Feedback – the Key to Unlock Employee Development

How do you motivate employees to work harder?

Improving productivity is a goal of every business. Highly productive companies are more innovative. They suffer lower rates of absenteeism and staff turnover, enjoy better customer relationships, lower costs, higher turnover, and wider profit margins.

While hard work does not necessarily equal high productivity, employees who don’t put in the effort required will certainly damage your team’s performance. If left unchecked, lazy attitudes can become a team’s cultural norm, as the behaviors of one lazy employee are copied by his or her peers. It follows that good managers should use tactics to improve the performance of individuals, helping them to develop into their potential, and therefore create high-performing teams.

How do you know your employees need motivating?

There are several behavioral patterns associated with employees who lack motivation for their work. Generally, these are interpreted as signs of laziness. However, there are often underlying reasons for a gradual or sudden loss of focus and deteriorating performance. Here are some of the behaviors you might expect to see from an underperforming employee:

·       Always vanishing

The employee is absent with increasing regularity. They excuse themselves to the bathroom for long periods, turn up late for important meetings, and take long lunches. The excuses for missing client meetings and project work are plentiful.

·       Always busy on last-minute projects

This behavior makes it appear that the employee is working hard, but the root cause is because they leave everything to the last minute. This is a sign of lack of enthusiasm and leads to poor execution of tasks.

·       Always delegating

This employee’s work always gets completed on time, but usually by other people. Tasks are pushed onto others, perhaps even to clients.

·       Only completes the bare minimum

This employee completes the task set, but only to the minimum standard requested. Expectations are never exceeded, and corners are cut regularly.

Giving feedback to develop underperforming employees

If you have noticed that an employee is underperforming, you should tackle the issue quickly. The longer you ignore it, the worse it will become and the more difficult it will be to develop the employee’s performance.

Feedback is essential in the employee development process. Delivered constructively, with a focus on the future, it is likely to also provide the manager with valuable feedback from the employee. The best managers take a structured approach to giving feedback. They prepare, coach, deal with resistance, and recognize improvement.

Preparing to give feedback

The issue needs to be fully considered, with specific examples of underperformance documented. These can then be presented to the employee, and lead to a discussion with the employee to establish whether the employee understands:

  • What the issue is
  • What performance level is expected
  • What may happen if performance doesn’t improve

It is important to balance this conversation with positives, and help the employee see the benefits to him or her (and the team) of developing their own performance.

Especially when discussing performance, feedback should be provided in private.

The aim of a feedback meeting is to create a plan for employee development, agreed with the employee.

Coaching as a feedback tool

With a development plan agreed, the good manager becomes the coach. Coaching employees requires the manager to give and receive feedback constantly, discussing performance objectively and focusing on the future.

Open-ended questions help the employee discover more about themselves, and allow the employee to suggest their own ideas. The good coach will then help the employee analyze these ideas and arrive at suggestions for improvements.

It is important to listen to the employee, remain positive, encourage confidence, and follow up on progress.

Feedback in the face of resistance

When challenged about underperformance, some employees may become defensive and resistant to feedback. Managers with high emotional intelligence stay calm, approach issues objectively, and help the employee focus on the issue.

It is important to uncover the real issues that lie behind poor performance. It may be difficult for the employee to discuss the issues that they have – especially if they are not related to work. Good managers remove blame from the conversation, are empathetic, and listen and understand.

If criticism is provided from the employee, managers should resist a counterattack. Instead, feedback received is understood, and responsibility for the issues accepted. This helps the employee to become agreeable to working on a development plan.

Feedback to recognize development

As the employee acts on the development plan, responding to coaching and continual feedback, the manager should take opportunities to recognize and reward the employee’s achievements and improvements made.

Enthusiasm for teamwork, willingness to accept new responsibilities, prompt delivery of project work and exceeding expectations should be acknowledged.

Is underperformance the fault of the employee?

There are organizational structures that help to motivate employees to perform at their peak. For example:

  • Linking good performance to financial and non-financial incentives may encourage people to develop their skillsets
  • Ensuring a career path is available, with prospects for promotion dependent upon performance, is crucial for organizations that wish to develop their employees to reach their full potential

If such structures are in place but your organization finds that its employees are underperforming, it may be that your employees aren’t receiving the feedback that will encourage them to reach their potential.

For further insight into how to develop your leadership capabilities to develop high-performing teams, contact Forward Focus today and discover how our Management Development Series could help you become more emotionally intelligent and better influence your people.

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