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Employee productivity

September 19, 2010
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How do managers know if their employees have what they need to do their jobs the best they can?

Many times, a manager will think that all an employee needs to do the job is knowledge or experience.

It is every manager’s responsibility to make sure that the following seven things are in place for employees to perform at their best:

Capacity
An employee needs the actual capacity to do the job in the first place to perform as required.

When making your hiring decision, ask yourself: Is this the right person for this position? Does this potential employee have the capacity to perform as required? Does this person have the analytical ability, physical ability, conceptual ability, etc., to perform as required?

It is best to answer these questions during the interview process rather than after the employee joins your team.

Conditions
One thing that keeps employees from performing at their best is a lack of the conditions to perform as required.

Does the employee have the time, the tools, sufficient resources, the right equipment, adequate information, enough empowerment, etc., to perform as required?

Knowledge and skill
An employee may have the capacity and conditions to perform as required, but he or she may lack the knowledge and skill.

As managers, we need to work with our employees to help them identify development opportunities that are appropriate and available to them.

Ask yourself: Does the employee know how to perform his/her job tasks? Could he/she perform those tasks if his/her life depended on it?

Standards
The biggest cause of any job performance gap is that the employee (and often the manager) has not clearly identified what required performance looks like in the first place.

It’s been my experience that more than 80 percent of employees in a given company cannot clearly articulate what their own standards of performance are.

If that is the case, two questions that should keep us up at night are: “If our employees don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing, what are they doing? And what is it costing us?”

As managers, we need to ask: Do my employees know what to do? Do they know when to do it? Are their job performance standards clearly communicated? Do we agree on what those standards are?

Are employees’ required performance standards written as individual objectives linked to local, regional and global business strategies?

Are objectives written in SMART (Specific, Measurable, Aggressive yet Attainable, Relevant and Time-framed) format? (See, Take the SMART Approach, sidebar.)

Measurement
You might have heard the saying, “What gets measured gets done.” Many times, the reason for a performance gap is that the employees are not measured, or are not measured in an objective way based on job standards.

Ask yourself: Is my measurement of this employee based on an objective performance standard? Are job performance measurements based on results rather than activities?

Feedback
Have you ever met a manager whose feedback style was, “Assume you’re doing fine unless you hear otherwise”?

In the absence of detailed and consistent feedback (positive or negative), an employee’s job performance will usually deteriorate.

You need to ask yourself: Are my employees informed regularly about how they are performing? Is feedback given right away? Is feedback based on objective performance measurements? Is feedback given in a way the employee can accept?

Incentive and motivation
Have you ever heard the expression, “The better job you do, the more work you will get?”

Sometimes an employee may feel there is punishment for good performance because good performers get more on his or her plates.

Doing well may be a disincentive, while at the same time there may be a reward for poor performance.

As managers, we need to make sure there is a system of incentive and motivation so people will want to perform as they are supposed to.

Are there incentives for performing well? Do the incentives really matter to the employee? Is “punishment for good performance” prevented? Is “reward for poor performance” prevented?

The larger picture
Keep in mind that even if even one of these seven areas is lacking, employees will not be performing at their best.

You can help your employees better do their jobs by providing resources and expertise, eliminating barriers, using every opportunity to provide positive, constructive and timely feedback, and meeting frequently to review their progress.


Terrence Donahue is training manager, JohnsonDiversey Inc., North America. He can be reached at www.johnsondiversey.com.
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