For most organizations, employees are a source of potential competitive advantage and are critical to success. Employees are a tremendous asset when effectively developed and deployed, but wages and related expenses are amongst an organization’s largest expenses. As a leader in your organization, it’s critical to maximize the impact of this investment by leveraging the full potential of your employees.
While it may seem obvious that getting the most out of your employees requires ongoing focus and attention, identifying the specific steps and actions to support this effort may be less obvious.
Seek to Understand
Employees have different talents, temperaments, communication styles, and ways of processing information. Leading would be easy if every employee had the same level of skill, motivators, and developmental needs, but each employee brings a distinct set of strengths and challenges. To get the most out of each employee, you need to work to understand who they are and what they need.
Behavior assessments can be powerful tools for helping employees increase self-knowledge. Tools like DiSC, Predictive Index, or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are self-assessment instruments that provide insights into the drivers of behavior. For the individual, these assessment tools can increase self-awareness and improve working relationships. For leaders, greater awareness of the individual personalities and preferences of their team members provides insights that help them reduce conflict, improve teamwork, and manage more effectively. Recognizing and attending to each employee as an individual sets the stage for increasing their ability and desire to engage and grow within the organization.
Providing both positive and developmental feedback to employees can be challenging but it is a critical component of performance management. Effective feedback creates focus, increases awareness, and helps sustain behavior change. Therefore, feedback is vital to growth and development.
While ongoing FAST (Frequent, Actionable, Specific, Timely) feedback is important throughout the year, so are formal employee performance review plans. Incorporating regularly scheduled performance reviews provides a forum for reflection, feedback, and discussion that acknowledges and reinforces the behaviors that are effective and desirable. Managers too often assume that employees know their efforts are appreciated and fail to acknowledge the efforts and recognize the performance. Performance reviews offer the opportunity to reinforce positive outcomes and craft development opportunities that build on this success.
An important component of a healthy performance review process is constructively and clearly addressing performance gaps. Formal employee performance improvement plans are a powerful tool for providing corrective feedback that helps employees identify and alter a behavior that is ineffective or inappropriate.
While it is as essential to the growth of an employee as positive feedback, these can be challenging or uncomfortable conversations. For this reason, they are often not done—this is a missed opportunity to help employees better understand expectations and what they need to do differently to achieve expected success. Employee performance improvement plans provide clarity of expectation and offer a mechanism for identifying the support and resources available to help address the performance gap.
On a broader basis, instituting a process of regularly scheduled employee performance review meetings is a great mechanism for clarifying expectations, aligning efforts, celebrating success, and addressing areas in need of attention. This valuable feedback creates an opportunity to enhance growth and engagement.
Focus on Talent Development
We know that one of the most significant drivers of employee engagement is having an ongoing opportunity to grow and develop. Learning is a lifelong endeavor and organizations that embrace learning and development have an edge over those who let their people stagnate. Talent development enhances the experience and effectiveness of your employees and it ensures the organization is vital and filled with people at all levels who are developing the skills they need for both today and tomorrow.
Talent development does not need to be an onerous or expensive commitment nor is it reserved for large organizations. At its core, talent development is simply acting on the recognition that every employee and every organization needs to continue to grow and develop or they will fall behind. Furthermore, effective talent development happens when it is tied to business needs and woven into daily activities. Providing employees with the ability to learn and grow is good for them and good for the business. Stretch assignments, projects, and participation in interdisciplinary teams are all excellent mechanisms for developing talent.
Combining these three components: seeking to understand, providing feedback, and a focus on talent development, is a winning combination that will help leverage the full potential of your employees.