Employee Performance Problems? Maybe it’s You!

One of the most frequent concerns I discuss with entrepreneurs, leaders and CEO’s, relates to employee performance. More specifically, they express a desire to have specific individuals on their team improve their personal performance! While many employee issues are legitimate, I have noticed a concerning theme in these conversations – most leaders ask questions about how to get other people to change but very few ask about what they need to change. If the old axiom is true – relationships are a two-way street – then the solution to employee performance gaps may need to begin with you!!

It is easier to attribute performance problems to the employee than the employer. But this approach is not always correct. This is because we tend to confuse cause (the root issue) and effect (how the issue manifests). For example, a habitually late employee may result in your belief that the employee has time management issues (the perceived cause). However, sometimes the issue may simply be an effect. If this individual is a single-parent, perhaps inflexible work hours is core issue (the cause). And this is something you control, not them! Therefore, it can be helpful to approach performance issues by first asking, ‘How could I be contributing to this?’.

So how can you make practical changes to improve employee performance? The response stems from several practical experiences with clients. My organizational development work helps clients develop their organizational ‘secret success sauce’ from several key ingredients; mission/vision/values, strategy, structure, process, people, rewards, and organizational culture. By far, the most underutilized tool on this recipe card is rewards. Consider how you can adapt existing rewards structures to provide employees with incentives that motivate their performance.

Here is a simple example. A client CEO explained how new outreach activities had resulted in amazing client growth. However, her story was followed by the dreaded “but” word. It turns out, the team was almost losing as much in client retention as they were making in new sales. Our coaching session began with her asking, “how can I make my employees care more about retention” (aka – how can I improve their performance?). A ten-minute review of her secret sauce ingredients revealed a rewards system that incentivized client acquisition but did not reward retention. An apparent employee performance issue was an employer-controlled rewards issue. Shifts in her organizational reward structures (both monetary and non-monetary) largely corrected this problem within weeks.

The infographic below is a helpful way to assess and potentially make changes to organizational rewards. I encourage you to grab a pen and paper and self-assess each of the items on this list (use a simple 1-5 low/high scale). If you’re brave, ask your employees to do the same (I suggest making this anonymous). Do your responses align? What are the surprises? Which are your top three opportunities and how can you begin to address them? I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at some of the things that will motivate your team!

If your company wants to raise your team’s performance ceiling, send me an email. I’d love to explore how we can partner to improve performance.

Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Contact him today to find out how he can help enhance your personal and organizational effectiveness – jeff@jeffsuderman.com.

Photo Credit – FreeImages.com

Infographic Credit – Fundera