the issue promptly. Your plan could include recognizing employees for their accomplishments, setting achievable goals, providing the necessary support, investing in additional resources, rearranging the tasks, or changing your employee training strategy. The performance improvement plan solely depends on the root cause of your problem.
  • Be honest and supportive – Be honest and supportive with employees while giving feedback on their sub-par performance. Provide specific examples of areas that are below expectations and help your employees improve.

5. Training opportunities

Effective training is a motivational factor for your employees that enhances their knowledge and makes them proficient in their jobs to give better results. 

Employee training platforms such as Whatfix update employee skill sets, improve employee performance, increase productivity and profits, and eventually put companies in the best position to face competition. Investing in employee training software also improves employee retention rates, customer satisfaction, and creativity for new product ideas.

digital adoption platform (DAP) is a good resource to fulfill your organizational training needs by helping employees learn new tools while using them. It provides real-time guidance in the form of step-by-step interactive walkthroughs, pop-ups, and tooltips. DAPs help employees master different types of software such as sales tools, HR platforms, marketing tools, and more. They can be integrated right into a specific tool and gradually introduce employees to different features of an app without overwhelming them.

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How to Develop an Effective Employee Training Program in 2022

6. Performance reviews

There is no hope of increasing employee efficiency if employees don’t know they’re being inefficient in the first place. This is why performance reviews are essential. A performance review is an assessment that takes place 2-4x times a year in which a manager evaluates an employee’s performance, identifies strengths and weaknesses, offers feedback, and sets goals for future performance. 

When done right, performance reviews help employees understand what they’re doing well, how they can improve, how their work aligns with company goals, and what is expected of them. They also identify employee’s personal goals and highlight career paths with actionable goals and timelines to hit these career aspirations.

By effectively using performance reviews, managers get an opportunity to improve employee performance by:

  • helping employees identify their requirements and challenges
  • helping them understand where they stand and what they need to improve
  • providing real-time help to overcome obstacles
  • communicating organizational expectations 
  • encouraging growth and career development
  • creating positive experiences for motivation
  • identify growth potential and timelines for climbing your organizational ladder

7. Keep deadlines realistic

Some managers like to build pressure on their teams, believing that more pressure means more productivity. However, cranking up deadline expectations doesn’t always produce better results. Not giving adequate time for employees to finish projects leads to employee burnout, frustration, and disengagement. It also lends itself to poor work quality. This is why managers need to find a balance between placing a sense of urgency on deadlines and allowing enough time for your employees to complete them with quality work.

When used thoughtfully, tight deadlines can help motivate and improve employee performance. Tailor deadlines according to the unique time requirements of different types of work and be realistic with every goal to ensure your employees deliver quality work on time.

8. Balance accountability and authority

In an organization, a thorough understanding of two essential work concepts: employee accountability and employee authority. Both give managers and employees an extra layer of improved performance and overall team success. 

Accountability means setting expectations for every employee and putting meaningful consequences in place. Authority means giving employees the power to decide and act on their own. 

Managers need to strike a balance between accountability and authority. This means while assigning responsibilities, the required amount of authority should be bestowed on employees to help them complete the assigned duties. 

If an individual is given some level of responsibility without sufficient authority enforcing that responsibility, they cannot perform to the best of their ability and could fail to finish the project. On the other hand, if excess authority is delegated to an individual without a matching amount of responsibility, the authority could be misused and lead to internal team issues.  

Providing adequate resources to your team, as well as the power to make decisions and execute their ideas, gives employees the right balance between performance goals and the autonomy in deciding how to achieve them.

Managers must find the right ratio of authority-to-responsibility that yields a successful completion of tasks consistently across your workforce that helps improve overall employee performance and output.  

9. Consider remote working options

Allowing your employees to work from home might seem counterintuitive for improving performance. However, the reality is quite the opposite. Remote work allows your employees to save valuable time that is otherwise wasted.  

According to a 2019 remote work survey, remote workers work 1.4 more days/month than in-office employees that translate into 16.8 more workdays every year. Also, in-office workers deal with workplace distractions an average of 37 minutes/day, while remote employees experience an average of 27 minutes/day which simply means more productivity. 

Working remotely offers employees a better balance between work and personal life. The freedom to work on their preferred hours strikes a healthy work-life balance for employees. This leads to employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and an improvement in employee morale which makes employees more focussed and productive while working.

Managers should be prepared for unique challenges that come with remote team management and prepare proper guidelines and policies that make it clear the expectations of each team member.

End Note...

Hiring the best talent is just the tip of the iceberg; keeping their performing at their best plays a larger role in a company’s long-term success. Even little things, when left to fester, become bigger issues and drive down employee performance.

However, you can maintain a productive and performance-oriented workplace by continuously monitoring employee performance and utilizing performance improvement tips to make sure that your employees remain satisfied, happy, and motivated while giving their best all the time.

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