Performance Improvement Strategies

With Proper Coaching and Planning You Can Help Employees Succeed

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Do you have the responsibility for supervising the work of others? If so, you know that employees don't always do what you want them to do. On the one hand, they act as if they are competent professionals. On the other, they procrastinate, miss deadlines, and wait for instructions. They blame others when their work is unsuccessful. And worst of all, employees become defensive when you try to coach them to successful performance improvement through excellent, goal-accomplishing work.

So, what's a supervisor to do? Performance improvement is your answer. You must begin by finding out exactly why the employee is not meeting your expectations. Perhaps the employee is unclear about what you want him to do. He may lack the time, tools, talent, training, or temperament required to effectively perform the job.

He may disagree with your requirements or expectations. Regardless, you won't have a performing, engaged employee until you identify what is wrong with the employee's functioning.

Diagnosing Performance Improvement Opportunities and Problems

When an employee is failing at work, I ask the W. Edwards Deming question, “What about the work system is causing the person to fail?” Most frequently, if the employee knows what they are supposed to do, I find the answer is time, tools, training, temperament or talent. 

Performance Improvement Questions

These are the key questions that you and the employee will want to answer to diagnose performance problems that result in the need for you to seek performance improvement. This checklist for employee performance improvement will help diagnose the performance issue.

  • What about the work system is causing the person to fail?
  • Does the employee know exactly what you want him to do? Does he know the goals and the outcomes expected? Does he share the picture you have for the end result?
  • Does the employee have confidence in her competence to perform the tasks associated with the goal? In my experience, procrastination is often the result of an employee lacking confidence in her ability to produce the required outcome. Or procrastination can result from the employee being overwhelmed with the magnitude of the task.
  • Is the employee practicing effective work management? As an example, does he break large tasks into small chunks of doable actions? Does he have a method for tracking project progress and to do lists?
  • Have you established a critical path for the employee's work? This is the identification of the major milestones in a project at which you'd like feedback from the employee. Do you keep your commitment to attend the meetings at which this feedback is provided?
  • Does the employee have the appropriate and needed people working with him or the team to accomplish the project? Are other members of the team keeping their commitments and if not, is there something the employee can do to help them?
  • Does the employee understand how her work fits into the larger scheme of things in the company? Does she appreciate the value her work is adding to the company's success?
  • Is the employee clear about what constitutes success in your company? Perhaps he thinks that what he is contributing is good work and that you are a picky, overly-managing supervisor.
  • Does the employee feel valued and recognized for the work she is contributing? Does she feel fairly compensated for her contribution?

Understanding these issues in performance improvement enables a manager to help an employee succeed. When you follow these steps and answer these questions in a performance improvement model, the employee can be helped to succeed.