HR Management & Compliance

Techniques to Manage and Improve Employee Performance

Perhaps it goes without saying that an organization’s success is largely dependent on how well every employee performs. Yet many organizations struggle with maximizing employee performance while also keeping employee morale high and turnover low. Sound familiar?

Fortunately, there are seemingly endless ways that managers and HR teams can impact employee productivity, both directly and indirectly. Let’s take a look at some ideas to improve employee performance.

Techniques to Manage and Improve Employee Performance

Here are some ideas for managing and improving employee performance:

  • Set clear expectations and communicate them well, then continue to manage expectations. Frequent communication is critical. Ensure employees understand their objectives by asking them to explain them in their own words.
  • Train managers and give them the tools to help their employees excel. Be on the lookout for managers who have underperforming teams—and see what the root cause is.
  • Utilize employee handbooks to keep everyone on the same page and help to ensure employees understanding of company policies.
  • Consistently follow the company’s employee discipline policy, and always discipline promptly if necessary. This step maintains consistent and fair treatment of employees so they see that they do not have to tolerate or pick up slack for poor performers. Perhaps counterintuitively, a consistently applied and fair disciplinary policy can keep morale up (assuming of course it is appropriate and not overreaching). A disciplinary policy does this by ensuring everyone is held accountable for their actions.
  • Conduct regular and timely employee performance appraisals so employees know where they stand and what their goals are.
  • Use SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. When employee goals are realistic, it gives them ownership and encourages them to achieve their goals.
  • Prioritize employee development. In other words, help them help you. You can do this by ensuring your employees know how to achieve their career goals within the organization and, likewise, ensuring that employee goals are known so you can both plan accordingly. Work with the employee to close any skills gaps that exist that would be an impediment to achieving their long-term career goals. This improves employee skills, which benefit both the employer and employee, and it also helps maintain and improve employee satisfaction levels.
  • Give frequent and timely feedback. When an employee does something worth recognizing, give him or her that recognition. If appropriate, consider giving a reward for employee service that exceeds expectations. It’s also important to ensure that when an employee steers slightly off course, he or she knows that too. Even negative feedback (as long as it’s not the only feedback!) helps because it ensures employees understand expectations.
  • Be open to receiving feedback too. Listen to employees when they ask for better tools. Listen to their needs to ensure they’re happy. Ensure each person is in the right role for his or her needs and skills.
  • Review company hiring procedures to ensure the best candidates are being selected.
  • Conduct employee engagement surveys; poor performance can be a result of lack of engagement and low morale.
  • Focus on morale. Take steps to ensure that employees are satisfied with their jobs. Here are some ways:
    • Review benefits, work environment, salary levels, and more. Ensure the benefits offered are benefits that your employees value. Remember that employee benefits that help employees—even if they’re not high-value items—can improve morale.
    • Ensure employees understand the organization’s mission and vision; giving employees something to get behind can help them understand their purpose and role in helping the organization succeed.
    • Consider ways to improve team cohesiveness.
    • Ask employees what they need.
  • Ensure managers are being consistent in their application of company policies.  For example, ensure there’s no appearance of favoritism and no individuals or groups who do not have to follow the rules. Inconsistency can cause frustration, which can decrease productivity.
  • Give employees the right tools and processes to excel. Sometimes investing in a better tool or process can reap huge dividends in productivity and employee satisfaction.
  • Give employees the power to do their jobs well. Empowering employees is critical; it allows them to not get absorbed by minor roadblocks. Empowering employees can include ensuring they have the authority to make decisions critical to their success—and the ability to delegate if necessary to get the job done. Employees should know and have input into their goals and objectives, which will also give ownership—they should help to decide goals, deadlines, and more. Give them the resources they need, and hold them accountable without micromanaging. Encourage employees to find solutions to problems.

Many times when productivity suffers, there is an identifiable root cause. Things like dissatisfied employees, the wrong fit for the role, not enough training, lacking the right tools, conflicting priorities, and unclear expectations can all get in the way of employee productivity. Identifying these root causes can help uncover the path to maximum productivity.

*This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.


About Bridget Miller:

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.