How a Manager Can Improve Staff Performance

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When you become a manager you no doubt have big plans on how you will succeed.  This usually entails motivating your workforce and trying to add value to the work they do.  Many Managers strive for this and somehow never achieve it.  One of the tools in the manager’s toolbox is the employee review.

Employee reviews are often termed differently depending on the organization/culture you are from.  You can often find them called 121's, one to ones or one on ones. In general they all mean the same thing, a meeting between an employee and their manager.

One to one’s are a chance for Managers and employees to meet in a free and frank environment.  This article explains when reviews are appropriate, how you get the best out of the review and how you can utilize this tool to improve performance.

When are Employee Reviews Appropriate?

When conducting the review it is best carried out face to face with the employee and in private.  One to ones form part of a larger model of support designed by organizations to monitor, encourage, advance and understand their employees.  When deciding whether One to Ones are appropriate we must look at a number of areas.

  • Is it feasible to do one to ones for every member of staff? If you have 20 members of staff and wish to carry out a 121 weekly how are you going to do anything else in your day?
  • Where are your staff located?  If you sit next to your staff day in day out and have a good relationship with them is it necessary to meet regularly if you understand them and their roles?
  • Will 121’s add any value?  If your staff are not receptive in a 121 environment maybe other tools like team meetings are more appropriate until you build a good rapport with them.
  • Is there any benchmarking?  If you have no idea how the staff are performing or what you expect of them how are you going to utilize the 121 to help them improve?

 How the One to One Model Works

 As previously stated reviews form part of a larger model for supporting employees.  Prior to starting one to ones you need to have some other organizational processes in place and ready to call into action.  The bare minimum required would be:

  • An appraisal process
  • A disciplinary process
  • A career planning process
  • Set objectives

Without these in place it will be difficult to structure your review meetings as you may find yourself with no way of following up on the meeting outcomes.

  My Experience

 I have managed teams of up to 25 people and managed other Managers.  In my experience the one to one is a great tool but only when you follow these golden rules.

  • Make sure you diarise the one to ones well in advance.  Consistency is the key to these meetings.  If staff get the impression that they are completed ad-hoc and without much forethought they aren’t likely to put any effort in at all.  One technique is to get the staff to write up the agenda for you, this will get them thinking in advance of what they wish to discuss
  • Make sure all 121 meetings are written up.  I used to write it up myself but I have learnt over time that it is best to get the staff to do this.  If you are strict with this process after repeating yourself a few times the staff will get the idea that it is better just to write it!
  • Set objectives!  This is where the pre-requisites come into play.  If you don’t set objectives how do you benchmark.  Objectives should follow the SMART methodology. 
  • Make sure everyone has a 121.  Often in business 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  These people can often be neglected as they are the “high performers” in fact these are the people who you should concentrate on the most to ensure they are happy, motivated and continue working hard
  • Don’t be afraid to put poor performers into disciplinary.  If you inherit a group of staff that haven’t been managed properly before you will find initial 121’s quite difficult.  If you keep records and details of staff poor performance and have the evidence start disciplinary proceedings.  This again is why it is important to have this in place prior to starting one 2 ones.
  • Have career planning as part of the agenda.  Sometimes as managers we do not want to risk losing our staff by giving them ideas!  It is however important to recognize that staff need to progress and move on and you will get more out of them if they are see you are happy to help them with this.

Take a deep breath and conduct the meetings.  Remember the 121 is there to help and if people aren’t receptive that is their lookout.  You have the tools for the different eventualities, remember the golden rules, treat your staff with respect and command respect for yourself.

I hope this helps you when starting to conduct any 121’s if you have any comments or questions I will be happy to help