8 Steps to Better Employee Performance and Productivity at Work

High performing, engaged employees can take your organization to new heights. But employee performance isn’t a dial you can turn up or down at will. Many factors determine how productive your employees are, and they vary from position to position or even individual to individual. This makes measuring employee performance, let alone improving it, a real challenge — but one you can overcome with the tips below.

How do you measure employee performance?

Measuring employee performance is challenging but possible. Looking at obvious metrics like sales made or number of IT issues resolved can be useful in some cases. But it won’t give you the full picture of an employee’s productivity, and some positions lack any tangible output to measure. Thankfully, there are some useful yardsticks that apply to most employees’ work.

Efficiency is a good example. Tracking the time it takes for employees to complete tasks each week or month will reveal important ongoing trends and areas for improvement. Of course, being able to finish a huge project in a short amount of time means nothing if the quality of the work is poor. Think about a sliding scale you can use to measure an employee’s work in terms of the value it brings to the company, or devise another way to track quality along with efficiency.

Another objective metric is employees’ engagement levels. Engaged team members are more likely to push themselves by trying new things or giving extra effort beyond their day-to-day assignments. Seventy-one percent of executives say that employee engagement is a very important part of overall organizational success.

If you have an employee engagement platform, train managers to examine the data behind engagement from frequent employee engagement surveys. If they don’t see positive trends in the drivers of engagement, like recognition and connection within teams, an engagement solution makes it easy to transition from analysis to building a collaborative action plan that the entire team is behind.

When you’re nailing down key metrics, keep in mind that evaluating employee productivity is a two-way street. Unilaterally assigning metrics employees don’t believe are valuable or accurate isn’t going to get them to do their best work. Get mutual buy-in to ensure that the employee is motivated to work towards their goals. And no matter what metrics the employee and their manager choose, communicating exactly how and when the employee’s success will be measured is a must. Laying out expectations clearly gets everyone on the same page and ensures there are no surprises during evaluation time.

Discover the impact of employee engagement on performance in this free report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services.

8 steps to improve employee performance

Once you’ve narrowed down the ways you plan to measure employee productivity, it’s time to start improving it. Here are 8 steps you can take to boost work performance.

1. Set clear, realistic goals — and hold people to them

It’s impossible for employees to exceed expectations if those expectations are nonexistent or unclear. Unrealistic goals immediately demoralize even the most enthusiastic employees, while achieving easy goals isn’t impactful and doesn’t propel employees forward in their careers. Try to strike a balance. Goals should be ambitious, yet achievable, and there should be a defined way for employees to measure their progress.

When it comes time for a quarterly or yearly review, advise managers to pull up the goals they set with each employee at the beginning of the year. Recommend that managers think about employee performance based on input from other peers, department heads, and clients. Take into account any awards or significant recognition employees may have received as well.

During evaluation periods, make it clear that everyone is accountable for his or her performance. This especially applies to managers. Senior leaders should set an example by asking for and acting on 360-degree feedback. Doing so helps employees feel like their opinions are valuable, too.

When managers feel an employees’ goal was not met, they should investigate why. Encourage them to keep conversations positive and productive by delivering specific feedback and then focusing on how they can help. Working together to develop an action plan ensures the employee can stick to it.

2. Build a positive work environment and culture

Culture plays a huge role in your employees’ effectiveness. A negative culture is demotivating, perpetuates burnout, and contributes to high turnover. Conversely, positivity, recognition, and teamwork keep employees healthy and happy. And that matters — 77% of workers consider a company’s culture before applying, and companies with highly aligned cultures see 30% higher enterprise value growth and 17% higher profit growth.

But building a high-performance culture takes more than simply publishing a mission or vision statement. It’s about choosing inspiring company values and rewarding employees who live out those values each day. The culture of your organization should create an environment of psychological safety by emphasizing the need for mutual respect, interpersonal trust, and support for employees’ mental, emotional, and physical health. Employees should feel comfortable being themselves in your organization. An inclusive, strong culture is especially vital in times of crisis. Keeping employees informed and inspired helps companies tackle challenges as a team.

3. Recognize and incentivize employees

When people are acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done, they put more energy and effort into their everyday tasks. Organizations that rate their culture of recognition highly are two times as likely to see improved employee engagement. And 72% of executives believe that recognition given to high performers has a significant impact on employee engagement.

To get the most out of recognition, make sure it’s specific, frequent, and timely. Explicitly linking recognition to an action makes employees more inclined to repeat that behavior in the future. Frequent recognition adds to that inclination, and cultivates trust among employees and their peers and managers.

Monetary and social recognition are both key parts of the recognition puzzle. To give employees a choice in how they are rewarded, implement a points-based rewards system. Whenever an employee is recognized, they accumulate points that can be redeemed for any prize in your rewards catalog. This type of recognition and rewards platform integrates recognition into employees’ daily routine and gives employees a sense of autonomy over how they are compensated for hard work.

Social recognition can be even more impactful than rewards: companies that invest in social recognition are two times more likely to improve individual employee performance. Examples of social recognition include shouting out a direct report in an all-hands meeting, writing a peer a thank you note, or publicizing an accomplishment on your company’s intranet. Urge everyone to get involved, as peer-to-peer recognition promotes team spirit, gives employees an equal voice, and improves self-esteem. To make social recognition easy, adopt a recognition platform that lets employees show appreciation when and where works best for them with mobile capabilities and a great user experience.

Great incentives can enhance work performance as well. Beyond obvious incentives like bonuses, extra PTO, and raises, think about more creative options, such as donating to charities in employees’ names or giving employees a day off each quarter to volunteer. Celebrating big milestones with experiences like concerts or paid vacations can be huge motivators as well.

Find out how inclusive and frequent recognition can impact your business.

4. Listen to your workforce

It’s hard to maximize employee productivity without knowing what employees are struggling with and how they think they can better contribute to your company. Give employees a voice by creating opportunities for them to share their perspectives, ideas, and worries without fear of retaliation.

Pulse surveys are a fantastic way to gather information about particular topics and see how employees’ views change over time. They’re relatively short and are easy to answer quickly, so they don’t interrupt employees’ workflows. You can get insight into all the factors that contribute to employee engagement, like alignment, recognition, and more. Be sure to leave room for open-ended questions, too. Allowing employees to give free-form feedback can elicit the most insightful responses.

And for immediate feedback, turn to AI-powered HR chatbots. These always-on feedback tools invite employees to share their observations frequently and confidentially. Sixty-four percent of HR leaders agree that an always-on feedback tool is critical to an engagement program.

Remember, collecting feedback is only the first step in listening to your workforce. Managers need to analyze and act on feedback. This encourages employees to exercise their voice more and demonstrates that they have the power to influence decisions at work. Look for an employee engagement solution that anonymizes employee data to remove emotion from the equation as much as possible and review the data with an objective, open frame of mind.

Once managers identify a few areas for improvement, teach them how to prioritize with the help of your engagement platform’s analytics features. Not everything can be addressed at once. Encourage managers to pick just one or two issues to focus on each quarter and create collaborative plans with their direct reports.

5. Keep morale high

High employee morale leads to high engagement, while poor morale manifests in turnover, disempowerment, and even health issues. And low morale is contagious, so keeping employees happy can make or break your organization’s performance. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to raise morale and maintain it at a high level.

As mentioned above, recognition is a fantastic way to keep morale high. Building a culture of recognition starts with an organization’s leaders. They should acknowledge others often and in a way that’s memorable and meaningful.

Beyond recognition, remind supervisors not to micromanage. They should instead think of ways to enable employees to take initiative themselves, provide them with the resources they need, and trust them to get their work done on time. Leadership should also listen attentively to employee feedback and communicate with their teams as effectively as possible.

Learn why empowerment and trust are the keys to a successful workforce.

6. Help employees practice self-care

Caring for employees’ emotional and mental health is crucial to preventing burnout. Overworked employees suffer from disengagement, physical health issues, and feelings of isolation. Employees who experience burnout are 63% more likely to call in sick and 23% more likely to take a trip to the emergency room.

Institute wellness programs that help your employees maintain habits like exercising regularly, getting enough restful sleep, and eating nourishing meals. Each of these behaviors maximize employees’ energy and ability to focus. Some rewards platforms allow employees to track progress towards their health goals. Every month, reward people who have consistently added good habits to their wellness routine.

Encourage employees to tend to their mental health as well. Pay for subscriptions to meditation apps like Headspace or Calm, or even hire a professional to host meditation sessions in-house from time to time. The mindfulness that comes with meditation helps employees become more adaptable and better handle stress. In addition to decluttering the mind, mindfulness boosts employees’ empathy, which can improve both your company culture and the client experience.

And don’t forget to encourage employees to actually use their time off. Spending time with family and friends helps employees distance themselves from work and come back recharged and refreshed.

7. Support training and professional development

There is a direct connection between providing development opportunities and a high-performing workforce. Continuous learning gives employees the skills they need to move into more powerful and impactful roles. And it’s a win-win for your company: organizations that invest in training have 24% higher profit margins.

There are so many ways you can support professional development. One is to send employees to industry conferences or relevant training programs. They’ll hear about best practices and innovative technologies to help them become more competent and forward-thinking. You can also give scholarships to employees pursuing further education, or you can cover the cost of certification exams. This enables employees to gain new expertise in ways they might not have been able to afford otherwise.

Rewarding employees with one-on-one coaching sessions with executives is another excellent idea. In these smaller settings, employees receive tailored advice and develop relationships with key business stakeholders who can guide them throughout their careers. You can train managers to become better mentors as well. By adopting a “coach” mentality, managers can build rapport, make their teams more confident, and foster a sense of belonging.

8. Support your employees with the best tools

Following the steps above is easier said than done. The good news is that there are tools to make it simpler. Employee engagement and employee recognition solutions improve both the employee and customer experience. They’re typically software-as-a-service platforms, making them easy to use and learn. HR chooses each tool and then trains leadership and employees on how to use them effectively.

End-to-end employee engagement tools help people leaders gather and interpret data to optimize organizational performance. Continuous listening features give managers insight into how their teams are responding to new challenges. This allows them to make swift pivots and lead their teams to success. The best engagement tools are created with science in mind and help leaders create action plans with their teams based on solid data.

Recognition platforms are instrumental in producing positive performance results as well. Recognizing others should be easy and fun for any employee. To reap the most benefits, pick a platform that supports both social and points-based recognition. It should also make the recognition experience engaging with the ability to like, comment on, and provide additional points to any individual message of appreciation. Integrating with widely-used communication tools and meshing well with your chosen engagement platform are pluses as well.

Boost employee performance with Achievers

Without the best tools, it’s not easy to realize improved employee performance. Instituting a culture of recognition and engagement requires intuitive technologies that employees actually enjoy using.

Achievers Recognize is an award-winning recognition and reward solution that enables meaningful, recurring recognition among peers and their superiors. Household names like General Motors, Discover, and Kellogg’s have all seen stunning results using Recognize. Achievers customers are 107% more likely to give their culture of recognition a high rating than organizations that don’t use recognition technology, and they’re 36% more likely to see an increase in employee engagement.

Achievers Listen is a science-backed engagement platform designed to serve HR teams, employees, and managers alike. It delivers feedback and personalized insights in minutes, helping everyone put together robust action plans that achieve results. Achievers Listen also provides dashboards and reporting tools that make it accessible to any user. It seamlessly integrates with Achievers Recognize to amplify engagement and accelerate performance.

Together, Achiever Recognize and Listen can make your workforce unstoppable. Schedule a free demo to take the first step towards watching employee performance skyrocket.

Profile image of author: Achievers
Achievers Employee Success Platform delivers proven employee recognition, continuous listening tools and timely coaching tips for organizations to give their people ownership of the employee experience and to drive organizational success. To learn more, visit www.achievers.com.

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