Building Employee Performance

The following article by HR pros was published in MINGLE magazine.

Building Employee Performance

Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand but even the most creative marketing campaign won’t achieve its goals if employees are unsupported.

It’s a week after the launch of your new marketing campaign, and you are pleased to notice that your store has been busier than usual. Traffic has increased and you congratulate yourself for investing in the campaign. You start to think about the next one… but there’s a problem. This increase in activity hasn’t translated into an increase in sales. Why?

Let’s take a look at some of the things that may be impacting your results:

Understaffing, employee morale and your bottom line
Do you have sufficient staff to handle your increased level of activity? If you don’t, customers may become impatient and leave. While it’s easy to notice the absence of sales staff on the floor, understaffing can create problems across the board. Overworked employees have a higher level of absenteeism – further compounding the problem. Your employees may be stressed from this new, higher level of activity; they may tire more quickly, slow down, take more breaks, or be less courteous. If this is the case, your employee morale will drop resulting in poor job performance, more errors, more accidents, and poor customer service. Your bottom line will suffer.

Performance in sales, like any other job, is a function of the employee having the ability to do the job and the motivation to perform the work. Ability is acquired through training and experience. Motivation is a more complex issue because the source of motivation is often different for each employee. One might be motivated by respect, another by money, another by recognition, while another by the job itself.

Motivation strategies
Given this complexity, how can you improve motivation? An examination of your compensation practices may reveal some areas for immediate consideration. Are your employees fairly compensated? And what about increases? Do all employees have an opportunity for wage increases, or are increases perceived as subjectively awarded? A compensation review is an exercise that healthy organizations, recognizing its value, will make the effort to undertake from time-to-time.

Super Supervisors
Supervisors affect employee motivation. It is often said that employees don’t quit their employers, they quit their supervisors. Are your supervisors trained in supervisory practices? One error many organizations make is to promote a good producer into a supervisory role, but a good producer does not necessarily make a good supervisor. This is especially true if no investment is made in the development of that supervisor. Supervisors walk a tightrope between the company’s needs and those of the employees. Are your supervisors able to balance the enforcement of rules with empathy to the human condition, when necessary?

Who Knows the Rules?
Speaking of rules, do your employees know the rules? My experience is that 90% of employees come to work each day and want to do a good job. Most employees really do see their performance as a reflection of themselves. Doing a good job, however, means knowing the rules of engagement – if you don’t know the rules you’re bound to make mistakes. Review your personnel policies from time-to-time. Make sure they are up to date, fair and that your employees are aware of the policies and how they are applied. Policies are not about restricting the employment relationship, they are about sharing expectations.

Company Culture
Many employees are motivated by “stuff”.  I live by the “high impact, low cost” approach. For a number of years I worked at an inside sales facility. Employees were attached to their phone at all times and jobs were rigidly defined. There was no opportunity to impact the job but there was opportunity to impact the culture, and for very little money. Each month we had nacho day, ice cream day and pizza day. Once a month we gathered to recognize our most helpful employees with balloons, cake and certificates of appreciation. Twice a year we celebrated the diversity of our employees.  We had “Diversity Day Potlucks” when employees were invited to bring ethnic foods, which everyone sampled and then voted on their favourites. The winners were recognized with gift certificates and acknowledged in the monthly newsletter.

There is no magic formula to increasing employee motivation. Rather than muddle your way through this complex issue, engage your employees. Ask them what motivates them and if possible, incorporate a few different approaches.And before investing in your next marketing campaign, consider investing in your human resources management practices. The results may surprise you.

The March/April 2010 edition of MINGLE magazine can be read on line here.

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