Boost employee productivity through effective performance reviews

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With business managers concerned about the impact of an adverse economy on their company’s bottomline, financial statements may be one of the key places they look to for growth over the next year.

But looking at numbers alone, and ignoring internal company development would be a serious mistake, experts caution.

Instead, managers should start focusing on employee development and satisfaction, they say. And one great way to do this is through regular employee performance reviews.

When done regularly and well performance reviews can raise the morale of the entire company, notes Quint Studer, author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Results That Last: Hardwiring Behaviors That Will Take Your Company to the Top.

According to Studer, the strategies companies use to motivate and reward employees are crucial.

“When employees believe they are treated fairly, when engaged in the company’s mission, when coached toward meeting clearly stated goals…they’re going to put their hearts into their work. They’re going be passionate about it.”

And while people are often fearful about performance reviews, Studer says if these are done well, employees actually like them.

“I mean, employees want to know how they’re doing,” he says. “They want to connect with their managers. And reviews give leaders an opportunity to measure performance results, reward great employees, and move not-so-great ones up or out.”

But for reviews to be really meaningful and effective, the way they are conducted needs to change, Studer suggests.

He said one of the biggest criticisms of employee reviews is they are based on subjective criteria. “Changing your approach will not only make your reviews more effective, it can have a positive impact on company culture.”

Studer provides several tips for improving the employee review process and directing the results to overall business improvement:
Don’t be confrontational
Many find the words “performance review” intimidating and go into meetings expecting to be judged or criticized. Studer said all criticisms should be met with suggestions for improvement.

Managers should also be singing from the same “choir book,” he said. They should be trained in leadership and review processes should be standard across the organization.
“Otherwise, you’ll see inconsistent results in companywide goals.”
Relate performance to company goals

Asking employees how they have contributed to the company’s overall fiscal goals and long-terms strategies in their quarterly reviews will motivate staff to ensure they are doing so at all times.

The review also provides the employee a chance to ask for clarifications on any strategies, and allows managers to suggest improvements in key areas.

“Connecting the dots,” makes employees feel like a part of the whole, Studer said.  

But he emphasizes that managers should decisively address “performance” issues.  If employees fail to perform at a satisfactory level, get rid of them, he said. Don’t let poor performers linger around.
Getting rid of poor performers should be treated as optional, according to Studer.
“When [low performers] are tolerated in a company, they tend to pull middle performers down to their level. Worse, your high performers will get disgusted and leave. Get rid of your ‘bad apples,’ and your middle performers will naturally start to emulate the behaviour of your star employees.”

“Rounding for outcomes”

Technology staff and managers often finish their daily tasks without consulting one another and with very little communication about the serious issues.

Managers should be asking relevant questions throughout the year, Studer said. Rather than asking “how are you?” when you see co-workers in the lunchroom, try asking if they have adequate resources, or if there is anything they need to improve productivity.

Studer calls this process “rounding for outcomes,” and compares it to a doctor making rounds to patients. Managers should ask questions frequently, write concerns down and follow up, he suggests. 

“When you build your reviews on a foundation of rounding, they become meaningful,” Studer said. “They’re the culmination of lots of mini-meetings. Neither party is surprised by what the other party says during the reviews because the issues have been raised before-probably more than once.”

Annual performance reviews are not effective for evaluating workflow throughout the entire year, rather they often focus on work completed over the course of the past month, Studer said.

By contrast, managers should be holding quarterly reviews, which force managers to pay attention and note concerns or give praise all year long.

Employee performance reviews are becoming increasingly important in the IT sector, according to Vince Poscente, business consultant and author of the best-selling book “Age of Speed.”  

He said so many IT professionals got into the business because it was just about technology and how things work.

But in today’s changing work environment, he said, they are often required to use a whole host of business and other skills for communicating with CFOs and others. “It’s a broader range of skills that this group didn’t sign up for in the first place.”

These individuals could use someone telling them how they’re doing, he said. Yet companies are still not making time for these important reviews.

“It’s literally like flossing. You can get away without it, but you can get gum disease, which will eventually turn into heart disease if you don’t floss.”

While people – managers and employees – often complain there isn’t enough time to do meaningful performance reviews, Poscente says enhancing time management across the entire organization would go a long way towards resolving this challenge.

A national survey found the average person is interrupted seven or 11 minutes into a task and doesn’t get back on track until 30 minutes into it, he said.

The average interruption lasts five minutes and 80 per cent of these interruptions were found to have little or no value. Add that up and that’s 744 hours of interruption each year.

By avoiding distractions and needless multi-tasking, managers can free up time that they can use to act on the results of performance reviews.  

Poscente also recommends looking for creative ways to hold review meetings. “Instead of a memo, give an employee a ticket that looks like a movie ticket, or an invitation, anything with flavour. If know we have to do this, let’s at least enjoy it and put some personality back into it.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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