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Performance Management: How to Track and Boost Employee Performance

Natasha Serafimovska

Career Coach, Professional Resume Writer, Freelance Writer


Employee performance management is an integral part of building a strong and engaged workforce and driving long-term business growth. Performing well and being recognized not only increases employees’ personal motivation and job satisfaction, but it can also help build cohesive teams that continuously deliver or exceed on their KPIs (key performance indicators). 

However, the massive shifts in the past year has meant that many employees are facing many different uncertainties. Mental health issues among employees are on the rise across all organizational levels. 76% of respondents reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year. This was up from 59% in 2019.

It is no surprise that global employee engagement is at an all-time low. In just one year, engagement has decreased from 22% in 2019 to 20% in 2020. This has a massive impact on employee productivity and your overall performance, innovation and success as a business.

The right performance management practices can help boost employee productivity.

Considering this, managers need to take a fresh look at employee wellbeing and engagement. From there, managers can adjust their performance management processes to fit within the new landscape of remote work styles and changing business priorities. 

Here we’ll look at how to make employees more productive regardless of where or when they work. We will also look at how to establish clear processes to set employees up for success.

Understand Individual Employee Drivers

Think about it. What is performance management all about? In short, the goal is to find what motivates your employees to achieve the goals of the organization.

So in order to have an effective performance management system, you must be able to find what motivates employees. The obvious argument might be a bigger paycheck or a hefty performance bonus. However, that has increasingly not been the case.

Every individual is different. While for some financial compensation may be the biggest motivator, others thrive on:

When refining performance management practices and figuring out how to motivate employees, it is important to realize that individuals are different.
Every individual has different priorities.
  • praise and recognition
  • finding meaning in their work
  • the possibility to learn something new

Some seek out strong teams and good collegial relationships. Meanwhile others are happiest when given more independence in their work and opportunities to take on more responsibilities. The list goes on.

Take a closer look at your workforce and identify what is important for each employee or team. Instead of trying to guess, actually sit down with them and find out what they value. You may also find your answer in why they like working for your company or what they think is missing. You can conduct individual interviews, a company wide survey or team focus groups to pinpoint the top two or three key nonfinancial drivers. Then devise processes or systems that routinely incorporate these aspects in meeting agendas, performance evaluations and when setting goals.

Set Clear and Measurable Expectations

When researchers asked respondents to identify the item which “would most improve their performance20% of all respondents – including almost a third of disengaged workers – cited “greater clarity about what the organization needs me to do and why” as their top answer. This illustrates quite well why setting clear goals and expectations is a critical step in facilitating greater productivity and bettering employees’ performance.

Furthermore, with remote work it can be even harder to see whether your employees have understood their day-to-day tasks and have a clear idea of target expectations. This is especially true when your team works across different time zones and cultures. Informal and ad-hoc exchanges among staff and between managers and employees that might otherwise clarify misunderstandings are not so spontaneous online as they are in a physical office.

Consider how to make employees more productive by setting clear KPIs
How to make employees more productive? Set clear KPIs

So, in order to avoid a risk of underperformance, it’s crucial that you set out clear and measurable KPIs. If possible, involve your employees in every step of the process. That way you can make sure that the goals and objectives are meaningful and clear to them. Ask if they have any concerns with the KPIs and adjust them accordingly. A team that knows exactly where it needs to go will not waste time and resources in figuring it out along the way.

Perform Regular Check Ins

Employees might still not be motivated even if they know what is expected of them. Maybe they are dealing with a workload they can’t manage. Or maybe they are still adjusting to the company culture and new colleagues. They could even be facing issues in their personal lives that take up most of their energy.

Noticing these nuances is especially difficult for managers of remote teams. Despite the many benefits of remote work, one of the top drawbacks that staff complain about is loneliness. It’s very easy for employees to get stuck in their own isolated “bubbles”. Here, even seemingly simple tasks and processes can quickly become overwhelming.

That is why company culture and a manager’s leadership style can play an important role in how employees perform and engage with their work. Make sure you conduct regular check-ins with your team. Have a clear agenda on the talking points while also leaving space for employees to raise concerns and questions.

Even more, looking beyond individual workers productivity, make sure you gauge how they feel about the overall work setup and direction of the company. Is there anything that is a concern for them or that you could be doing to make them feel more comfortable? You can also keep your remote employees engaged by fostering more informal team connections through social hours, video chats, and virtual team-building activities.

Keep Track of Employee Performance

The standard annual performance reviews don’t seem to make a lot of sense in today’s ever changing work environment. One on hand, they do serve to ensure ethical labor practices and normalize performance and compensation. On the other hand, they are too formalistic and don’t reflect today’s dynamic expectations set by both managers and employees.

Consider the system you are using to measure employee performance.

A dedicated performance management system where you can continuously keep track of how each employee is doing can also help you to pre-empt potential failings. It will give you a clear idea on areas in which an employee might need new training or additional support and you can react quickly instead of waiting to address such issues until the next annual review.

You can tap into platforms like 15Five or Sage HR to keep track of your employees performance and make note of their individual concerns, drivers and expectations. Not only will this give you a written record should it come to a situation where disciplinary measure might be needed, but it will also give you a high-level overview of issues and patterns that otherwise might be missed. 

Set Out a Clear Rewards System

Our brains are wired to seek out rewards and immediate satisfaction. There is even a name for the neural structures that regulate this in our brain – the reward system. However, having a well outlined reward system on an organizational level is also one strategy that Human Resource Managers use for attracting and retaining quality employees, as well as for facilitating them to enhance their performance.

The reward system should be closely connected to the outputs you want to see from your team, but also grounded in the values that you nourish as a company. Apart from rewarding employee performance, a reward system can also praise certain behaviors you want to encourage. Do you want to see your employees being more proactive in acquisition of new business opportunities, fostering a team spirit or more competitiveness among different teams? Having an adequate and clear reward system can facilitate the development of these traits in a company.

Reflect back on the individual employee drivers we addressed above. Make sure employees know exactly what they’re getting should they perform at their best. Remember, the reward depends on the driver. For example, to boost employee performance, your rewards could be:

  • personal career development plans
  • bonuses
  • more flexibility
  • higher levels of independence

Likewise, make sure employees know exactly what will happen if they underperform. Depending on the issues they are facing, you might want to offer additional training as a first step of intervention. Some ideas are mentoring from more experienced colleagues or even offering them a more detailed performance improvement plan.

It’s Time to Adapt!

Employee performance has never been more important for business success. In the current landscape of economic uncertainty and market volatiliity, businesses now more than ever rely on their engaged and productive workforce to weather the challenges and build strong businesses. 

Business leaders need to understand what is performance management in the new landscape. Then they must take steps to adapt their performance review style in a way that will respond directly to changing needs, expectations and concerns of their distributed workforce. You can make a big difference in how your workforce performs by

  • understanding employee’s personal drivers
  • setting clear expectations
  • offering additional support along the way

By making a commitment to these actions, you can enhance performance management and have greater control over how successful your business will be.

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