Business Basics: actionable tips for managing employee performance

02 October 2019

Every month, we speak to a different inspirational leader from the business world, asking them to share tips from their area of expertise. The Business Basics series is a wide-ranging selection of guides, designed to help small business owners and senior management take their operations to the next level.

This month we’re speaking to Robert Ordever, Managing Director of workplace culture specialist, O.C. Tanner Europe. Robert will be sharing his insights into the different actionable tips which can help manage and improve employee performance.

 Headshot of Robert Ordever 

Here is what Robert had to say.

Strong communication is a good way to make expectations clear. What methods can be used to ensure employees can explain these expectations and objectives in their own words?

The starting point here is a strong set of well-articulated values. Values must be so much more than just a PR exercise, they should be part of everyday business decision making at all levels of the organisation.

Employees should be recognised frequently and publicly when displaying behaviours that are values-centric – even more so when they succeed because of doing so. A culture of appreciation allows leaders to consistently reinforce expectations to those being appreciated and those watching on. A good piece of recognition will articulate the link between the success, the values and the overall purpose of the business.

Regular performance appraisals can be very helpful but may end up falling by the wayside. How can managers ensure they stick to these one-to-one meetings?

The key here is for one-to-one meetings to be balanced in terms of objectives, and for both parties to take away key action points. All too often, the manager is carrying out the one-to-one as a ‘tick box’ exercise or to raise an area of concern.

I also try to encourage managers to divide the one-to-one into two areas. Firstly, performance indicators and current performance status and secondly, development and coaching. These discussions could even take place over separate meetings. Unfortunately, I think many one-to-ones focus on the current state of play and miss the opportunity to really think about future skills/career development opportunities.

Employee performance and morale often go hand in hand. If morale is low, what are some tried and true methods that managers can use to improve on this front?

All of the research shows how important great workplace culture is to keeping morale high. Culture is hard to define, but we know it has a number of key elements, including leadership, wellbeing, success and opportunity, but for me the most important factors are ‘purpose’ and ‘appreciation’.

Managers should be asking themselves the following questions: How can we help our people better understand the deeper purpose in their work and the connection of their work to the end customer and business success? And how can we be more intentional and frequent in showing appreciation for the effort and behaviours that are being demonstrated by staff every day?

Are there any technology platforms or software that managers can leverage to manage performance? And do you think there is an increasing move towards this?

There are lots of technologies to assist leaders with performance. These range from recognition technologies and performance management systems through to wellbeing platforms. There is certainly an increasing take-up of these technologies as they assist with consistency, managing remote teams, reporting and analytics.

The challenge comes when we rely too heavily on technology without understanding its deeper purpose. For example, a staff recognition app can never replace a considered and well-executed recognition strategy and leadership training programme. A performance management tool does not improve the quality of conversation and connection between the leader and employee. These technologies are undoubtedly enablers and if used well, can accelerate companies’ efforts.

Are there any benefits to incentivising good performance? Conversely, how should a manager address those who may not be performing as strongly as they once were?

We know that rewarded behaviour gets repeated. That said, we also know that monetary incentives are only a small part of the story, which is why so many businesses are now investing heavily in recognition solutions. These solutions appreciate and recognise effort and results, helping to demonstrate what ‘great’ looks like to the rest of the organisation, consistently reinforcing the expected standards.

With regards to poor performance, be balanced. A poor performer is also likely to have areas of success that should still be appreciated. Those areas of weakness should be addressed honestly and swiftly. This isn’t always easy, but is for the best of the whole team.

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Since teams within the office are made up of all manner of different working styles, what can managers do to individualise their management to cater to unique needs?

Tailoring management style can be a real challenge, but the research shows that the employee experience is so heavily influenced by day-to-day micro-experiences, that the leader’s role in considering the individual has never been more important.

The one-size-fits-all employee experience based on employee lifecycle milestones is no longer working. Gone are the days when employees conform. Now our talent is looking to innovate, be creative and have control and input into their work. As managers, we have a huge amount to gain from trusting, collaborating and empowering individuality. The modern leader is expected to inspire, develop and connect individuals.

We touched on rewards and incentives earlier – but is there a difference between rewarding those you manage and empowering them? And, if so, which is most effective?

I certainly feel rewarded when I am empowered, and I’d suggest others would agree.

Recent research, derived from more than 20,000 individuals providing over 20 million data points, identified the following as key areas that employees are looking for from their leaders:

  • Freedom to be creative
  • Latitude for innovation
  • Ability to prioritise workload
  • Flexibility in terms of work location
  • A say in projects worked; and
  • Flexibility in terms of work schedule.

It’s fascinating that employees don’t consider pay, bonus or promotion as an important consideration. This is because today’s employees are feeling rewarded and valued in a far deeper way than perhaps is being realised by traditional leadership strategy.

A massive thank you to Robert for his insightful responses. If you found his advice helpful, and you’re looking for further industry tips, be sure to check out some more of our related Business Basics guides and Q&As below:

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The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

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