Our spidey sense is tingling. We can hear: “why should we care so much about our employees?” In the background, there is this little rumbling hum. When we focus a little more on it, we hear, “my employees should be worried about their performance levels. If they don’t perform, I’ll just get new ones.” Hyperbole aside, these are the reasons why the majority of entrepreneurs and business owners end up avoiding assisting employees in improving their performance.
The supplementary reasons are, of course, the costs involved and the time inputs that such organisation-wide exercises require. On the other side of the fence, where the grass is indeed greener, are entrepreneurs who’ve made assisting employees in improving their performance one of their primary objectives. Why is it that the latter type of entrepreneur enjoys greener grasses while the former has to make do with hay?
Why is Assisting Employees in Improving Their Performance Important?
The biggest challenge to the principle of assisting employees in improving their performance is the fact that every entrepreneur thinks he can get quick and easy replacements. At the same time, there is the misconception that improving an employee’s performance is much more time and resource consuming than hiring a better one. Neither of these premises is decidedly accurate. While in some scenarios they might be, in the majority of cases, they aren’t.
There is an intangible price involved with replacing employees. Firstly, the notice period of the existing employees is mostly unproductive because the employee knows, he’ll be leaving. That means that you pay anything between one month and three months’ salary for very little useful work. Similarly, finding and hiring the new employee results in recruitment costs of various types. Finally, when the new employee finally joins, he takes anything between a month and three months to come up to speed and start living up to his potential.
In contrast, assisting employees in improving their performance is much less cost and time intensive. If you make this your policy, then it would mean incorporating various systems in your office that will run parallel to your existing operational systems. Notably, once this becomes your company’s policy and you’ve established a methodology or system, it becomes as non-intrusive and as hassle-free as any other well-developed system.
So, how do you define a well-developed system aimed at assisting employees in improving their performance? Here are some components you need to focus on.
A Happy Employee Works Harder
How do you define a happy employee? It isn’t just about less work and more pay. An employee is only happy if his personal and professional goals are being met. Professional goals will include anything and everything from money and growth to job satisfaction i.e. love for work. Personal goals can be as diverse as the employees themselves. Most entrepreneurs find it easy to support their employees’ professional goals because they fall directly within their ambit.
It is the personal goals that trip up most entrepreneurs. More poignantly, if an employee’s personal life isn’t going as planned, it will adversely affect his professional life as well. Therefore, one of the ways of assisting employees in improving their performance is to help them achieve their personal goals so that they become happier.
This entails finding out what personal goals of your employees are. If personal goals such as vacations overlap, then perhaps arranging a team tour might be a good idea. Similarly, if weight loss is a concern for most of your employees, then providing a gym will make them happier and, thus, more productive.
Align Individual Objectives to Company Objectives
Everyone wants to feel like they’re contributing to something great and grand. This is especially true in today’s world of specialisation. Jobs, today, have become increasingly specialised and specific. Generic skill sets are no longer as important as they were a few decades ago. With specialisation, however, has also come a level of disconnect that can have a serious and limiting impact on productivity and efficiency.
The only way to prevent disconnection caused by specialisation is to ensure that your employees know how their efforts help the company achieve its objectives. On the ground, this means aligning and connecting individual objectives or tasks with company objectives or assignments.
This way of assisting employees in improving their performance will not only make them understand the importance of their efforts but also help them feel like they belong. It is important to note that this feeling of belonging will help employee retention as much as it will boost the productivity because the employees will take ownership of their roles and positions in the company.
Challenge Them But Within Reason
Every individual has a comfort zone. This is the zone where he feels most relaxed and accomplished in. For example, a baker’s comfort zone will most probably be baking desserts even though he probably has the skills to excel in baking savoury dishes. If you were to ask such a baker to make something savoury, he will dither, hesitate, and possibly try to find a way out of it.
Assisting employees in improving their performance means pushing them beyond their comfort zones. In the case of the baker, this will mean pushing him to make savoury items simply because the bakery owner has seen and assessed the core baking techniques of the baker. Thus, the owner will want to try to push the baker to expand his comfort zone.
There’s another angle that is worth analysing here and that is overdoing the pushing. When an individual is pushed too far out of his comfort zone, he flounders simply because everything is so new and different. It doesn’t even matter how competent or knowledgeable the individual is. If he’s pushed too far out to sea, then he will drown.
In the case of the baker again, pushing him to make gourmet French cuisine with 8 hour preparation times will probably be too far. If this were to happen to the baker, he would most probably either quit or have a nervous breakdown. Thus, it is important to realise that assisting employees in improving their performance means pushing them but it also means not pushing them too far.