4 Steps to Increasing Performance During Economic Strife
There are so many variables that affect an organization’s ability to make and sustain profit, such as the worldly and regionalized economies, the cost for products and materials, the demand for products and services, the cost of people, and so on.
We use a common term “our employees are our assets”. Technically organizations do not “own” their employees, but their knowledge and skills are integral to the success of any organization, and highly influences quality, reputation, and profitability (and eventually assets). Salaries and benefits are usually the highest cost for an organization, so supporting those resources to perform their best is crucial.
Employee performance isn’t as predictable as it should be, and leaders discover this when a project or task has not met expectations. We get caught up in how hard people are working, or how many hours they are working, but ultimately success comes from their results, not effort. Leaders are juggling the demands of leading people to achieve results and being working managers for the technical expertise that they bring to their role.
If the above is the “norm” when the economy and/or business demands are being challenged to the point where revenues or profits are declining, this puts extreme pressure on organizations. Organizations make quick and sometimes harsh decisions to respond to these business challenges, and usually one of the first areas to be impacted is at the employee level. We do not have to look too far to know of organizations that have restructured (aka “downsized”) to respond to lower revenues, in addition to cutting back on salaries and benefits. When this happens employees automatically jump to fear and concern, their morale and motivation decreases, and most certainly this impacts their performance over time. Those “steady eddy’s” who normally meet expectations are on the brink of decline. Does this sound familiar?
When organizations are forced to make these changes it is common that some employees are required take on more responsibility or be tasked with new duties. Some will take a demotion and/or positons that may not be in their career plan, and these changes are sometimes for a short term or indefinitely until financial stability resumes.
When employee morale and performance are under siege leaders are forced to be different as they need to lead people differently. It is not doom and gloom, there are opportunities to shift some behaviors to see different results. Here are some strategies:
Even with a concerted effort to share information with employees many organizations see that communication is one of the lowest ratings in their employee engagement surveys. Employees want to know what is going on and how the current state affects their employment and future. Develop a communication strategy that equips employees with real information so they can connect with the challenge ahead, such as a more in-depth look at the economic impact on the organization (ie. sharing financial information that you haven’t shared previously), what is really at stake when they succeed (or not), and what the leaders will commit to in this process. When leaders declare and commit to a compelling story their employees will generally follow as they know what the target is. People naturally want to be a part of a winning team.
Evaluate your talent
Putting someone into any role may not be as successful as hoped. The right people in the right roles is critical to meeting organizational objectives. When someone is shifted into a different role or their duties change, it is important to know if they are able and motivated to take on this role. Leaders may already know if their people can do this, or they may need to discuss with peers and the employee directly to establish a benchmark (in other words, so you know what you are getting) before moving forward, or at least planning for the move, and closing any gaps if additional training and experience is needed.
- Do employees know what to do? Do they understand the performance expectations of the new role? Have detailed discussions happened to ensure there is alignment with what work needs to get done and the expectations of how it gets done?
- Are employees able to do it? Do they have the capability to do the role, and the experience, skills and knowledge to perform in the role, as well as the attitude that is required?
- Are employees equipped to do it? Do they have the tools and systems that they need to complete the work? Do they have the resources such as information, and clear business processes and procedures?
- Do employees want to do it? Are employees up to this challenge? Do they want to contribute and hold themselves accountable to their outcomes?
Performance is important. Leaders share in the responsibility with their employees to shift the focus from the negative to how they can be a part of the solution. This is accomplished by hosting productive interactions that supports an empowered workplace for employees to undertake their big challenges. When employees are given the opportunity to contribute to a solution, great things can happen.
Continue to layer in Performance Management. A common practice, when organizations are in strife, is to drop performance reviews and important performance conversations, citing less time, money and resources to conduct them, or by making an assessment that employees are out of their comfort zone and performance conversations would be counter-productive. The opposite is true, leaders will gain by having regular performance conversations about performance outcomes, and the opportunity to address overall satisfaction and engagement, and learning and development goals. A significant role change is not all bad for some employees. Sometimes they get opportunities to learn and grow in ways that they didn’t expect or see coming. This is worth talking about.
Take care of your employees
Organizations and their leaders should provide more support for employees and their families. Doing so will require all leaders and/or the Human Resources team to be different during this time, such as checking in regularly with employees and their families to see how they are doing and determining if the organization can assist in any way. Statistics show that when there is a high level of emotional well-being there is a greater chance that employees will come to work engaged and ready for the challenge vs. seeking the assistance of the Employee Assistance Program or face illness or disability due to stress.
It is a different shift for many leaders to be more actively involved with their people while keeping a clear focus on the organization’s objectives. It seems like a heavy lift to show up a bit differently, and those organizations who have adopted a new strategy about how they communicate and manage their people have come out of a downturn healthy, organized, and ready to take on growth.
When you get there be authentic, pitch the positive, and publicly celebrate the successes!
I love to help!!
Always, we are here to help our colleagues. We want your feedback, comments and questions about your Performance Management experience. If you have any questions about how these Performance Improvement concepts can be applied to your work group and/or your organization, please let us know and we will be happy to assist.
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