How to Address Employee Performance

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Two people meeting

It would be great if every employee worked as hard as they could every day to improve their job performance. It'd be even better if they knew exactly which areas to focus on and what steps to take to improve lackluster goal achievement metrics. Alas, most employees do not have this innate ability, which is why addressing job performance is such an important aspect of the human resources discipline.

Why Review Job Performance at All?  

Sitting down with an employee and communicating feedback about job performance is typically done for at least two principal reasons: 

1) For most human resources organizations, performance reviews are conducted on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. Larger companies often have tiered systems for conducting performance reviews, and one of the most common reasons they're done at all is to bring lower-performing employees up to an acceptable quality standard of work. 

2) When conducting performance reviews for over-achievers, the goal is to send a message that what the employee is doing is valuable to the company. There's one thing that can motivate great workers even more than pay raises, and that's recognition. Recognizing great work goes a long way in ensuring that it continues.  

Consider what happens when addressing employee performance isn't done correctly or if it's not done at all. The results can be catastrophic. Don't leave your organization prone to these potential outcomes: 

  • Damaged interactions with clients
  • Reduced profit margins
  • Mass inefficiency
  • Decreased employee morale
  • High turnover

To protect your organization from these potential issues, it's important to develop a strategy for performance assessment and improvement for every worker. 

4 Steps for Effective Employee Performance Appraisals

When it's time to conduct an employee performance review, it's crucial that you are prepared to discuss three main topics: progress towards defined goals, areas for improvement, and areas for commendation or reinforcement. To do this, follow these four steps:

1) Before you schedule a performance review, be sure you collect as much information as possible, including manager feedback, timecard reports, and more. Be exhaustive. Try to cover as many bases as possible, so that you can point to specific performance data should you need to while in the meeting. 

2) Schedule an advance, private meeting with the employee. Generally speaking, it's a bad idea to “spring” an employee performance review on someone who needs it. Instead, schedule this meeting at least a week in advance, to give the employee time to mentally prepare. Surprise performance reviews simply aren't as effective. Also, be sure the meeting is private and remind the employee that this discussion is strictly between you and him or her.

3) During the performance review, be exceptionally clear about what you expect to see from the employee going forward. Try to tie your expectations to measurable performance data, including whatever Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) are relevant to their job function. 

4) To get the most out of your investment in the employee, be sure to schedule follow-up performance review meetings on a regular basis. Not only does this help keep the employee accountable; it also gives you a chance to refine your goals and expectations for them. 

At the end of the day, a better performing employee improves overall efficiency, reduces operational surprises, and helps keep teams cohesive and well-running. Having a plan in place to tackle performance issues before they become performance nightmares can go a long way in furthering your strategic business initiatives. If you’d like, you can use tools like the PI Behavioral Assessment™ to understand what drives the employee’s behaviors. Otherwise, execute these four steps in your own employee performance improvement plan and watch your organization reap the many rewards that follow.