Gallup reports only 32.5% of U.S. employees are engaged in their work, which is a shame, because engagement lays the foundation for improving employee performance. Gallup also reports at least 70% of variance in employee engagement can be attributed to managers.
So, while many companies are paying big bucks for employee wellness programs, handing out complimentary food to employees or organizing a company-wide day of volunteer service, their own engagement problems might actually lie in their performance management practices. The good news is many of the leadership traits employees seek to find in managers today are easy and practical to implement. Becoming a more successful manager is just a few tweaks away...
Mistake #1: Not initiating frequent communication with employees
Regular communication is positively correlated to employee engagement. In fact, employees whose managers regularly communicate with them are nearly three times more engaged than those with managers who don’t regularly communicate. Tripling your employees’ engagement levels can be as easy as popping by their office one or two times a week to shoot the breeze.
Relationship building with your employees could even save them from leaving! “The top reasons the 34,000 respondents cited for leaving were career development, work-life balance, manager relationships, and compensation - all things well within a company’s control. This is dangerous in an era when employees switch jobs more frequently,” said Cheryl Conner, CEO of SnappConner PR.How to avoid this mistake: Managers can keep themselves accountable for checking in with employees by setting reminders on their phone, computer or within their HR software. Group settings can work, but one-on-one interactions with employees will pack a stronger punch for engagement.
Mistake #2: Lack of constructive feedback
Managers have the challenging job of managing employee performance. It’s a balancing act knowing how much positive feedback to include and when to focus on improvement. 71% of employees who believe their manager can name their strengths feels engaged and energized by their work. On the other hand, focusing feedback on an employee’s weaknesses can cause their performance to decline by 27%. Focusing feedback on employee weaknesses can cause performance to decline by 27%. How to avoid this mistake: Zenger Folkman suggests using corrective feedback, “For the purposes of [our] study, we grouped praise, reinforcement, and congratulatory comments together as positive feedback. And we’ve chosen to call suggestions for improvement, explorations of new and better ways to do things, or pointing out something that was done in a less-than-optimal way corrective feedback.”
72% of respondents felt that their performance would improve with corrective feedback.
Read about How to Engage High Performers
The best way to work on giving employee feedback is to practice high frequency. The standard once-a-year review doesn’t provide enough feedback for your employees to understand their progress. Your goal is to retain top talent, so frequent check-ins with high performing employees (once a week) is your goal. A once a week frequency might not work for larger corporations, so adjust as necessary or delegate feedback to your management team.
Keep in mind, this high-frequency feedback plan is what your employees are looking for. In fact, 43% of highly engaged employees want to receive feedback once a week. When you work on giving feedback, be as specific in your examples as possible to show you have a keen eye on each individual’s work. “You’re doing great!” is vague and insincere. “I loved the way you handled that call with *Client Name* yesterday” is a specific example of something an employee might have struggled with, but pulled through and deserves recognition for.
Mistake #3: Failure to provide employees with “the big picture”
Only about 50% of the workforce strongly feels they understand what is expected of them at work. That means the other half is more or less “winging” it. Not only do these employees not know what is expected of them, but that means they have no clue how their work really contributes to the bigger goals of the organization, which will make it hard to retain them long term.
How to avoid this mistake: When managing employee performance, take every opportunity available to demonstrate how your employees’ actions impact the organizational goals of the business. This increases goal transparency and gives them a line of sight as to the effect their work really has and where it’s headed. Organizational goals should be at the front of every stage in your employee’s lifecycle with the company. How accessible are they on your website? Or even in your office? Find ways to communicate and remind employees of the business’ values and goals to keep everyone driving toward a cohesive mission. Do you have a highly trafficked area in the office where your company values could be put on display? Or a career website where the terms are simply defined?
After all, part of knowing your purpose at work is understanding your company’s goals. This is largely part of why hiring for cultural fit is so important - we want to hire people who not only understand your business goals, but are excited to help push those goals forward.
Get your teams excited about these values and missions by writing down the positive impact your company makes on the world. This is something your employees should look at and feel on an emotional level. This tactic is called purpose-driven work culture. That means the support and connections you build with your teams shouldn’t just be employee to employee, but also employee to upper-management. This is vital to becoming a cohesive, purpose-driven workplace. A survey of global workers found 26% of workers say discussing success with colleagues motivates them.
Mistake #4: Failure to recognize employee accomplishments
According to the 2015 Trends in Employee Recognition Report, 68% of surveyed companies feel employee recognition programs have an extremely positive effect on employee engagement. The same study showed 38% of respondents felt it positively impacts employee retention. The power of praise is evident and it doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of recognition program to make it happen. How to avoid this mistake: Create an environment of recognition by taking opportunities daily to recognize small successes. Even recognizing personal achievements or struggles can provide meaning for employees and consequently, a more engaging work atmosphere. For example, if you know Sam is taking night classes at the local campus, let her know how impressed you are with her work and dedication to further her education.
Recognition comes in many forms. A lot of companies find great success in incentive programs. Incentive programs can range from costing $0 to $1,000+ depending on how big or small your budget is for extra “rewards.” Think about a few of these options you could run with:
- Bring your dog to work day
- Unlimited sick days
- Monetary rewards for perfect attendance
- Recognition for every year worked (cake, a conference stipend, a gift card)
- A week off at the end of the year to celebrate the upcoming new year
- Monetary incentives for those who “green commute” (walk, rollerblade, ride a bike, carpool, take the train or bus)
- Laundry service (especially for offices with a more strict dress code)
- Flexible work schedules (especially rewarding for those with families)
- Telecommuting 2 days a week
Think about what’s right for your company and budget. Get your employees involved in the decision process to see what incentives are the most popular among your teams. Pick your top five and have a poll to narrow it down to two incentives. Your employees will feel engaged in contributing to company decisions and appreciated and motivated with their new incentives!
Mistake #5: Failure to lead by exampleIt’s hard to be perfect all the time, but managers don’t just manage people, they lead them and that means they are expected to lead by example. 70% of employees who lack confidence in senior leadership are not fully engaged, making the values and characteristics managers display at work even more critical to influencing employee performance. How to avoid this mistake: When opportunities arise, show your teams what kind of leader you are. For example, when your team makes a mistake, that’s a reflection on your leadership. Resist the urge to place blame. Take responsibility for the situation and let your team know you’re working to improve on yourself. They will appreciate your humility and honesty. How are you implementing employee recognition in the workplace?
After all, if you want to lead your teams effectively, you need to know how you can serve them, what you can do better and how you can be your best for them. Allow employees (both existing and exiting) to fill out an annual survey on your performance as their leader. These should be anonymous and used in a way to create constructive data for you to hear what your employees could use more or less of. Some of the results might sting a little, but that is a sign it’s working! Use what stings to build a solution. Your employees will be happy to see their suggestions are being heard and taken seriously as a part of bettering their work environment.
Are your performance management practices hindering employee performance? Take a step back and reflect on your current processes. If you’re making these mistakes, it might mean your team isn’t performing to their full potential. Let ClearCompany’s Talent Management Software keep you and your team accountable and engaged. Try a free demo today!
As the head of a department in the midst of a sustained period of rapid growth, Sara has spent hundreds of hours interviewing, hiring, onboarding and assessing employees and candidates. She is passionate about sharing the best practices she has learned from both successes and failures in talent acquisition and management.