Get the Employee Performance You Want

Are you getting the performance you need from your employees? Do you throw training at a problem and keep your fingers crossed that performance will improve? The best solution doesn’t have to be complex and doesn’t always need to involve training.

It never makes sense to conduct training just for the sake of conducting training. You want employees to engage in training so they perform better on the job. That improved performance, in turn, should help the company achieve its business goals.

That being said, there are many factors that influence performance. Training is the right solution only if your employees lack skill and knowledge. To understand if employees truly need training, ask yourself, “If their life depended on it, could they demonstrate the skill or knowledge?” If the answer is yes, training isn’t needed. It won’t fix the problem. Something else is happening that’s preventing them from performing well.

Understanding How Performance Works
In general, 80 percent of performance problems are caused by environment issues. People don’t wake up and say, “I’m going to perform as poorly as possible today and do everything I can to produce terrible results.” Therefore, if you’re responsible for the performance of others, you need to understand how to look at performance and determine what’s working and what’s not.

Thomas F. Gilbert’s Behavior Engineering Model, “Human Competence -“ Engineering Worthy Performance”1978, is a simple model that can help you determine the root cause of poor performance. The model’s top row shows the environmental factors that influence performance; the bottom row shows factors of the individual that influence performance.

To unravel the performance mystery, take each cell and ask yourself a few questions. Let’s use an example: an employee who consistently submits her expense report late and with errors.

Cell #1: Data

  • Are expectations for performance clear? Was the employee told that her expense report was due the last day of each month?

  • Is relevant and frequent feedback provided? When the employee didn’t complete her expense report by the last day of the month, was she told that she was late?

Cell #1 solutions:

  • Communication

  • Orientation

  • Feedback

  • Employee handbook

  • Policies and procedures

  • Business plan

The simple solution is to inform the employee that in order to receive timely reimbursement, the report needs to be completed accurately by the last day of the month.

Cell #2: Instruments

  • Are tools, resources, time, and materials sufficient for performance requirements? Does the employee have a user-friendly expense report template to use, and does she have enough time to complete it?

Cell #2 solutions:

  • Templates

  • Reference manuals

  • Process maps

  • Appropriate number of hours and people to perform work

  • Online help

  • Business equipment like phone, fax machines, computer, software

An intuitive easy-to-use expense report template is a great solution.

Cell #3: Incentives

  • Are adequate financial incentives made contingent upon performance? Does the employee get her expense check in a timely manner only if the report is submitted accurately by the due date?

  • Are non-monetary incentives made available? Is the employee praised when the report is accurate and turned in on time?

  • Are there clear consequences for poor performance? Does the employee receive her expense check a month late during the next check run when the report is late?

Cell #3 solutions:

  • Compensation strategy

  • Benefits strategy

  • Informal recognition

  • Clearly communicated career paths

Receiving her expense check a month late will probably send an important message and improve performance next time.

Cell #4: Knowledge

  • Are adequate knowledge and skills present? Does the employee have the skill to use the Excel template to complete the report?

Cell #4 solutions:

  • Training

  • Informal learning opportunities

An online tutorial may help the employee use the report properly.

Cell #5: Capacity

  • Are adequate physical and mental capabilities present? Can she see the computer screen? Is the employee able to make decisions about how to categorize expenses?

Cell #5 solutions:

  • Selection processes

  • Job fit

  • Job design

You’ll need to hire an employee capable of physically and mentally completing this task or redesign the job so that someone else does this task.

Cell #6: Motives

  • Do individuals want to perform well? Does the employee care that her expense report is accurate and turned in on time?

Cell #6 solutions (the same as those for Cell #5):

You’ll want to hire the right person.

Whether complex or simple, performance problems can be addressed by first determining the root cause and then selecting the most cost-efficient, least invasive solution. Simple solutions can make a great impact.

Lisa Toenniges, CPT, is CEO and owner of Innovative Learning Group, a company that creates custom learning solutions. Lisa has more than 20 years of experience in the performance improvement industry and has consulted with numerous national and international companies about learning strategies and solutions. Contact Lisa at [email protected].

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Richard Blanchard
Rick is the Managing Editor of Corp! magazine. He has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Port Huron Times Herald, Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News, where he was most recently assistant business editor. A native of Michigan, Richard also worked in Washington state as a reporter, photographer and editor at the Anacortes American. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.