Do you know how your staff are performing?

As organisations and workforces grow, owners and managers can quickly lose sight of how well individual staff are performing. Whilst there is likely to be some ‘gut feel’ on the productivity and attitude of staff members, unless performance is regularly reviewed or monitored, assessing staff can all too often rely on guesswork.

By Karen Credie, KMCHR.

If left this way for a long period of time, this can be dangerous to employers, especially if there is a change in the business. For example, if sales orders fall or productivity drops, employers need to know where to turn in order to get things back on track.

Sometimes, a business’ success can hinge on the performance of a limited number of individuals – employers need to know who these people are in order to motivate and reward them and to monitor their methods so that if they were to leave, continuity could be maintained.

Here are some top tips on successfully implementing a performance review programme.

Make your own rules. There are no ‘hard and fast’ rules when it comes to identifying employee performance measurements. What makes or breaks one business may be very different to the important drivers of another so make sure any measurements set are relevant to your business.

It is quite probable that you will need different sets of objectives depending upon the position of the employee – for example, the measures and objectives for sales staff are likely to be quite different than for those employed in a technical or creative capacity.

Resistance is futile. People rarely relish change and this is particularly the case when the change involves some form of measurement.

You may experience resistance from employees when implementing a performance management programme, however, if you involve them in the process and get their input and perspective on what effective performance looks like, it will be much easier to introduce formal reviews.

It is also important to emphasise the positive aspects of the process, such as allowing more scope for recognition and reward, although this must of course be followed through if this reasoning is to be used. Whilst the road may be bumpy, it is important to stick to it; any real resistance will probably only be from staff who have a reason to fear performance reviews!

Quantity and quality. Targets should be SMART in order for them to be effective (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound). For example, if customer service is key to the success of a role in your organisation, obtaining customer feedback could be done in the form of a 1 – 10 ranking questionnaire rather than a questionnaire relying purely on qualitative responses.

Out of the filing cabinet, into the fire. The idea of performance measurement is to provide you with useful information to improve and manage your business more effectively. So if you are regularly monitoring performance, make sure you use the information you are gathering!

It can be easier to just file reports rather than actually using or analysing them to identify patterns – be they positive or negative. Make sure you feed back on positive findings from performance measurement in order to increase motivation in high-performing individuals and a sense of competition within the team as a whole.

If any negative issues are identified, these should be tackled sooner rather than later – it may be that monitoring reveals specific training needs, or in the case of consistently underperforming staff, the need to further monitor, discipline or even dismiss certain staff members may be necessary.

Golden rule. There should be no surprises at a performance review meeting. This means that managers should have regular and ongoing dialogue with the staff they manage. Any issues regarding performance should be addressed at the time they occur, not saved up for a formal review meeting which may be many months away.

The review meeting then becomes a formal record of what has happened in the previous review period (which is essential if you find yourself having to manage poor performance) and a proactive discussion of priorities, measures and objectives going forward. Performance reviews can work wonders for putting business owners and managers firmly back in the driving seat. They can also be very motivational for your workforce. Sometimes, however, they can raise issues that require specialist HR advice in order to stay on the right side of the law and avoid potential claims from disgruntled staff. To discuss implementing performance reviews effectively in your business, please contact us.