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Seven-Step System for Employee Performance Improvement

George is an independent small business consultant and business owner with a mission to help entrepreneurs improve their management skills.

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Managers achieve performance goals through effectively coaching, motivating, and developing their employees. An easy-to-use tool can help managers achieve both short and long term performance objectives.

Some managers find it difficult to help employees determine the root cause of specific problems that affect their performance. Employees often complain that they are criticized for the occurrence of problems that are beyond their control. This seven-step system is designed to help managers determine the underpinning cause of performance-related problems and how to find appropriate solutions.

The system isolates seven factors necessary for effective performance:

  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Role perception
  • Organizational support
  • Environmental fit
  • Evaluation
  • Validity

By arranging these factors into an easily remembered acronym, managers utilizing this system will realize improved employee performance:

R: Real knowledge and skills to do the job

E: Educated on a clear description of the job

A: Active interest in the employee by the company

L: Likes to do the job.

I: Invest time and energy in the employee’s performance.

Z: Zero legal problems with decisions

E: environment that is suitable

The simplicity of the system is one of its most attractive aspects. It’s not a new managerial fad filled with complex technical jargon. It’s easy to remember or apply:

Real Knowledge

Real knowledge and skills to do the job. This refers to the employee’s knowledge and skills, which will enable them to successfully complete the required duties and responsibilities. Nobody is totally competent, nor able to do everything equally well. The key components of ability include:

  • Education relevant to the duties and responsibilities (the employee’s formal and informal training which assists in their successful completion).
  • Experience relevant to the task at hand (prior work experience which assists in the completion of the task).
  • Relevant aptitudes (the employee’s skills and traits that will strengthen the chances of successful completion of the task).

In the analysis of an employee's performance, the manager must ask simply, “Does this employee have the knowledge and skills which are necessary to perform efficiently?” If a problem exists in this area, some specific solutions may include task-specific training, coaching, formal courses, or reassignment of duties or responsibilities.

Educated on the Job Description

Educated on a clear description of the job. It deals with the employee’s understanding and acceptance of what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. To ensure that the employee has a thorough understanding of their job, they need to be very clear on:

  • The measurements of performance for their job.
  • How optimum performance can be achieved.
  • The priority of performance goals and objectives.

When there is a misunderstanding of the task or job it will result in poor execution. Managers must ensure that all objectives are accurately written down. The employee must be encouraged to ask questions to clarify any incomprehension.

Active Interest

Active interest in the employee by the company. Also called organizational support, it refers to the organizational help or support that the employee needs for the effective completion of their job. Some components of organizational support include:

  • Adequate budget.
  • Tools to complete the task, and suitable facilities for the task.
  • Necessary support from other departments.
  • Availability of supplies and materials.
  • Adequate allocation of human resources to complete the job.

Likes the Job

"Likes to do the job" is the result when employees are motivated to complete all their tasks in a successful manner. The manager must remember that not all people are equally inspired. In general, employees tend to be more motivated if they receive some kind of recognition.

Problems in this area should first be evaluated in light of the proper use of rewards. The employee must understand that performance is directly related to pay, promotion, recognition, and job security. Employees have a natural tendency to perform optimally when rewarded and to under-perform when not rewarded. However, rewards do not necessarily have to be monetary to be effective. In some cases, appropriate feedback, such as a pat on the back, will suffice. This positive reinforcement of successful performance should be an integral part of the overall incentive system.

Investing Time

Investing time and energy in the employee’s performance. This includes the formal and informal processes of coaching and performance feedback. Coaching consists of letting employees know how well they are performing in their jobs. Managers cannot expect employees to improve job performance when they are unaware of the problems. Through continuous feedback, there should be no surprises in the annual performance review.

If there is an evaluation problem, it probably has been caused by a lack of day-to-day feedback. This should be both positive (catch somebody doing something right) and negative for poor performance. Many managers focus on the bad and take positive performance for granted. Immediate recognition for a job well done can serve as a vital part of the coaching process. It increases motivation, strengthens company loyalty, and is achieved at very little cost.

Zero Legal Issues

"Zero legal problems with decisions" is the result of the ethics and legality of employee-related decisions. Managers must be aware of labor laws, court decisions, and company policies to ensure that their decisions will not be contested. All employee decisions should be related solely to performance-oriented criteria. All other biases must be eliminated. Recommendations for promotion, suspension, or dismissal must be fully documented and restricted to performance issues.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are external performance influencers. Key elements of this component include competition, changing market conditions, government regulations, and supply chain disturbances. In analyzing performance, the manager must not blame employees for performance problems that were caused by external factors over which they have no control. Employees, however, should be expected to provide the best reasonable results under adverse external conditions. It is essential to define what is reasonable in these circumstances.

In conclusion, this seven-step system can be used to analyze almost any gaps in performance. Managers can look at the situation and determines which of the seven factors are responsible for a particular performance problem. At times there may be several factors in play.

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