Human Capital Management Blog

Strategies for HCM Professionals

3 Simple Ways to Reignite Engagement in Performance Management

By Maren Hogan, Founder and CEO of Red Branch Media

Employers today know employee engagement is at the root of a high performing workforce. Engaged employees are more productive, satisfied, innovative and loyal. But with seemingly countless resources and suggestions for engaging employees, knowing what actually works and what is just a current management fad is challenging. A few years ago, everyone was advocating snacks, the Pomodoro method and the OREO approach to feedback. Today, managers are expected to conform to different and changing standards.

While an in-house masseuse may have some bearing on employee engagement, smart managers engage employees in ways that immerse them in their job and impact the bottom line. Essentially, killing two management birds with one tactical stone. That’s what these three performance management tips do.

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Be crystal clear on expectations.

Here’s a sorry statistic: only 50% of the workforce strongly agrees they know what is expected of them in their work. If you look out your window or at the rapid scroll on your corporate intranet, every other person doesn’t know what they’re doing! And why? Because you failed to tell them. At the very least, managers should communicate their expectations to employees, but in this fast-paced and technological workplace, it’s easy for managers to get swept up in getting immediate results. In short, we’ve gotten so addicted to getting the work done, we’ve become a reactive workforce. And our employees are confused and frustrated.

Transparency has quickly become a buzzword in today’s workplace, and for a reason! According to the American Psychological Association’s Work and Well-Being Survey, one in four Americans don’t trust their employer and only about 50% believe their employer is transparent with them. Trust gives employees more purpose and job security, making it imperative that employers and especially managers work to gain trust with their employees through transparent business practices. So, how can you double down on trust within your workplace for engagement and increased performance?

Performance Management Tips: Make sure your employees understand what’s expected of them and refresh them on those every so often. Employees who feel their manager is aware of the tasks they are working on are seven times as likely to be engaged than those who don’t feel this way. All it takes is some clarity and accountability from managers to make this performance management tip a reality. While it’s never easy to start being crystal clear in an office full of Vague Vickies, it will have a very real impact on performance and engagement in just a few short weeks.

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Goals and Milestones Matter to Your People.

Did you know employees with a manager who helps them set goals are 17 times as likely to be engaged as those without? That’s not doubling, tripling or even quadrupling the chance of engagement, but increasing it more than ten fold. What’s more is employees who don’t have managers to push their career in the right direction aren’t just disengaged, but likely looking for a new job. And here’s the thing about this, while it feels like it takes a lot of time (it does) to assist your employees in setting goals, it’s crucial that you do it. Most goals when properly laid out will benefit both your employees’ professional trajectories and your own team or departmental productivity. In other words, this is clearly in your best interest!

Performance Management Tip: Goals can be hard for workers to quantify. So work with them to set one or two simple goals over the month or quarter (depending on your face time). Find a goal-setting process keep your team accountable. Make the process collaborative, including employees in the discussion and working together to make goals attainable and relevant to the organizational goals of the business. For example, Jim getting certified in master Excel hacks so he can more efficiently complete the TARDIS reports, is beneficial to Jim’s career and to the team or department.

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Change up the communication routine.

It may seem trivial, but the way managers communicate is just as important as what they communicate. In fact, research shows employees who have open communication with their managers and can talk about non-work related matters are engaged in their work. Managers who also use a variety of communication mediums (i.e. face-to-face, email, instant chat, etc.) have more engaged teams.

While many employers are beefing up their rewards and recognition programs to enhance satisfaction and fuel performance, employees today actually want negative feedback, in a sense. Gallup research shows building on employee strengths rather than weaknesses results in more engaged teams. However, research by Zenger/Folkman also shows 57% of surveyed employees prefer corrective feedback over praise to improve in their career. Okay, not exactly negative…but it wouldn’t be a huge leap to say workers want someone who isn’t afraid to make their work better. After all, isn’t that what managers are supposed to do? So stop dancing around confrontation.

Performance Management Tips: Managers should work to create lines of open communication with their team and build good rapport with employees by taking an interest in non-work related matters. Who knew shooting the breeze could lead to business results? When it comes to feedback, do some speech prep. Rehearse what you will say before these conversations occur. Focus on building strengths and keep the tone positive, but help employees see how they could have done certain things differently. Remember the goal is to critique the work, not the person.

Fostering employee engagement isn’t easy, but it also doesn’t have to occur on such a large scale as things like wellness programs and corporate philanthropy initiatives do. Smart managers work to enhance employee engagement from the inside out, starting with how they manage their people. It’s not rocket science, just a little bit of TLC for the performance management process.

[Square]-2500px-Maren-White-BkgdMaren Hogan is a seasoned marketer, writer and business builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. Founder and CEO of Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and outsourcing and thought leadership to HR and Recruiting Technology and Services organizations internationally, Hogan is a consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques. She has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies and been a thought leader in the global recruitment and talent space. You can read more of her work on Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, and her blog Marenated.

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