20 Jun Remove Ambiguity and Improve Staff Performance
I am regularly called upon to help Adelaide businesses resolve staff performance issues that hinder business growth and consume inordinate amounts of senior management time. In my experience, when there is conflict about staff performance it’s because the expectations are ambiguous.
Specifically, conflict and disappointment arise when there is a mismatch in the employee and employer’s understanding about:
- What the job entails– What output is required? How are jobs to be done? When do tasks have to be completed?
- Prioritising tasks – How important is each job? What do I work on first?
- How performance will be measured– What is a good standard of work? How will results be measured and reported?
The Problems with Ambiguity
For business owners, not setting clear expectations upfront creates a broad range of problems in the business including:
- Low employee output
- Frequently missed deadlines
- Employee dissatisfaction because they feel they are being unfairly ridden to achieve output
- Higher employee turnover
All of these HR problems result financial and non-financial costs. In fact, research suggests the median cost of employee turnover is 20 percent of an employee’s annual salary. That doesn’t take into account the impact a disaffected employee has on the rest of the team. And low morale means business owners spend more time solving people problems than growing their business.
Communicate Clearly and Frequently
Many of these problems can be resolved through clear and frequent communication to provide clarity in job and performance expectations.
This process starts at the recruitment stage. Before a job is advertised, business owners need to be clear about the purpose of the role and document how the employee’s performance will be measured in the position description.
Be upfront during the selection process and show the candidate the position description with the performance measures. This sets clear expectations from day one.
Similarly, meet with employees when they change jobs within the business so they understand what is expected in each new role.
Building a High-Performance Culture
Managing employee performance doesn’t end at recruitment. To create a high-performance culture business owners need to:
- Provide standardised systems and processes that clearly demonstrate “this is how work is done here”.
- Regularly review and discuss position descriptions to make sure they cover all tasks an employee is required to do.
- Create, document and communicate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or performance expectations for all jobs. This means a face-to-face meeting with every employee explaining their KPIs, how they will be measured, reported and rewarded.
- Ask employees to sign off on their KPIs so they own them.
- Make KPIs visible in the workplace and track performance on a monthly basis.
- Give employees a purpose. For example instead of being “responsible for debtors” that person is “responsible for maintaining 90% of debtors within 30 day terms”.
- Build a continuous improvement culture where everyone is encouraged to identify efficiency improvements.
- Schedule regular discussions with employees to provide feedback on their performance and discuss their challenges, aspirations and make suggestions.
- Address performance concerns quickly and openly so the problem doesn’t fester into something bigger.
- Recognise and reward your higher performers. A public ‘thank you’ or call-out for work well done can go a long way to boost morale as well as communicate how you like work to be done.
- Remember to recognise all team members, not just the people with the high-profile jobs. In turn, businesses will be rewarded with loyal staff who strive to do their best work.