Are you fostering performance excellence and providing career development opportunities?
As an employer or leader, you can take steps to create a climate that promotes performance excellence and fosters learning. An organization’s ability to learn is one of the key drivers of success in the 21st century world of work, as it must constantly adapt to the fast pace of change. Developing your employees will not only help create a learning culture, it will also help to retain your talent.
The ability to learn continuously has been identified as one of the key competencies of the 21st century workplace in today’s knowledge economy. To help your business and employees succeed, you should strive to create a culture of learning. See Consider a Learning Culture under Build Your Desired Corporate Culture for details on the key ingredients of this culture.
To foster this culture, you should ensure that you are focusing on the following activities:
Take this Learning Culture Audit to find out how you and your organization are doing now.
While some of these are touched in this section, you can consider all of them when you are looking to develop the skills, knowledge and abilities of your workforce (Source: Finders & Keepers):
Your organization may have a formal performance management process in place or this might be something that you want to consider establishing. These processes are designed to motivate the employee, improve performance and contribute to his or her satisfaction and fulfillment.
Whether or not there is a formal process in place, you are strongly encouraged to discuss job performance and goals and objectives with your employees on an informal, regular basis. If you are frequently out of the office, consider setting up periodic appointments (monthly or quarterly) with your employees.
Performance management is an ongoing communication process, undertaken in partnership between an employee and his/her immediate manager, which involves an ongoing dialogue about:
Key steps in a typical Performance Management process include:
While performance reviews should take place on an ongoing basis, performance appraisals must meet annual deadlines. The appraisal rests on a mutual understanding (reached through performance reviews) between the manager and employee with regard to major duties and responsibilities, work standards, and goals or objectives to be met during the review period.
Research demonstrates that specific, challenging objectives, combined with immediate feedback, lead to higher performance. A SMART Performance Objective focuses on Outcome/impact, rather than on activities. It is:
As a manager, you should ensure that your employees receive performance reviews and appraisals in a timely fashion, as required by your organization. As a business owner, you may want to take steps to put a process in place.
Keep in mind that the purpose of conducting performance reviews is generally to:
Questions to consider:
Most employers and leaders find it stressful to have performance discussions. To ensure that these discussions go as well as possible, consider these tips:
It is essential to provide ongoing feedback to your employees to allow them to develop to their full potential. Managerial input is a crucial factor in the successful performance of most employees. It answers many of employees’ most important questions and helps them to do the following:
While most people find it much easier to provide positive than constructive input, it is important to incorporate both types into your day-to-day “management style”, and not just focus on them during performance meetings or reviews. When there is inadequate feedback:
You should ensure that you are offering praise and gratitude for a job well done on an ongoing basis, and not just as part of a formal review. Public “thank-you’s” and personal notes go a long way towards increasing morale and promoting an “extra mile” attitude.
When it comes to negative reviews, things get a little more complicated. Providing constructive criticism is an essential aspect of developing your employees.
In general, there are three rules to providing negative feedback:
When you know you have to discuss concerns about an employee’s poor performance, there are five steps to follow in preparation:
It is also important that your employees feel comfortable providing you with feedback. If they can communicate openly and make suggestions without fear of retribution, they will be more willing to take risks and contribute at a higher level. When receiving feedback, ensure that you:
Remember, if you ask for feedback, make sure that you respond in a professional manner and try to act on it. Raising expectations that things will negatively impact employee morale.
Coaching can be defined as helping employees to improve in current jobs and develop potential for the future; this is what you do in giving feedback during performance reviews.
Developing performance excellence is not only about official annual reviews and performance feedback, it is further enhanced by those managers who act as a “coach” on an ongoing basis. Keep in mind:
The overall objective of coaching is to lend an objective perspective to a situation an individual is facing, helping them identify actions to be taken and providing them with the momentum/discipline to follow through on the action plan.
As a coach, you should:
These tips will help you become a successful coach:
Asking these questions on an ongoing basis allows the individual to evaluate what was right and wrong with a situation and provide an avenue for change. The goal is for the employee to come up with what he or she can do to improve.
In attempting to improve performance, the tools you have to work with as a coach are: trust, mutual respect, a sense of common purpose, integrity and honesty. Successful outcomes from coaching discussions increase where the agenda for change is limited to one aspect of behaviour at a time. Expectations must be agreed upon, both in terms of output and behaviour demanded. The criteria for success must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bounded.
These factors are also key to coaching to improve performance:
Mentoring involves working with your most talented employees to help them advance (ignore them and they may find someone else!).
The process involves the use of many coaching techniques, but goes above and beyond helping an employee (“protégé”) to do his/her job well. Mentors share their experiences and wisdom over a longer period of time to develop others to do what they do so well.
A mentor is:
Keep in mind – You can either serve as a mentor to employees yourself or take steps to help them find their own mentors.
In developing a strong mentoring relationship, you should ensure that you understand what makes a good mentee, as well as what qualities you should have to be an effective mentor.
A Good Mentor:
A Good Mentee:
You should also keep in mind that:
How your employees learn is influenced by both adult learning principles and their individual learning style.
Competency development is based on the principles of adult learning. Below we summarize how adults learn best. You can help your employees put these principles into action by involving them in the learning process, facilitating action learning, and providing a variety of learning opportunities.
The following is a checklist for a successful employee learning experience, based on adult learning principles:
Finally, how an employee learns is influenced by the individual learning style. Learning styles refer to the ways you prefer to approach new information. Each of us learns and processes information in our own ways, in addition to sharing some learning patterns, preferences, and approaches.
You can complete a questionnaire online for an assessment of your learning style.
Feel free to use this tool with your employees to find out how they best learn and gear your learning activities to their individual styles.
You can directly facilitate your employees’ success by helping them focus on the four key components of on-the-job learning:
In order to develop a competency, one needs role models whose behaviours reflect excellence in the competencies to refine. A particular area of knowledge, a new theory, idea, or set of “how to” instructions can also be drawn from formal training, suggested readings or other training materials.
As a manager, you can facilitate observation by:
Practice is undoubtedly the most important element when it comes to acquiring a competency. Actually trying out the observed behaviours, the abstract theory, idea or instructions to do something is key to learning. Learning is enhanced through a diversity of experiences versus one experience repeated over and over. Learning also involves a willingness to take calculated risks in trying out new approaches which you, as a manager, need to support.
As a manager, you can encourage experimentation by:
Reflective thinking allows an individual to measure the efficiency of their interventions, and to take stock of the strategies used in light of the results obtained. It is important that employees think about what happened that can perhaps lead them to modify their approach in the future.
Self-assessment allows employees to measure progress to date, to identify gaps in the competency, and to develop an action plan to monitor their progress against development goals in order to focus their development efforts.
As a manager, you can help your employees engage in reflective thinking and self-assessment by:
Feedback is an effective learning tool for your employee because it provides them with information about how others perceive them, allowing them to recognize areas that need improvement. They need to show openness to feedback, both positive and constructive, while seeking it in a proactive way and a timely manner to ensure that it is pertinent. Feedback is an essential tool to get real time validation around the impact of developmental efforts and new behaviours demonstrated.
As a manager, you can help your employee use feedback as a learning tool by:
Learning opportunities can come in the form of on-the-job activities, relationships and feedback, classroom training and other forms of off-the-job learning.
There are many ways to provide employees with learning opportunities. The CCHRSC outlines the following cost-effective methods for employee training and development.
Relationships and feedback:
Many of these are touched on in earlier sections of this website.
Scroll down the CCHRSC’s Implementing an Employee Training & Development Program page to the section on Cost-Effective Methods for Employee Training and Development to get tips and guidelines on how best to utilize these different opportunities.
In your role as a manager, you will work with your employees to identify formal training opportunities that will benefit each of them. However, you also have a role to play when formal training initiatives are completed.
When an employee returns from any formal training, your involvement can help them apply new knowledge in the working environment and will encourage them to further their learning. Helping the individual put into practice newly acquired competencies as quickly as possible allows for better integration of knowledge and skills.
Creating a continuous learning environment, as outlined above, will facilitate this process. You can also help the individual apply formal training on the job by asking the following questions:
EXAMPLE: When an individual comes back from a course in oral communications:
There are also more general actions you can take to incorporate a variety of formal training into the individual’s day-to-day work.
Engaging in discussions around career development, and highlighting career options, will help you to retain valued workers as they will not only feel more engaged, but will recognize the potential to grow their career within your organization. It is important to be realistic in these discussions, but also be open-minded to career paths that may see the individual “grow” beyond their current role, or potentially out of your organization.
Your decisions around promotions and transfers impact the success of your business. Understanding your employees’ career goals is a key factor in making these decisions. It is important to match your employee’s interests and aspirations to the needs of the organization and if you don’t know what these are, you won’t be able to do this effectively.
In deciding how you want to handle promotions in your organization, you should consider the following components:
In many smaller organizations, the decisions may be more on the informal, ad hoc end of the spectrum. However, you still need to ensure that the decision is transparent and clearly communicated to all. Promotions should not be something that employees hear about “through the grapevine.”
Ensure that your performance management process incorporates career development discussions. You want to provide learning opportunities that not only close performance gaps, but also address your employees’ longer term career goals. Some of the barriers that prevent managers from talking to employees about their overall careers include:
Your employees do not expect you to have all the answers. Simply taking the time to listen is important in itself. Also remember these guidelines when you are engaging in career discussions.
Questions you can ask to get the conversation going:
The CCHRSC recommends looking at these two questions in developing a Career Development/Learning Plan:
The Council recommends a four-step approach to work through with employees, including links to self-assessment tools that they can use in advance of the discussion with you or another manager within your organization.
It is also important to hold these discussions throughout the year and not just as part of more formal performance assessments. Remember to think beyond the typical career path. Career growth is less linear today and there are many paths from which to choose. Listen carefully to what your team member is saying about their dreams and goals. Then partner with them to come up with ways to accomplish that next move for them.