The past couple weeks, I found myself swept up in Olympics fever.
Of particular interest to me, especially in the running events, was the commentary about the importance of the techniques the runners use when starting their race. In most of the races and relays, it was the starting moments that made the difference in the finish at the end. It got me thinking about how new employees start and how those activities can have a big impact on their overall performance.
There are several activities that have a positive impact on employee performance and in this article I will highlight four that are critical and yet easy to implement.
- Giving early verbal performance reviews
- Explaining performance objectives
- Teaching about the group or division
- Clearly explaining job responsibilities
Giving early verbal performance reviews are important because everyone wants to do a good job and when people start in a new position or with a new company, they are anxious to prove to themselves and their new employer that everyone made a good choice. Naturally, when we are praised for good behavior, we want to do more of it so we get more praise. On the flip side, if we do something that is considered not optimal, it’s best to learn that quickly as well, so we don’t repeat it.
Imagine if you didn’t give your child any feedback, positive or negative, when they were learning to walk. No reaction produces little action. When the child sees their parents smiling and encouraging them, even when they tip over, the child is anxious to get the reaction again, so he or she repeats the action. Eventually, their performance improves and they master the skill of walking.
Explaining performance objectives is important because we are more motivated to take action if we understand the reasons for doing so and what it looks like to succeed. If a student didn’t know that the objective for taking the test was to get an “A” so they could advance to higher levels of education, it’s not likely anyone would bother studying for any test. We need to know what we are aiming to accomplish in order to give our best effort to reach the goal.
Teaching about the group or division is important because people need to know where they fit into the big picture. Recently I was hired to create a detailed program to onboard salespeople in a manufacturing company. Naturally, the new salesperson would expect to learn about their role as a salesperson and how to do their job, but it was also important for them to understand how they impacted the other divisions of the company. Not only did I craft the specific sales strategies and metrics to measure and track actions and successes, I also created video training for them so they understood how the manufacturing process worked and where they fit into the overall business.
Clearly explaining job responsibilities is important because people cannot do well at what they may not even know they are supposed to do in the first place. Many years ago, I was part of a company that provided sales training classes to companies and entrepreneurs. As the company grew, we moved to a new space and in our training room, we had a refrigerator stocked with bottled water and soft drinks. My training classes always got rave reviews, but the president of the company gave me noticeably less acknowledgment for doing good work. One day I overheard him complaining about how I never bothered to restock the beverages in the refrigerator after I taught a class.
It honestly never occurred to me that restocking the fridge was part of my job responsibility since it as always fully stocked when I taught a class. What I didn’t know was that the president was the one refilling the fridge and getting madder at me with every can he put on the shelf. When I approached him about it, he requested that anyone teaching the last class of the day restock the fridge. Once it was clearly communicated, I was happy to comply. It’s impossible to live up to someone else’s expectations if you don’t know what they are in the first place.
If you want to increase the performance of everyone on your team now, and everyone starting with your company in the future, you would be wise to put these four practices in place. How you finish depends a lot on how you start.