Posts Tagged 'employee performance'

Conversations for Performance – a Critical Business Management Skill

In the last blog article I described a situation where an employee was no longer performing as expected – coming in late to work, being rude, and a decline in the quality of work done.  You now have a decision to make:  no matter what the underlying cause(s), will you continue to tolerate the behaviors, or will you address them?  If you choose to address them, what strategies are most likely to create clarity around your expectations while giving the employee a chance to meet them?

First and foremost, threats will not work.  Or they may work in the short term, but over time you will probably lose the employee, either by firing or by his/her choice.  So what does work?  The book Crucial Conversations (Kerry Patterson et al) is a resource I highly recommend.  Here is an extremely brief synopsis of their process.

  • You must be clear in your own mind what needs to change and be able to describe that clearly to the employee. (Chapter 3)
  • You must create a “safe space” for this conversation to occur. (Chapter 5)
  • You must be open to alternative solutions suggested by the employee. (Chapter 8)
  • Together, you and the employee must create and follow a mutually acceptable action plan. (Chapter 10)

Sound difficult?  Of course!  Your choice is whether to step up to the challenge or give up on this employee.  There are costs and risks in either choice, but the most benefit will be gained for you and your business if you are willing to create the foundation for a productive conversation for performance.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Performance Symptoms vs. Performance Problems

Consider the following scenario:

A long-time employee arrives 30 minutes late for work three days in a row.  And, when questioned about this, he snaps “none of your business!”  You also notice that over the past month or so his work has really not been up to standards.  So do you have a performance problem?

Your immediate answer is probably “of course I have a performance problem!”  But what you really have is a series of performance symptoms:

  • Lateness
  • Rudeness
  • Poor quality work.

The underlying performance problem, the cause of these behaviors, could be any number of things, some of which you can control and some of which you cannot.  Consider that the employee might:

  • Have recently learned of the terminal illness of a loved one.
  • Be struggling with financial issues that are distracting from focus on work.
  • Feel (rightly or wrongly) that his work load has stretched him far beyond capacity.

You may be hesitant to engage him in a conversation about your observations.  But consider the cost and consequences of not doing so.  Just like a doctor who examines the patient with a fever (symptom) and decides on a diagnosis (problem) in order to prescribe the correct treatment, your task is to get to the underlying issue in order to develop a fair and appropriate solution.  Ideally this solution will maintain the dignity of the employee while meeting your needs for improved performance.  How to have that conversation will be the topic of a future blog post.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440

Are Your People Employees or Business Partners?

Does it seem like you are taking on more and more of what you hired people to do?  Are you handing out paychecks and wondering what value you are getting?  If so, you need to help your staff move from an “employee” mentality to a “business partner”  who is engaged in improving the business.

The first step in this process is to step back and look at what you (yes you!) are doing that allows your employees to stop doing things they were hired to do.    Here are some questions to ask yourself:

• Are you a perfectionist for whom nothing is ever good enough so you are the only one who can do the job right?

• Do you always clarify why you are asking an employee to do something and what the expected outcome is?

• Are you quick to correct mistakes but slow to praise when someone goes “above and beyond?”

If any of these apply to you, you will need to modify your behavior before you expect your employees to modify theirs.

The next step is to share business plans and challenges with your employees on a regular basis.  And, ask them for their help in creating solutions to the challenges.  Even if you don’t fully implement a suggestion, the employee knows they have been heard and will be more likely to step up to the plate next time.

The final step is to be transparent about what is costs to run your business and engage employees in a conversation about how they can reduce costs and increase profits.  More about that next time.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440

What is Employee Engagement? Why Should I Care?

Put very simply, employee engagement is the level at which your employees are willing to “go to bat” for you.   A “highly engaged” employee feels a connection to the company and consciously works to meet company goals.  A “disengaged” employee feels little connection to the company and in fact, may consciously try to sabotage company goals.

How can you tell if your employees are engaged?  Ask yourself the following questions:
• How often does work get done faster than I expected?
• How often does the quality of work exceed my expectations?
• If I were to observe my employees outside of the office, what would they be saying about the company?
If your answer to the first two questions is “never” and the third is “they would be complaining” you have a problem.

So,  what can you do to increase their level of engagement?    Here are a few suggestions:
• Make sure they know why their job is important and how it contributes to company goals.
• Be clear about your expectations for quality performance and what that looks like.
• Model the behavior you wish to see in your employees.

The success of your business depends on your employees’ willingness to fully participate in the work.  This is a shared responsibility – you need to do your part to make it happen.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Why Should I Train my Employees? They’ll Just Leave!

Many business owners view training as a cost rather than an  investment.  They see the time away from  work, and often are disappointed with the results because there is little or no change.  And sometimes, employees do leave shortly after the owner has made a major investment in training.

So why should you train? And, more importantly, how do you ensure that the training “sticks” and is applied on the job?  Consider the following points:

  • If the worker is not properly trained to do the job, performance will be less than optimal. This is especially true of new hires. Yes, they may have the requisite skills, but do they know what your expectations are, and what outstanding performance looks like?  They may not need formal classroom training, but they most certainly need on-the-job coaching and information.
  • Ask yourself, what is the cost of not training?  Are you willing to accept mediocre performance?  How will that impact your business?
  • While some employees are perfectly content to do the same job the same way year after year, routine also breeds mediocrity.  What are you doing to make sure your employees are able to deal with a challenging business environment and make a real contribution?  (If you need an example of the changed business landscape, just think Social Media.)

Thus, the wise business owner works with employees to identify  gaps and opportunities for growth.  When the employee understands why they are receiving training and how they are expected to apply it on the job they will be more invested and less likely to leave.    And, consider training for yourself.  If you are eager to learn and apply what you learn, your employees will be too.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Progressive Discipline – a Good Approach to Improving Employee Performance?

Consider the following scenario:

Your administrative assistant compiles a month-end report for you on critical business data.  The report due date is three business days after the end of the month, but recently this has been slipping to four, then five days or even later.  Frustrated, you follow company procedure and give her a verbal warning, telling her that you expect the report to be ready on the due date next month.  She promises that it will be…and once again, the report is three days late.  So, you give her a written warning, and explain that the consequence of continuing to miss the date will be termination.  Once again, the report is not ready on time, so you fire her.

Ask yourself, would you do your best work under threat of termination?  Probably not.  Are there better alternatives to helping an employee improve performance?  Definitely.  Consider the following:
• Lateness is the symptom, not the problem.  Why is the report late?  Is critical data not available timely?  Are there other priorities that get in the way of completing the report?
• Why do you need the report three business days after month end?  Just because it’s always been that way?  What is the actual need and by when?
• Are there unique circumstances over the past few months that have contributed to the issue?  Will they continue?  If not, the issue will likely resolve itself with no intervention.

In a few cases, you may not be successful with these strategies. But if you need to terminate, it’s at least with a good understanding of why things are not working and what you need to look for in the next candidate.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Training! We Need Training!

When I worked in corporate Learning and Development, I got many requests for training. Any time there was an issue where someone was not doing the job, the immediate “answer” was to provide training. One request I remember was to develop training on filling out a departmental form. People were not filling out the form so, of course, they needed to be trained to do that. The problem is…that really would not have fixed the problem. By asking the following questions it became clear that a different solution was needed:

• Do people know they need to fill out the form? (Yes)
• Have they filled out the form in the past? (Yes, sometimes)
• Do they have all the information at hand needed to fill out the form? (Yes)
• Is it easy to fill out the form? (No, it’s confusing…that’s why we need training!)

So what was the real issue here? Should you train people to fill out a confusing form, or should you work with them to clarify the form so that it’s easy to fill out? I suggested that before we develop training, the manager should ask a few people in the department to look at the form and suggest ways to make it easier to fill out. The result…a revised form that made it very easy to collect and record the needed information. It was beta-tested by the department and once implemented, resulted in a 100% compliance rate for completing the form.

Conclusion: training may or may not solve your performance problem. Ask questions about what is really happening before investing the time and money needed to develop and implement training. Your bottom line will thank you for it.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work. For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.