By Hugh Margesson, People Management Associate Director at Smith & Williamson

If you’re looking to achieve more in your business with fewer staff you must focus on managing performance effectively.

When profits or budgets are under pressure, you need people to be motivated and productive and to understand how their hard work helps your business to survive and thrive. But experience tells us that raising the performance bar can be challenging, particularly if you’ve already been through a cost cutting exercise. Here are some ideas to help you get it right:

- Be clear about what you expect in terms of output as well as input. These expectations may be performance standards, which are likely to stay the same throughout the year, or objectives which have specific deliverables attached.

- Agree with each person exactly what is required of them, as well as how you will measure their performance. If this involves big changes to standards or targets, explain the context to the employee and offer some practical support – we all know that an impossible target will simply be demotivating.

- Monitor performance regularly and discuss this with each employee. You can use a range of methods including simply observing their work, informal discussions, team meetings and third party feedback (eg. from customers or other managers and team leaders in your organisation). You may find it useful to keep a file to record examples and evidence with your own comments on the job holder’s work.

- Make your performance reviews meaningful. It’s better to have short, more frequent face-to-face discussions about performance rather than relying on an annual or half yearly formal review process. Regular one-to-ones allow you to provide feedback to employees immediately – recognising good work, providing guidance or challenging under-performance.

- Make sure that your managers and supervisors understand the importance of good performance management, and don’t forget to check that they have the skills and confidence to do this well.

So how are you managing performance at the moment? Are your systems fit for purpose in a turbulent economy? Do your managers have the skills and confidence to get the best from your people? If not, now is the time to plan for better performance management.

For help with your performance management processes or to introduce a new approach, contact people management specialist Hugh Margesson on 0117 376 2042 or email hugh.margesson@smith.williamson.co.uk.

By necessity this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Article correct at time of writing.

Smith & Williamson LLP
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