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Essentials for Company Success:

Manage and Develop Staff Performance

It constantly surprises me how many companies have no clear way of checking the effectiveness of staff performance. The best staff members are taken for granted, and it’s a huge shock when they decide to leave. The worst get away with blue murder sometimes. People seem to be favoured over others for no apparent reason, and others who quietly work bloody hard get angry at this favouritism and wonder why they bother. And then, even more serious, things go badly wrong as performance problems aren’t being picked up early enough, and people and/or the company gets hurt.

Let’s face it, it probably wouldn’t be hard to do a better job of developing the good things, and of eliminating the bad – and through that, boosting our company’s performance.

In this article I will give my own checklist and tips on what to do. But first, why bother at all? All this soft, fuzzy stuff doesn’t actually make us more profitable, does it?

It sure does. Research* now shows conclusively that companies who invest in strategies to develop their staff and use good people management practices have a huge bottom line payoff: in the case of aerospace industries, sales per employee were +161% and ‘value added’ per employee was +62%. The researchers accurately called these ‘High Performance Work Organisations’. How would you like to get results like these?

Peak performance levels are also affected by managing stress and pressure effectively, so make sure that every one of your people feels that their work is somewhere between interesting and stretching. As we are all individuals – sorry, this is only achieved by managers getting to know each of their direct reports well. I will pen a separate article on stress and pressure to explain this in more detail.

Failing to manage stress levels can be incredibly costly. Occupational health legislation is often seen to cover things like hazards, injuries and accidents, but damage to health caused by excessive stress is often overlooked. Losing someone for several months, or permanently, due to stress is serious for them and the company. And one of these days a company will face a massive compensation payout for failing in its duty to manage stress effectively. Please don’t let it be you.

My Tips for building your system for managing and developing staff performance:

  • Performance is seen in people’s competence on the job. Competence is made up of three things: Skill, Knowledge, and Personal Qualities.
  • Start with the most important people, your natural leaders, or those closest to you, to begin with. When you all get the hang of this, consider rolling it out to everyone.
  • Involve at least your key people in building up a picture of the competences that you all think an ideal, awesome team member would have. Check that this is in line with your vision for the company.
  • Ask them each, individually, to identify their 3 strongest competences from this list, and to give practical examples of when/how they have shown those strengths. Feel free to add further evidence and encouragement if you agree! PS: Do the same thing yourself.
  • Ask them to identify the 3 things they most need to develop in the future. (You too).
  • If you agree, and if developing these things will help your company perform better as well, work out the most effective (and cost effective) action plan for these competences to be developed. Each individual should have first ownership of making it happen, but the company needs to come up with the time/resources that it has agreed to as well.
  • If you think different competences need to be developed, say so and why, and come to an agreement with the person on the way forward.
  • Consult with them on your own areas for development. Maybe they have better suggestions!
  • Follow up at an agreed future date. I suggest every 3 months for a quick update, and one year later to recognise progress and to repeat the process, but this might need to be more frequent in your circumstances.
  • Get used to giving people feedback on the run – every time you notice them demonstrating competence, say so! Every time you notice them falling below expectations, say so and also explain what you are looking for in the future.
  • Give them space to respond to your feedback, ask them if you are right, and be prepared to give them more examples if they don’t understand or believe you.

* Oxford University study of 500,000 employees of various aerospace industry companies, published by the British Society of Aerospace Companies at www.sbac.co.uk

Hugh Todd
24 September, 2010