As a manager of an already high-performing team, you’re always looking for ways for your employees to keep doing better.
As well you should be.
But improving employee performance isn’t the ideal, linear process we all wish it was.
And it’s not simply about making your employees “do better”.
Rather, it’s a dynamic process that involves doing everything you can to ensure your employees can always perform to the best of their abilities.
Let’s take a closer look at what this entails.
What Do We Mean by "Improving Employee Performance"?
At its core, improving employee performance is about honing the individual's capacity to fulfill their roles competently, execute tasks effectively and efficiently, all while aligning with the broader objectives of the organization. It’s a targeted endeavor aimed at amplifying not just the output but elevating the overall caliber of work delivered.
Throughout this article, we’ll dig deeper into all of this (and more) to help you gain a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to truly optimize employee performance, providing you with actionable insights to drive a performance-oriented culture within your team.
Factors Affecting Employee Performance
With the above in mind, it’s important to understand that improving employee performance is a multifaceted process that can take on a variety of forms and involve a number of different parties and stakeholders.
Your individual employees’ willingness and ability to perform depends on a wide array of internal factors, such as:
- Their knowledge and skill levels (i.e., their ability to do their job in full)
- Their physical, emotional, and mental well-being
- Their levels of motivation and dedication to their own professional growth, and to the company’s mission
The fact is, it’s often up to the individual employee to step up to the plate and do what’s needed to succeed.
Even your most talented and dedicated employees will be unable to perform if you’re not doing everything you can to enable them.
To this end, your employees’ performance also depends on factors like:
- The quality of the workflows and processes assigned to them
- The resources and tools available to them (and their accessibility)
- The opportunities to train and develop provided to them over time
In short, it’s not just on your employees to improve their performance. At every touchpoint, there will almost always be something more you can do to further enable their success.
Why Improving Employee Performance is Essential
On just the surface, it’s self-explanatory that improving employee performance throughout your organization is good for your employees, your teams, and your business.
Still, it’s important to understand just how impactful and far-reaching your efforts to enhance employee performance can be.
1. Improve Efficiency and Productivity
While this again sounds like a no-brainer, a 2021 report from Clear Review found that only 33% of teams prioritized efforts to improve employee and team productivity back in 2019.
However, that number has jumped to around 48% in post-pandemic years — a sign that teams are starting to focus more on improving business operations from the ground up.
That said, it’s crucial to reiterate just how valuable your individual employees are to your company’s overall performance. Even if you’ve ironed out every process and workflow to perfection, it’s your employees' knowledge, skills, and abilities that put your plans into action.
2. Improve Employee Engagement and Satisfaction
Fully enabling your employees is key to keeping them engaged in their work — and satisfied with their role within your company. When employees feel empowered and supported in their endeavors, they are more likely to be invested in their tasks and the overall success of the team. This sense of involvement and the recognition that follows, in turn, fuels a positive work culture that resonates with satisfaction and high morale.
(In contrast, if your employees are routinely unable to complete essential tasks, they’re more likely to become frustrated — and will potentially leave these tasks undone.) The inability to meet expectations or contribute effectively can lead to a sense of disengagement, where employees may feel undervalued or overlooked. Over time, this disengagement can manifest as a negative workplace atmosphere, affecting not just the individual employee, but the collective morale and productivity of the entire team.
3. Enhance Employee Retention
Your always-engaged and consistently-satisfied employees will almost certainly stick with your organization for the long haul.
In fact, a 2022 report from Benevity found that fully enabling your employees to achieve their full purpose is key to keeping them onboard. For one, 31% of employees have quit a job due to a lack of meaningful and engaging work. Moreover, 52% of teams see lower turnover upon enacting strategic enablement initiatives.
This quickly creates a cycle in which you’ll manage to retain only your most engaged and productive employees — and can focus on improving their performance even further moving forward.
4. Increase Customer Satisfaction
Improving the performance of both your customer-facing and internal employees can increase customer satisfaction in numerous ways.
Of course, it will enable your customer-facing teams to better serve your customers on an individual and audience-wide basis. From improved messaging and content creation to better hands-on customer service and support, high-performing employees almost always means happier and more successful customers.
Your internal employees need to also be operating at their highest capacity to ensure everything is working behind the scenes to keep your customers satisfied. Even the smallest hiccup on the backend can end up delaying your ability to deliver value to your customers as expected.
5. Maintain a Competitive Edge
Your high-performing, highly-engaged employees will be a driving factor in your company’s ability to stay ahead of the competition.
In terms of pure performance, outshining your competitors often comes down to doing more, more effectively and efficiently. If you can match the current expectations of your industry more easily than your competition, you’ll have it made…at least for the time being.
Focusing on continuously improving employee performance is also the key to moving beyond the status quo and becoming known as an innovator within your industry. In collecting feedback and insight from your top-performing employees, you’ll be able to enact changes and improvements that your competition has yet to discover — putting you leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else on the playing field.
Key Ways to Improve Employee Performance
Now, let’s dig into the most effective ways to improve employee performance, both immediately and over time.
1. Conduct Strategic Recruitment and Hiring
Like we said earlier, whether your employees dedicate themselves to improving is ultimately up to them.
That said, it’s up to you to only bring aboard candidates who show clear signs of continuous growth and professional development.
Typically, you should look for candidates that…
- Showcase critical thinking and creative problem solving during interview questions and activities
- Focus on collaborative efforts and fulfilling their duties — and more — in order to achieve team goals
- Ask about future opportunities for growth, both in their current and potential future positions
As complex as the recruiting and hiring processes can be, the right recruiting software can help automate and optimize as much of it as possible. In turn, you can home in on the candidates who are most likely to continue growing with your company in time.
2. Prioritize Improvements
At any given moment, there will be myriad ways to improve employee performance on an individual or company-wide basis within your organization.
Some factors to consider here include:
- What improvements would lead to the most potential growth
- What opportunities will open up should a certain improvement be made
- What weaknesses are most holding your employees and team back from achieving your goals
From there, consider the costs of making the necessary changes — whether it’s investing in training, introducing additional resources, improving workflows, or something else completely. Conducting this cost-benefit analysis will help you create a comprehensive business requirements document to generate buy-in for the upcoming initiative. It will also help ensure that any efforts you make to improve and enable your employees will actually make a difference to their overall performance.
Speaking of that…
3. Provide Relevant and Personalized Training Programs
If you’re going to use training to improve employee development and performance in a certain area, you need to be sure it does just that.
Even if you think you already have this covered, you might want to dig a bit deeper.
As SHRM recently found, 38% of employees wish the training sessions they attended were more relevant to their needs and responsibilities. Additionally, 32% want their managers to be sure training is as current as possible — a sign that this is not the case for nearly a third of employees.
Lastly, 31% of respondents said they want training and development initiatives to be more personalized to their expectations and engagement styles. Regardless of the training method being used, your employees should always feel like the sessions are designed just for them — and, in many cases, actually put them in complete control of their learning and development.
4. Develop Employee Engagement Initiatives
Developing initiatives to facilitate and strengthen engagement can help improve employee performance in multiple ways.
For example, communities of practice and intranet forums provide digital spaces for employees to share ideas and discuss best practices regarding specific topics. Even a simple Slack channel can create opportunities for open-ended conversation and ongoing growth, allowing the sharing of explicit knowledge.
Regular recognition and celebration of growth keeps employees motivated and continuously pushing themselves to learn and do more. Additionally, sharing experiential or tacit knowledge through storytelling or mentorship programs can aid in the dissemination of valuable insights gained through personal experiences. This also creates an environment where implicit knowledge - the underlying understandings and assumptions that guide behavior and interpretations - can be surfaced and shared, enriching the collective understanding of the team.
(You can take this a step further, using specialized employee training software to gamify the process as well.)
Moreover, by hosting company events, such as summits or seminars focused on cultural growth, you provide a platform for employees to delve deeper into the company's ethos, and to engage with one another in a more relaxed, social setting. These interactions often unearth the implicit knowledge that resides within the team, fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
5. Promote Work-Life Balance
To be sure, providing the desired work-life balance to your employees also has a major impact on their performance. In fact, the APA found that undue and excessive work-related stress can decrease employee productivity by 20%.
Promoting the work-life balance your employees desire may require making fundamental changes to your approach to things like absence policies, operational hours, and setting project deadlines. With remote work remaining the norm for many, it just makes sense to allow your employees to work when and where they’re most productive.
While extracurricular initiatives (e.g., wellness programs) can be effective here, your best bet is to simply talk to your employees to see what would help them balance their lives and their work a bit better. In turn, you can focus on putting together events that they’ll actually appreciate — and that have a clear impact on their overall productivity.
6. Leverage Knowledge Management
It’s impossible to stress enough just how vital effective knowledge management is to employee productivity.
In the first place, a recent report from Coveo found that employees spend an average of 3.6 hours per week looking for correct information or documentation. As if this much wasted time isn’t bad enough, the frustration that comes with not being able to find what they’re looking for makes 31% of employees feel burned out — with 16% saying it’s bad enough to make them quit.
Strategic knowledge management makes your employees more productive in both direct and indirect ways. Directly, they’ll be able to find, share, and utilize information and organizational knowledge more effectively (and with much less friction). Knowledge management can also be used to proactively deliver service and support to your audience — freeing up your customer-facing teams to focus on more intense and resource-heavy issues.
7. Perform Regular Feedback and Performance Reviews
This ties into what we said earlier about training, but it’s worth restating:
If you want to continuously improve your employees’ performance, you need to continuously evaluate and assess their performance — and offering practical, individualized feedback that will help them get better.
And yes, we mean continuously:
- Routine observations, combined with candid comments and discussion via evaluation forms
- Weekly check-ins to ensure employees and teams have what they need to succeed
- Quarterly and yearly performance reviews to gauge employee growth and set future goals
And, again, be sure to use these opportunities to learn more about what your employees believe will make them more productive.
How Helpjuice Can Help Improve Employee Performance
As we said above, your internal knowledge base is integral to your efforts to optimize employee performance and productivity.
Our knowledge base software has helped dozens of teams do just that — in a number of different ways:
- Telavox uses Helpjuice to distribute knowledge to both employees and customers more quickly.
- United Group has reduced instances of employee error by 20% after introducing Helpjuice.
- TBC Insurance uses Helpjuice to empower call center agents through both instant access to information and via ongoing training and development.
Want to learn more about how you can use Helpjuice to improve individual and team performance?
Schedule a demo today!