As a startup founder, it becomes very important to track employee performance at all times and to ensure that productivity levels are always up! But it also becomes very important to keep looking for new avenues to improve performance across the board.
In times like these, where you may be working in a hybrid model, or even online, this can become a challenge. We’ve got you covered though!
In this blog, I have put together a list of things that you can implement in your company to drive growth. These are tried and tested (and extremely successful) methods we use here at Asanify too!
This is what I will cover…
- What is employee performance?
- What does it mean to improve performance at work?
- Download a performance improvement plan template for FREE!!
- Why is it essential to constantly improve performance?
- 21 tips on how to improve performance in the office?
- 5 Ways to improve performance in a hybrid work culture
- 8 Bonus tips!!! To Improve Performance
- 6 Book suggestions to improve performance at work!
- How can a performance management system help improve performance?
- How to reward top performers
What is employee performance?
Employee performance, in simple language, means the way an employee completes his or her tasks on a daily basis. The way an employee fulfils his or her job duties (as mentioned in their job description).
Various companies used very different methods to track employee performance based on their overall company goals and objectives. Some use performance management systems to continuously keep track of performance while some work out manual methods for the same.
But whether you use automated software or manual methods, every company must have systems in place to track employee productivity and performance. But what does it mean to actually track employee performance?
What does it mean to improve performance at work?
For any company or startup to continuously keep growing, the employees need to keep improving. This could be through taking on more responsibilities or by doing the same things more efficiently.
Say, for example, you conducted a quarterly performance appraisal recently. You noticed that around 5% of your employees are performing way beyond your expectations. Similarly, 40% perform at above average levels and 35% are average performers. However, 20% of your employees perform extremely badly, at a level that is just not acceptable by company standards.
You now have 3 options
- Fire these employees based on poor performance
- Demote them to a level where they might be able to perform at some average level of productivity
- Provide them with a performance improvement plan to help them improve performance over the next quarter
In this blog, I will focus on the 3rd point – Performance improvement.
While underperformers require performance improvement plans that focus on training and development, there are around 35 things you can do to improve performance across your entire company. And yes, this includes those top 5% excellent employees as well!
Download this template to create a plan to improve performance for each of your employees!
Here’s why this is so important though…
Why is it important to constantly improve performance?
There are some obvious benefits. These include
- Reduced work errors
- Saving loads of time since employees are not wasting time revisiting older tasks
- Increased employee engagement
- Overall improved work quality
- Company growth accelerated through continuous improvement
- Creates an environment of trust
- Employees feel empowered when they feel like their own careers are advancing
So, now, let’s get straight to the point and look at what you can do to improve performance in your organization!
21 tips on how to improve performance at work
1. Prioritise so that you can improve performance (No one can do 100 things at once)
At any given time during the day, if you ask your employee what they’re working on, I’m pretty sure they’ll start rattling out a list of things. This can be extremely harmful to productivity because the employee’s mind is all over the place. As a result, not a single thing gets done at 100% efficiency.
Instead, get employees to prioritize their tasks. Ensure that at any given point they are focusing on only 1 thing.
Pro tip to improve performance…
Ensure that when goals are set, managers and team leads categorize them as ‘urgent’ or ‘to be done eventually’. This will help employees understand the difference between what they need to focus on now and which tasks can wait for later.
2. Don’t leave things unfinished – Improve performance by completing the task at hand
Very often, when priorities aren’t set well (like we spoke about in the previous point), people tend to jump from one thing to another leaving all tasks only 50-70% completed. As a result, at the end of the day, the employee has worked on 10 different things, but none of them is completed.
Get employees to focus on one thing at a time (prioritized tasks) and finish each one before moving on to the next.
3. Improve performance by constantly finding ways to upskill employees
Stagnant employees lead to a stagnant organization. And you definitely don’t want your company to remain stuck in the same place right? Create a company culture where employees are constantly motivated to grow and learn.
Pro tip to improve performance by upskilling
- Provide employees with lists of courses that can go through in their own time (maybe consider courses from Coursera or LinkedIn Learning
- Conducting regular training and development programs for employees
- Tying up with institutes to help provide employees access to part-time courses or courses tailor-made for your company.
- Encourage employees to learn from each other (I’ll talk about this one a little later)
4. Get rid of the clutter – organized behaviour can improve performance 10x
How often do you pass by an employee’s desk and think “Oh my God, look at that mess!!!” Believe it or not, a cluttered desk equals a cluttered mind. So, encourage employees to keep a clutter-free desk and work area. This goes for those employees who work from home too.
A cleared up workspace increases the mind’s ability to focus on the task at hand a lot better and hence increases productivity.
Pro tip to improve performance…
Every week, set aside 15 minutes for employees to clear out the workspace and make it neat and tidy.
5. Set stretch goals – Set smart goals and improve performance
What are stretched goals?
Sometimes, when people set goals, the level of those goals is pretty comfortable. As a result, you may notice that while your employees are meeting 99% of their goals, they aren’t really doing that much work!
Stretch goals are those goals that may seem a little far fetched (difficult to achieve) in the first place but tend to get employees to work a little beyond their limits. Thus, you can improve performance.
Now, what about S.M.A.R.T. goals? Well, this is an acronym as you can see in the image. Make sure all your goals are slightly stretched and cover all the parameters of S.M.A.R.T. goals for better chances of achieving them effectively.
6. Using a daily planner can help improve performance through increased efficiency
What is a daily planner? Something that can keep track of the list of projects you are working on, along with which tasks (from that project) to need to do or have just completed.
It’s really as simple as that. As a result of this, every employee in your team will be able to track their progress in a project and not get flustered with the amount of work to be done.
Pro tip to improve performance…
You can use excel or google sheets to maintain a standard list of things that you need to do or use software that can track goals daily.
7. Make sure everything is compliant – So employees can focus on what’s important
As a small business, there are many compliances and policies that need to be put in place. And as a small company, it becomes very very difficult to keep track of them as well. Things such as a proper salary structure, compliant payroll, Professional tax, TDS (tax deducted at source), HRA, EPF (Employee provident fund) and so on.
Why is this important?
If employees are constantly worried about getting their salaries or finding mistakes in their payslips, their focus won’t be 100% on their job. So, make sure all these compliances are in place.
8. Schedule breaks to reduce stress and improve performance
I know this sounds very counterproductive. If people are on breaks then how do they work better?
It is proven that a well-rested mind is much more efficient, is better at problem-solving and also boosts creativity. So, as a part of your daily work, also have pre-scheduled breaks. This ensures that employees are well relaxed and rested throughout the day.
Similarly, it also ensures that your team members are not taking breaks at random times during the day. Thus ensuring a more structured work day overall and improving performance.
9. Search for common traits among top performers (see what works for them)
Remember earlier we spoke about how you probably have around 5% of your employees that perform at a level that is way beyond expectations? There’s a reason why these people are top performers.
They do things differently and this helps them outperform the rest of the people. See what these employees are doing differently. Learn from them and apply these learnings to all your employees.
While some things that these employees do will be specific to them, you may get some more insights that can help your team improve performance overall.
10. Improve performance by changing practices that are ineffective and inefficient
So, we just spoke about learning from your top performers. But what about that 20% of your employees that are consistently underperforming?
Just like with your top performers there was a reason why they perform so well, there’s a reason why you underperformers perform the way they do too.
Understand what makes them less productive and learn from those mistakes. Even in teams that seemingly perform at a high level, there will be certain factors that are not efficient and less than effective. Look for such practices and make changes accordingly.
11. Implement a continuous feedback mechanism to improve performance
How often do you provide feedback to your employees? Is it once a month, once a quarter or as rarely as once a year?
You have started a new, elaborate project and put together a team of 25 people for it. You decide to have quarterly performance reviews for this team to ensure they stay on the right track. You have briefed the team leader as to what has to be done and what the team’s deliverables are. Next, you tell the team leader that you will follow up with him after 3 months.
A few things that could go wrong here are…
The team leader could misunderstand the entire project and you will only realise that during the first review. Or, the team could relax and take things slow for the first couple of months and only start working seriously in the last month. This could out your project back months.
Pro tip to improve performance…
To avoid all of this, continuous reviews and feedback are extremely important.
12. Organize regular training sessions to improve performance – Prioritize employee training and development
The need for employee upskilling is very important in any business. And while you could rely on employees doing courses on their own, you as an HR should also organize employee training and development sessions for your team members.
Sessions on communication skills, technical know-how of the various roles etc are things that employees can constantly improve upon.
13. The best way to improve performance is to read something new every day (constant learning)
Create a culture of always learning. Encourage employees to read something new every day. This could either be a new blog related to their job role, a news article on the latest business trends, etc. It doesn’t have to even be reading.
Getting employees to even watch a Ted talk a day could also help them get into the habit of learning and keep an open mind.
14. Prioritize employee health – both physical and mental – to improve performance
If an employee is struggling with stress or some other mental problem, they aren’t going to be able to focus 100% on their job. As a result, productivity could decline.
The same goes for physical illnesses and problems.
Pro tip to improve performance…
Check in with your employees on a regular basis and make sure they are physically and mentally in the best of health.
15. Improve performance ensuring managers (or team leaders) know how to delegate
As we spoke about in point one (prioritization), one person cannot do everything on their own. This applies not just to your employees, but also to your leadership team and manager. And one very common problem among managers is they think they need to do everything themselves, they tend to micro-manage a lot.
As a result, they waste time doing things other people can take care of. So, ensure your managers know how to delegate their work so that they can focus on the things that matter and hence save time.
16. Maintain a culture of accountability to improve performance
This one is pretty self-explanatory. When employees an accountable for their jobs to someone, they tend to do a better job overall.
So, start holding employees accountable!
17. Improve performance by reducing bullying, gossip and drama
As Human Beings, a natural tendency is to network with people around us. And chatting and gossiping with people is then just a hop skip and jump away. This can then severely affect the way people function. Because of this, many companies see a shift from a collaborative culture, to a toxic culture.
Another point to take note of here is that you cannot control what and how much all your employees talk (or even gossip). But when top leadership refrains from such conversations, it creates a great example for those lower down in the organization.
Pro tip to improve performance…
Ensure top management lead by example and steer clear of gossip and bullying.
18. Set productivity challenges to improve performance continuously
What are productivity challenges? It is basically something you could do once a month or so, to push employees beyond their regular levels of work.
Set a challenge to maybe your salesperson, that across 2 days, instead of making 15 cold calls a day, they make 20. Or instead of 5 lead conversions, they get 7. This may or may not work. But if it does, then you know that the employee can work way beyond what they are currently doing on a daily basis.
Even if your employees are not able to complete these challenges, it’ll show you which employees can work beyond their current capacity and which ones don’t.
19. Improve performance by creating a culture where people feel comfortable saying no
Very often employees get pressured into saying yes to everything and taking on way too much responsibility. But, that doesn’t always mean that they deliver as much.
So, create a culture where people can say no if they cannot take on more work or if they already have too much on their plate.
Very often, employees have set career goals and paths. But the job that you give them is very different from their career path. Employees should therefore feel free to say no if they do not want to take up a particular task (obviously within reason).
20. Reward the smaller things to encourage good behaviour and improve performance
Good behaviour, when rewarded, becomes a habit. So, when you reward smaller acts such as punctuality or an employee taking initiative, they are more likely to repeat such behaviour. And when I say reward, I don’t mean drastic things like a salary increment or annual bonus. I mean something even as simple as a pat on the back, a compliment or a special mention in the regular catch-up meeting.
21. Get rid of roadblocks and bottlenecks to improve performance
Very often what happens is that in a project, there’s a block in the flow of work or one person is slowing down the work of the whole team.
It becomes crucial to get rid of such bottlenecks to improve performance.
22. Promote new skills to improve performance
This one too is pretty obvious and self-explanatory. Encourage employees to pick up new skills independently.
This will help them improve performance individually which will help boost team performance and result in company growth.
5 ways to improve performance in a hybrid or online work culture
This list (while still being a continuation of the previous list), talks about how performance can be improved at home. This means, how to improve performance in an online set-up.
23. Reduce or avoid distractions while working
You’re sitting at home, working peacefully. Deep into the zone of your work. Suddenly someone’s at the door. Your focus breaks as you go to open the door. You immediately get back to work. You get back into the zone, deep in thought about the next performance appraisal or training and development plan. You suddenly hear the cooker whistle go off in the kitchen. Again, it breaks your thought flow. You get up to go attend to that. Once again you come back and try to focus. For the 3rd time, your focus is disturbed by…
You get my point right?
Pro tip to improve performance…
I know some things are unavoidable. But, as much as you can, figure out a way to get rid of all distractions while working to ensure maximum productivity and hence improve performance.
24. Use software to increase productivity – Use the right tools
Something like HRMS & Payroll software such as Asanify can help you get rid of so many manual tasks so as to allow you to focus on other things that matter more.
25. Making it mandatory to keep cameras on can help improve performance
How often does it happen that you call on an employee in a zoom meeting and they just don’t respond? Very often employees switch their cameras off and tend to disappear (either mentally or physically).
This can easily be possible if you make a rule to keep cameras on during meetings.
26. Improve performance by encouraging employees to stay physically active and fit
With people working from home, people tend to sit for a long time in one place while working. This can eventually become really bad for their backs.
Apart from that, people who are working from home tend to not leave the house the whole day. As a result, they don’t exercise as much.
Pro tip to improve performance…
Encourage your employees to stay physically fit and active. This will not only keep them healthy but even going for a 20-minute run every day can help boost creativity, and improve problem-solving abilities. This will help improve performance overall.
27. Be mindful of the time – late night meetings do not improve performance!
Have you ever been in a situation where you have been on a work call even at 10 pm?
Just because people are expected to be working at home, senior management tends to have calls late in the night and this infringes on employees’ personal time. While it may seem like a way to get more stuff done.
But over time it’ll start demotivating your employees. To avoid this, be mindful of how late your work calls go on.
Bonus tips to Improve Performance!!!
28. Build workplace relationships – Better relations help foster trust. Avoid personal conflicts to improve performance
29. Improve performance through better time management – How often do you find people in your team just sitting and chatting or staring at the walls as they wait for people to join meetings?
On average, people spend around 40 hours working (during a 5 day work week), but waste a total of 5 hours every week in this idle waiting! Insane right? Put your employees in the habit of joining meetings on time and also, ensure that when in a meeting, the focus is entirely on the agenda and not all over the place!
30. Practice knowledge sharing – Encourage people to learn from other members of their team as well as across teams and verticals
31. Improve performance by improving soft skills – Learning new skills and fine-tuning things like oral and written communication, or presentation skills often take a back seat in the corporate world but they are very very important. So spend time on them and they will definitely help improve performance overall.
32. Implement an open door policy – Ensure that employees know that the managers are fully available to them when they need to talk about something. And for the managers, be available to your team members and address their (genuine) problems.
33. Ensure leaders lead by example
34. Compliment employees and this will go a long way to improve performance. You may not even realise it, but a small compliment can boost your employees’ self-confidence drastically, hence allowing them to work better.
35. Ensuring top management and leaders know how to delegate can help improve performance drastically
6 Book suggestions to consistently improve performance at work!
While I have given you some actionable tips to improve performance, here’s a list of books that you could read that could help you improve performance at work.
- Atomic habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- Great at work: The Hidden Habits of Top Performers by Morten T Hansen
- The Greatest Coaching Conversations: Change Mindsets, Shift Attitudes, and Achieve Extraordinary Results by Jerry Connor and Karim Hirani
- Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
- Mind Hacking: How to Revive your brain to Stop Overthinking, Create better habits and Realise your Life Goals by Jennifer Ferguson
- Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
How can a performance management system help improve performance?
To begin with, a performance management system helps you save a lot of time because it can integrate all the aspects of performance management, right from continuous performance tracking, conducting appraisals, and scoring employee performance to generating performance reports.
You can track performance continuously through a performance management system (as opposed to waiting till the end of the quarter or even the year. This will help drive up productivity and improve performance like never before!
Very often, some goals and key result areas are more important than others when it comes to meeting objectives. Set weights to different key result areas in OKRs to track them better
How to reward top performers after they improve performance
The next step after continuously tracking employee performance is rewarding the employees who are performing well. But it gets very tricky when you have to give out salary increments and pay hikes
Rewarding good behaviour is a great way to encourage people to make that good behaviour a habit! The same goes for your employees at work.
But how can you reward your employees?
It’s not like you hand out salary increments every single time someone follows the rules! So, here are a few things you could do to reward and appreciate all the employees who diligently try to improve their performance to help grow your organization.
So, now you have a list of 35 ways to improve performance in the workplace. I have also given you a list of books you can start reading to understand the nuances of performance at work better.
All you have to do now is put these 35 things into practice as soon as you can and set your company on the path to growth and success!!
Performance improvement – FAQs
1. Communicate effectively
2. Have S.M.A.R.T. Goals
3. Have a continuous feedback system
Very commonly referred to as SKA, the 3 areas of improvement are
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