Managing performance is your priority. Suddenly or gradually, you find that the quality of the employee’s work falls away. We’ve all experienced it. The work of a competent employee deteriorates for no apparent reason. The temptation to conduct a “pep talk”, “counselling session” or undertake “remedial training” is overwhelming. Resist it. Try these steps first.
1. Reconsider Expectations
What do you expect of the employee? Have you explained your expectations clearly and concisely? Does the employee know exactly what you expect? How can you be sure? Has technical, organizational or structural change altered your expectations? Is the employee aware of your revised expectations? What does the employee expect from you?
2. Review Your Systems
Remember, the key to successful performance management is to put systems in place that make it impossible for employees to fail. Do your systems meet this standard? When did you last review and revise your systems to reflect current performance standards and market conditions? Do you demand rigid adherence to administrative processes and procedures that impair the effectiveness of your systems?
3. Examine Remuneration and Bonuses
Do you reward outstanding performance so that the best performers get the most reward? Are your remuneration and bonuses transparent or secretive? Can “clever” employees “fudge” your reward systems to gain bonuses that rightfully belong to their colleagues. Do “support staff” participate in bonus and incentive schemes?
4. Check Performance Emphasis
You probably proclaim that “performance is what really matters” or something similar. But do your day to day words and actions support your proclamation. Do you overemphasise trivial detail of the expense of overall performance? Do you find yourself complaining about “attitude” when you should be demanding results? Do you openly celebrate achievement, results and performance?
5. Trust Your Employees
Tell them exactly what you want, as precisely as possible. If you don’t they’ll decide for themselves. In a nutshell, you’ll get what your employees think you want. Do you encourage them to constantly improve systems and reward them when they do so successfully? Do you authorize them to act first and seek permission second to fix a pressing problem that needs prompt action? Do you constantly emphasise, honestly and sincerely, their commitment and success?
When you’ve done all these things, have a chat to the employee in question. You may find that you need his or her advice more than he or she needs yours. If genuine personal problems are interfering with their work try to find mutually agreeable solutions. But stick to your performance “guns”. You’re not a professional counsellor. If the employee needs professional help, use a professional.
Always remember: never give an inferior performer preferential treatment. If you do you’re inviting all his or her colleagues to seek the same reward using the same methods.