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Employee Engagement Performance Management

How to Manage 5 Obstacles to Better Employee Performance

September 6, 2022
6 min read

Performance Management, Supercharged


This post on five obstacles to better employee performance was originally published in September 2018 and updated in September 2022.Gallup reports only 32% of U.S. employees are engaged in their work, which is a shame because high engagement is the foundation of excellent employee performance. Their research found that the companies ranked in the top quartile for employee engagement had significantly more success than those in the bottom quartile.

Gallup also reports at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement can be attributed to managers. That means in order to become more successful managers, they need to take an active role in removing the obstacles hindering higher engagement and consequently, performance.

So, if your employees are having issues, it might actually be a result of disengagement, and managers can make a difference. Let’s look at five obstacles to higher engagement and performance as well as some more effective employee performance management strategies your managers can use.

Managers are responsible for #EmployeeEngagement, and if it’s low, their employees may be facing these 5 obstacles:

Obstacle #1: Infrequent communication with managers

Regular communication is positively correlated to employee engagement — and as a result, one of the top factors hindering performance is a lack of communication between manager and their employees. But tripling your employees’ engagement levels can be as easy as popping by their office a few times a week or scheduling weekly check-ins to chat about their projects. Employees who received daily feedback from their managers are nearly three times more likely to be engaged than those who only get annual performance feedback.

Relationship building can even prevent employees from leaving — when they’re engaged, they’re 59% less likely to be job hunting. So, employees who talk to their managers often have plenty of opportunities to ask questions and get advice so they can continuously improve their performance, and they’re overall more engaged and more loyal to their companies.

How to remove this obstacle: Managers can hold themselves accountable for initiating more frequent communication by setting up weekly check-ins with their direct reports, whether in-office or via video chat. They can also make a habit of giving real-time feedback on other channels, like Slack, so employees can start applying those tips right away.

Obstacle #2: A lack of constructive feedback

It can be challenging to strike a balance between praise and constructive feedback, but it matters for engagement. Employees were four times more likely to be engaged if they said they received “meaningful” feedback in the past week. Meaningful feedback is timely and motivating, and it can even boost retention.

Not to mention, 83% of employees want more feedback regardless of if it’s positive or negative. They simply want to know what they’re doing right and where they need to improve. Break out of the cycle of repetitive annual performance reviews that focus on past mistakes and start giving actionable feedback right when it’s relevant to develop high-performing employees.

How to remove this obstacle: Take a page from Gallup’s playbook to give effective feedback. Remember these three characteristics of constructive feedback:

  • Frequent: Give feedback often so employees have frequent learning and development opportunities.
  • Focused: Feedback should be specific and tailored to each individual employee and their own performance expectations.
  • Future-oriented: Constructive feedback inspires growth by asking how employees can move forward.

Obstacle #3: Not understanding “the big picture”

Only about half of the workforce strongly agrees that they understand what is expected of them at work. That means the other half is more or less “winging” it. If employees don’t know what is expected of them, it’s unlikely they understand how their work really contributes to the bigger goals of the organization. That can lead to subpar performance and low engagement, which makes it hard to retain them long-term.

However, when employees feel connected to their company’s goals, they’re more connected to their own work, too. That can result in productivity that’s as much as 22% higher and promote a culture of transparency in your organization.

How to avoid this mistake: Set aligned goals as part of how you manage employee performance. Remind employees of the business’ values and goals to keep everyone driving toward a cohesive mission. That gives them a line of sight as to why they’re doing the work they’re doing and helps them understand how their work contributes to business success.

Help employees understand the “big picture” and you can increase productivity by up to 22%:

Obstacle #4: Receiving little recognition for their accomplishments

Employee recognition is motivating and can foster loyalty. 69% of employees say they would work harder if they received more recognition. Highly engaged employees are more likely to have recently received recognition, which reinforces that motivation and encourages high retention.

The power of praise is evident, and it doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a recognition program. Create an environment of recognition by taking opportunities daily to recognize achievements and milestones. Even recognizing small contributions can provide meaning for employees and, consequently, a more engaging work atmosphere.

How to avoid this mistake: Make a point of recognizing accomplishments large and small on a regular basis, and encourage your employees to celebrate their colleagues, too. Peer-to-peer recognition can increase performance by as much as 14 percent.

Obstacle #5: Lack of trust in managers

Managers don’t just manage people, they lead them, and that means employees need to trust them. Employees experience 40% less burnout and 74% less stress when they trust their employer, and 28% of employees say they’d stay longer at an organization where transparency was part of the company culture. Trust is essential for building an engaged workforce that is motivated to do well at work.

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 of your leadership. Resist the urge to place blame and instead take responsibility for the situation. They will appreciate your transparency.

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.

Then, address employees’ concerns and make real changes. Your employees will be happy to see their suggestions are being heard and taken seriously as a part of bettering their work environment.

If any of these obstacles exist in your own performance management system, it’s time to invest in removing them. You can get started with ClearCompany’s powerful Performance Management Software.

Our software has everything you need to enable your employees to achieve their objectives and reach their full potential at work with tools for setting aligned goals, giving performance appraisals, and more. Sign up for a demo with the ClearCompany experts today.

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