Managing performance and producing outcomes

In a three-part series, James Miller reveals how to make your business a success by recognising performance problems, identifying the gap between employee and management expectations and addressing these issues.

IT’S probably one of the toughest challenges facing business – to deliver what your business does in a consistent, effective way to produce outcomes for all the stakeholders.

There are lots of fail points, none more common than attempts to focus the attentions of the company’s human resources on getting the right work done. This, in its broadest sense, is ‘performance management’. It is, without a doubt, one of the key success determinants for business. For most businesses, labour cost is the single biggest expenditure item. This being the case, you want to make sure your most expensive asset is truly producing for you.

Here’s a conversation that could be found in organisations just about anywhere. Sound familiar? Try to identify the key aspects of what could be going wrong here.

Manager: “We need some team building stuff. The group aren’t working as well as they used to. We were doing really well. We had a smaller team and the business was simpler. We have had to change how we do our work in recent times and have taken on a few more people. Were just not doing as well as we could.”

External colleague: “Sounds frustrating.”

Manager: “Absolutely. We’ve got targets to achieve, budgets to make and every day that we don’t improve, the further behind we’ll get. The pressure can build up and it doesn’t make for a great place to work sometimes.”

External colleague: “What else is happening?”

Manager: “Some staff feel that others aren’t pulling their weight, and that puts an edge in the air at work. One new person, who we thought was a really good selection choice, hasn’t been contributing in the way we had hoped. Another has been with us for a long time and believes that they know better than others what is needed in the business, and frequently won’t do what we ask them to do.”

External colleague: “Do the staff know what needs to be achieved to reach the company’s goals?”

Manager: “They know what they should be doing. They are experienced people and they don’t want to be told how to do their jobs. I don’t really think I need to have to spell it out for them either.”

External colleague: “I see. What about responsibility? Why do some people feel that others aren’t doing their share?”

Manager: “Well, they do part of the job and leave the other bits to others. Sometimes they don’t do some of the work at all. Others feel that if they use their initiative and take on a job, that the job will become theirs, so they don’t pitch in. Some people work different days and hours so that can add to the confusion I guess.”

External colleague: “So how do staff know if they are doing what they are supposed to?”

Manager: “As I mentioned, most of them are experienced people who don’t need to be told. Other than that, they get a pay increase every year.”

External colleague: “Every year?”

Manager: “Yep every year. Pretty good huh. We look after our employees. We give them meals, we put on staff get togethers for them and everything. I don’t know what else a company could do.”

Things that could be observed:

p misdirected resources (pay increases not linked to performance);

p current under-performance;

p lack of role clarity;

p lack of performance standards;

p lack of personal account-abilities and expectations;

p unwillingness to clarify expectations based on employees’ experience (not tell them how but tell them what);

p lack of feedback on how staff are meeting or not meeting expectations;

p lack of understanding by employees of how their role contributes to company’s success;

p supportive behaviours not encouraged;

p frequency of reward and only pay is mentioned; and

p lack of preparedness to manage poor performers.

Now that you have a feel for listening and looking at what may be going on in your business, we can move on to the fundamentals that underpin getting the right work done in your organisation. These include: knowing the business priorities; clarity of personal expectations and work standards; and decision-making authority and call over resources.

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