Four ways to improve the performance of your employees

Andrew Miller.
Andrew Miller.

Andrew Miller, President of Toronto-based ACM Consulting, is a leading expert in operational excellence and has helped companies like 3M, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Siemens, Scotiabank, the YMCA, Philips and Becton Dickinson, accelerate growth, maximize profitability and boost performance. He’s the author of Redefining Operational Excellence and The Unified Theory of Profitability. His insights and concepts have been featured in Inc., Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post, IndustryWeek, and The Globe and Mail. His company (www.acmconsulting.ca) specializes in operational excellence, consulting, profitability management, customer engagement, innovation and collaboration, strategic alignment and retaining top talent. Here, he outlines four proven strategies to get the most out of your employees. He can be reached at andrew@acmconsulting.ca.

Trying to get the most out of your people is a difficult and ongoing task. Gurus everyone are telling you to engage them more, micro manage them less, empower them and set them up for success – but none of those instruct you on how to actually get more out of your people. Here are some strategies you can use today to help improve the performance of your people:

  1. Don’t ask, tell. Don’t ask your employees where they want to improve their skills. Instead, tell them where they need to improve in order to develop. They may not like the message, but by doing this you’re setting them up for success. You’re creating a path for development and improvement that will help them be more valuable to your company, thus opening up new opportunities for them. I remember telling a client that his people needed to prepare for customer meetings better. None of his employees asked to develop this skill, but once we improved it, his people were actually doubling the revenue they previously generated from the same customers!
  1. Retain your top talent. This is nothing new, yet many organizations don’t spend enough time on it, or put enough stock into it. I was speaking with a colleague who told me a story about one of her clients. The client wanted to engage my colleague because he had an “employee engagement” issue. She asked how many of his top people had left in the past year. He responded, “none.” She then responded, “So what’s the issue?” All employees are essential to making an organization successful, but it’s your top people who keep the engine driving forward. Keep them and you’ll be just fine.
  1. Trim the fat. In conjunction with the previous point about retaining your top people, you need to get rid of your poorest performers – quickly. Give them ample opportunity to improve, and if they don’t, let them go or move them into a role where they can be successful. Not everyone can be good at sales or customer service. Everyone they work with knows they’re a poor performer and it’s frustrating for those who are performing well. Why should they work their tails off to be successful when your company clearly tolerates mediocrity and poor performance?
  1. Show them the money. This point actually has nothing to do with money. When an employee does something great, show them how the customer or supplier or investor reacted. Read them the great feedback the company received, or the nice letter a customer wrote. If they make a mistake, show them the impact it had. Show them the money the company lost or the customer who was upset. This is not meant to shame them or make them feel guilty – only to connect their actions to real-world outcomes. When employees understand the consequences of their actions, they’ll be more inclined to do their best to provide a positive outcome each and every time.

Getting the most out of your people requires a major commitment from you, their leader. Without it, everything outlined above will fail. Company leaders need to make the tough decisions and decide what’s best for the employees and the future of your company. Making employees more invested in the success of your operation will help optimize their overall performance and that of your company.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.