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How Managers Can Help Develop Employee Performance

11 min read

The Ultimate Aim Of Performance Management Is To Improve Employee Performance And Productivity.

One of the main reasons why performance management continues to fail is because too much emphasis is given to measurement, rather than development. This is done despite the fact that development is key to ensuring successful performance management initiatives. Somewhere in the middle of reviews, calculations, and meetings, the role of development goes completely missing. Performance management becomes a mandatory activity, rather than a carefully thought out process to help bring about a change in people’s behavior.

Performance development cannot be brought about by just changing the way annual reviews are conducted. The concept is way deeper than tweaking a few things here and there. It requires a fundamental shift in the culture of an organization.

Such initiatives aim at changing the way work is viewed by employees and how work happens within and across teams. It requires managers to be extra proactive and see themselves as coaches, not bosses. Passionate and dedicated managers can single-handedly create a huge impact on ensuring the success of performance management in organizations.

Unfortunately, managers who operate within the confines of traditional performance management systems have struggled to inspire and develop their employees. They have not been given the tools or guidance from top leadership to help them set clear goals for their employees, give consistent and regular feedback or ensure evaluation as a process is deemed fair by employees. Organizations need to coach their managers to fill up these huge developmental gaps and make performance management actually work for organizations.

Here are a few ways in which the focus can be shifted from plain measurement of performance to actually develop employees-

Setting Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations for employees drives what we know as “intrinsic motivation.” When employees can see the value that their contribution can have towards a much higher cause, they are more than willing to do their best. Clear goals and regular coaching to achieve these goals are key to driving this intrinsic motivation.

Effective goal setting, however, continues to be a distant dream for organizations. This is coupled with the failure to help employees achieve those goals through coaching and feedback. Despite an abundance of research on how goal clarity and progress monitoring is an essential part of successful performance management practices, managers are mostly unaware of best practices.

Setting clear goals is not just about a job description. It reflects tasks that an employee has to carry out on a day to day basis for the achievement of short-term and long-term goals. It requires clear-cut roads mutually set out for each employee and his specific job role. This is not a reality as research by Gallup suggests that only 41% of employees strongly agree that their job description aligns well with the work they do. Those to strongly agree with this statement are 2.5 times more likely than other employees to be engaged.

Employees might feel frustrated and aimless when their managers fail to guide them to connect to their role to the bigger picture. This is worse for the millennial generation who want a job that feels meaningful. Without a clear sense of purpose, engagement levels drop and employees leave. The cost of replacing these employees and re-hiring talent is another huge cost to organizations.

30% of employees strongly agree their manager involves them in goal setting. These employees are nearly 4 times more likely to be engaged than other employees.

~ Gallup

Just laying down goals is not the answer. Managers also need to be available for their employees as and when the need arises. Be it providing learning tools for employees, coaching them on real issues, recognizing and rewarding employee performance in formal and informal ways or offering genuine feedback on activities. Only when managers define all these strategies clearly can they help contribute to achieving organizational goals.

Long story short – the best managers always set clear expectations. No one likes to work with a manager who is not clear about larger goals or how to achieve them as a team. Ad hoc work arrangement and goal setting, and measuring employee performance on the basis of that could be a recipe for disaster. Employees need to be made aware of their company’s strategic objectives. This will help get clearer results.

Choosing To Coach Over Bossing

According to research from Leadership IQ, employees should be spending six hours per week interacting with their leaders. Regular engagement with managers is crucial to understand where employees stand and also help them improve. The same study found that employees who spend six hours per week with managers are 29% more inspired, 30% more engaged, 16% more innovative and 15% more intrinsically motivated than those who spend only one hour per week.

But how successful are organizations in actually making sure employees and managers meet? Lack of time and overburdened with work is a common sight everywhere that prevents this from happening.

Employees who receive daily feedback from their manager are 3 times more likely to be engaged than those who receive feedback once a year or less.

~ Gallup

This needs to change as employees cannot just meet managers at the time of setting goals and then directly at the time of review. This entire gap has very little formal guidance give and take. This is why most employees are left in the dark about their performance. This leads to confusion and frustration. What employees want is an increased attention from managers, with continuous guidance on what goals to achieve and how to achieve them. Employees want coaches and mentors who can contribute towards their professional growth.

Gallup has found that employees who strongly agree they have had conversations with their manager in the past six months about their goals and successes are 2.8 times more likely to be engaged. Regular one-on-ones are a great way of facilitating open conversations between managers and employees. Managers should do a thorough research on what the employee has been handling in the last couple of weeks and prepare open-ended questions for the same.

Creating Accountability

Employees who strongly agree that their manager holds them accountable for their performance are 2.5 times more likely to be engaged.

~ Gallup

Accountability is critical to achieving high performance. Till the time an employee is not willing to take full responsibility for fulfilling the needs of a job successfully, he will not give it his 100%. Without accountability, establishing expectations or spending time coaching or giving feedback is also a waste. This is why effective performance development should require managers and employees sit regularly to review progress.

In order to be accountable, employees need to feel like they have control and ownership of tasks. If employees have no control over the way their performance is measured by a manager one fine day, he might feel like the entire process as being unfair and inaccurate. Performance metrics are mostly not under an employee’s control which makes the measurement questionable. With the current scheme of things, employees are held accountable for work that they don’t always have the tools to support or accomplish successfully or work that they were never asked their opinions on.

One way to create more accountability among employees is by conducting progress reviews where managers and employees equally contribute to creating opportunities, prioritizing tasks collaboratively and determining and changing goals as required. These goals should be achievement oriented, fair and contribute to the learning and development of the employee. These reviews also need to discuss winning moments of employees and build self-confidence and motivation through recognition and pats on the back. Employees will be more likely to own their performance if their managers get them excited about what they can achieve and how good they are with what they do. Failure and difficult feedback also need to raised in ways that do not undermine employees but make them better learners.

Thoughts, comments or feedback? Let us know in the comments section!

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    Meet the author

    Keka Editorial Team

    A bunch of inspired, creative and ambitious youngsters- that’s Keka’s editorial team for you. We have a thirst to learn new subjects and curate diverse pieces for our readers. Our deep understanding and knowledge of Human Resources has enabled us to answer almost every question pertaining to this department. If not seen finding ways to simplify the HR world, they can be found striking conversations with anyone and everyone , petting dogs, obsessing over gadgets, or baking cakes.


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