In a previous article about Managing Employee Performance, I talked about helping supervisors proactively manage their employees by engaging with them in a meaningful and productive way. When you help your employees take responsibility for their own success, you will feel the results in their level of return on engagement, as well as the positive impact on your company’s productivity and profitability.
To create this level of active engagement, it is critical to tie the vision of the company to the expectations of the team with specific, measurable goals and objectives.
Cascading the vision
We all have responsibilities in our organizations to contribute to the overall vision. Unfortunately, all too often we have no real idea of what that vision is, much less how it connects to our role and subsequent performance.
Start this cascading communication by finding and then communicating the answers to the following questions. As a result, many of your performance management issues will become obsolete or, at least much easier to address.
- Organizational values – What is important in our organization?
- Organizational vision – Where are we heading?
- Organizational goals – What are we going to accomplish?
- Organizational objectives – What results are needed to hit goals?
- Organizational behaviors – What is required to hit objectives?
- Organizational tasks – What job description activities are needed to hit objectives?
After you’ve identified the components of the company vision, the next step is identifying the basic building blocks of performance measurement and how they relate to the vision and goals of the company.
Goals (of the company)
We start by understanding the goals of the company. This is what drives the subsequent objectives and tasks we expect employees to perform. The goals tend to focus on profitability, employee satisfaction, client satisfaction, and/or growth. The example here could be for the company to create a minimum of 20 percent annual, organic growth.
Objectives are the results you want your employees to strive to achieve and they are based on the goals of the company. For a salesperson, this may be to work on high-probability prospects, resulting from formal introductions. Objectives should be SMART:
- Specific – Who? (salesperson), What? (write $100K), When? (20XX)
- Measurable – Numbers, frequencies, timelines
- Attainable – Reasonable, yet challenging
- Relevant – Has to be a difference-maker
- Trackable – Must be monitored and reportable
These are the daily activities for which an employee is responsible, and they’re usually included in the job description. An example for a salesperson may be to build a network of individuals whom she can count on for those introductions.
As you can see, performance objectives are the critical link in connecting the individual to the organization. As with any tool, it is important to recognize what objectives are and what they are not.
- Help a company meet goals
- Help employees be more productive
- Assist in giving one-on-one communication
- Help employees be successful
- Give direction to management on financial increases
Performance objectives are not:
- A tool used just for compensation
- A system to find where employees are not doing their job
- A system to grade people
In order for objectives to be properly measured, there has to be a well-defined measurement scale, which takes the uncertainty of performance out of the equation. When establishing your measurement scale, it is important that "expected" isn’t at the top, it lies in the middle. There needs to be a mutual understanding of what outcomes are reflected at each level.
5 - Far exceeds expectations
4 - Exceeds expectations
3 - Meets expectations
2 - Falls short of expectations
1 - Falls critically short of expectations
Now that you’ve written the objectives, it’s time for everyone to get to work. And for the supervisor, it means having a monthly one-on-one with each employee. If everything has been set up properly, these check-ins should last no more than 10 or 15 minutes. The purpose isn’t for a full-out review, but just to review the feedback that the employee has tracked for the last month. As the supervisor, it is your responsibility to provide guidance on what they can be doing next and to give recognition for what they have already accomplished.
The monthly one-on-one sessions are imperative to connecting and engaging with your employees. This time investment is what creates the payback at year-end because you’ve been monitoring and reviewing performance throughout the year. Now, the year-end review is simply another review session, and there should be no surprises for either you, as the supervisor, or the employee.
As with so many challenges, the keys to better employee engagement can be relatively simple. It just takes a commitment, a little discipline, and a fair amount of effective communication. The return on this investment will be significant.
Photo by Lukas Gojda
Like this topic? Check out its companion piece: Underperforming Employees? Maybe it's Your Management. Or Lack of it.