6 Steps to Improved Performance


One of our most popular workshops is called Learning the Art of Discipline and Dismissal. This workshop focuses on how managers can work closely with their team members to improve personal performance across the board. We all want employees to perform well – both for their sake as well as for the overall productivity of the department or team. Not to mention that it feels good to be on a high performing team!

It goes without saying that good performance is often the result of highly engaged employees. This is someone who is doing great work, owning their job and creating awesome results. They are emotionally connected to the organization and are focused in their efforts and their productivity. They are the kind of employee that we wish everyone was!

This isn’t always the case for all employees, however, and at times we need to focus our efforts on improving an employee’s performance. There are six key steps to improving performance:

1. Clarify expectations of good performance. Employees need to know what is expected so that they can meet those expectations. This is often communicated through a job description, a performance review and a conversation with their manager so that they can discuss examples of what good performance looks like.

2. Explain consequences of poor performance. Take a performance improvement discussion as an opportunity to be clear on what the consequences are if performance isn’t improved and to hold the team member accountable. This isn’t to threaten or scare the employee but to emphasize the importance of the need for improvement. You don’t want the employee to leave the conversation feeling that the discussion included some “suggestions” for improvement; you want them to understand that there is a sense of seriousness to the situation.

3. Monitor performance and provide specific feedback. When you see behaviour from an employee that needs to change, you need to be specific in your feedback. Vague comments, alluding to a needed behaviour change, or ignoring the situation does not help the situation. The more specific you are with the person, the more likely you are to see things improve. This also applies to positive feedback – if an employee does something awesome, be sure and provide them with specific feedback so that they will continue to give you awesome performance.

4. Provide advice for improvement. Many times, employees are at a loss for ways to change their performance and they can be stuck. If you find that the employee is trying but they continue to produce lackluster results, have a conversation and give them some examples of what you are looking for. Discuss the situation in a way that can inspire them to try new strategies or attempt tasks differently.

5. Give them time to improve. Employees need time to try out new strategies and opportunities to focus on the desired improvements and to see if their efforts are effective. It is important to give people enough time before you move forward with any consequences if things haven’t improved. The more feedback you provide during this time the better, so that the employee can become clearer on what it is that they are striving for.

6. Follow through on your consequences. As a part of this process, you outlined the consequences of poor performance. If performance has not improved then it is important that you follow through with those consequences. You can always modify the consequences; however, a conversation with the employee is always warranted in that situation.

Striving for great employee performance is a two-way street that takes effort from both the manager and the employee. The more that you can work towards performance improvement as a partnership between the two of you, the more successful you will be. Ultimately, employees want to do a good job and the more you can help them achieve that, the happier everyone will be.

During each of the steps outlined above, it is important to be sure you are documenting expectations and conversations, as well as any necessary follow up that has taken place. This not only creates a clear record, but also helps reinforce verbal messages and provides reference points to use as tools in future performance improvement processes.

Your Engaged Assignment: Do you have any employees that you are avoiding because you don’t want to have a performance improvement conversation with them? Well, today may be the day to do just that!

We’d love to hear from you, too! Leave a comment below and tell us: in your organization, do you struggle with having the tough conversations or following through on them?