Getting the best out of your people and driving consistent high performance might sound like nirvana but it doesn’t have to be this way!  

Of course, there are a number of vital ingredients that need to be embedded into your People Strategy and certain foundations in place so that you can do this successfully, including: 

·        A clear purpose describing why you do what you do 

·        A positive workplace culture, with clear values 

·        Clear goals you’re aiming to achieve 

·        A focus on the engagement and wellbeing of your team 

But all too often, we see leaders and managers allowing their teams to drift, going through the motions as if being present is enough! There is no focus on managing the process of getting the best out of their people. 

It’s amazing to consider that a significant investment, such as a machine, or new IT system would (generally) never be made without a business case, detailing a clear return on investment (ROI) and a plan for its utilisation to ensure the business benefits are realised.  

The machine / system would have a regular schedule of maintenance checks and servicing, with updates installed and new parts fitted as and when required to ensure it continued to deliver. 

So why is it that given the investment we make in our people (salary, pension, benefits, training etc.) many businesses don’t have a clear plan that will align their team’s collective and individual activities with business success? 

We’re not advocating that a high-octane, trading floor style of energy and motivation is right for everyone. But we do advocate having some clear objectives and a process so that managers can ensure everyone is on track and succeeding. 

The diagram below shows a typical performance management cycle. Of course, there are variations (and much debate to be had) on the details, but for the purposes of this blog, the key aspect is that a performance dialogue is taking place. 

We think frequent, light touch conversations are best. In reality, performance conversations take place all the time but don’t forget the importance of some dedicated time for a two-way conversation between manager and team member to discuss the good and the bad, listen to and provide feedback. It’s a great way to ensure everything is on track, nip issues in the bud and stop things from festering into major problems.  

Driving Performance Objectives For Businesses

The employee needs to know what’s expected of them.  If expectations aren’t clear and you don’t set objectives in terms of what needs to be achieved, how can you determine whether someone is performing or not? 

SMART Objectives

Measure what really matters and decide if objectives will be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound) or FAST (Frequently discussed, Ambitious, Specific, Transparent).  Regardless, they need to detail What, Why, How and By When?

You will also need to decide if you’re going to formally rate each individual’s performance. Is this a score or based on some qualitative descriptors?  It’s also important to be clear about what the outcome of the rating is and how it will be used. Is performance linked to pay, for example?  Or is your process just about achieving what’s required?   

And above all, don’t forget the motivational outcome the process is designed to achieve, encouraging your team to continue performing well and striving for more.  Whilst reward will undoubtedly play a part in this, recognition is vitally important too. We talked about the value of feedback earlier, but also take out time to celebrate success  – whether it’s company-wide, team-based or just on an individual basis, don’t forget to say well done! It can be easy to forget the 80/20 rule i.e. 20% of people (poor performers) take up 80% of your time. Make time to ensure the good performers are recognised and feel valued. 

And finally, on this note, don’t ignore the 20% – those who aren’t performing to expectations. Managing underperformance is the subject of a separate ‘top tips’ of its own, but it’s important to remember that ignoring poor performance can have an adverse impact on the performance of other team members as they will see someone else as ‘getting away with it.