A key to being a successful manager is knowing how your employees are doing in their roles. However, more often than not, this is based on a gut feeling. How do managers and employees really know how they’re doing?
We’ve already made the case for throwing out the annual review and opting for more frequent discussions, but will talking more often clear up any confusion? Probably not. In order to gain clarity on performance, there needs to be more structure behind an employee’s tasks. Our solution to this is performance objectives.
What are Performance Objectives?
A performance objective is an expected outcome, result, or accomplishment for an employee. It’s not so much about the individual’s daily checklist, but about an end goal for them and the company as a whole. They are the metrics of success. What do you want your employee(s) to do or accomplish from day 1 to day 365 and beyond?
Now you may be thinking “Hold on, I have my job description… isn’t that the same thing?” Oftentimes, job descriptions fall short in this category because they lack the level of detail and specificity performance objectives provide.
The most effective performance objectives are measurable or quantifiable. In other words, they have numbers tied to them. Some positions have objectives that are easy to measure (sales roles are a prime example; think hitting a quota of $500k). Other positions have more esoteric goals that might need a little work to define. In both cases, your team is better positioned to succeed when they can evaluate their performance with numbers. However, in positions where quantifying success is not an option, the next best approach is to develop objectives that are as specific as possible.
We believe that every role can and should have clearly defined performance objectives. Without them, you are essentially asking your employees to hit a target with a blindfold. If they do not know the target, how can they be expected to hit it? And taking it a step further, how can they be held accountable when they don’t hit it? Performance objectives provide the clarity needed for employees and management to thrive.
Why Performance Objectives?
Performance objectives provide the direction your employees need to know what matters and how they should prioritize their time. They help the freshest hire get their bearings and learn how to navigate their position, while also enabling the staff member with the greatest longevity to focus in on what matters.
Not only that, performance objectives also provide visibility on how every employee is doing, both when they’re crushing their goals and when they have room to improve. By establishing performance objectives, management is positioned to coach their employees to be their best because they can easily see where each of their employees is excelling and where support is needed.
Crafting Performance Objectives
If this is brand new for your company, this may feel like a lot. Your employees likely already have some sort of general objectives, but creating goals that are measurable and specific for every person in your company? That’s taking things to a different level.
Here are a few tips to getting starting with crafting and embracing performance objectives for every role.
- Look to the job description. Many job descriptions list out the duties and responsibilities which can get you started on the performance objectives that employee should be working to achieve. However, they also often contain a lot of fluff. Take a look at your job description and pull out the KPIs/OKRs for the role. In other words, what are the things you’ve laid out as the expected accomplishments for someone in this role?
- Involve management. Managers have an idea of what each employee is doing as well as what they’re expected to do. They’re one of the first stops when developing a list of measurable performance objectives for any role.
- Involve the employee. Employees have a lot of insight on what they do daily. You might discover that while you think they’re doing B that they’re having to spend most of their day doing A. No list of performance objectives is complete or accurate if the employee is not a part of developing it.
- Past performers. If you have people who were once in that position and successful at it, they will definitely have insight on what it takes to do the job well and correctly.
- Adjacent positions. In some jobs, the people who work closely with or adjacent to a particular position will know a lot about what that position needs to accomplish, whether they physically see those tasks being completed or if the tasks affect their role in the process.
- Ideal world. Taking a top-down look at the entire process or company to determine the ideal world scenario, then deciding what steps need to happen to get there.
These are all places you can look to discover performance objectives for any given role in your organization. If you go down all of these avenues, you’ll likely find yourself with a laundry list of potential objectives. However, too long of a list will just leave your employees overwhelmed, likely lacking more clarity than before they had any objectives at all!
What to do? Focus in on the top 2-5 objectives. This narrows the focus to what truly matters, giving your employees the ability to hone in, own their responsibilities, and ultimately drive success.
Once the goals are solidified, they need to be visible to the employee and management. You need to see a target to hit it! You also need to be able to come back to the goals and record progress. Creating a to-do list and then sticking it in a drawer doesn’t do much good. Having it posted somewhere (like our Manage 4 Performance™ software) so progress can be tracked turns those goals into manageable and measurable objectives.
If you want a more in-dept tutorial to crafting performance objectives, download our free guide here!
2020 rocked the boat in a lot of ways, especially in the way businesses operate. Companies that hadn’t dreamt of going remote were suddenly forced to (and were oftentimes rather unprepared). What used to be a rare perk for some became the norm for most and leadership had to adjust quickly, all the while ensuring that their employees were still driving the business forward.
Flash forward to our current day and many businesses are still operating either fully remotely or in some sort of hybrid capacity. However, most management approaches haven’t caught up. We’re finding more and more that businesses are operating out of the same old framework, utilizing the same old practices from our pre-covid world, when that just isn’t going to drive the business results you really want.
After nearly a decade operating as a fully remote organization, we’ve learned what it takes to have record-breaking performance all while operating outside of the typical 9-5 office environment. Not only that, we’ve landed on Inc5000’s list of fastest growing companies for 3 years in a row – and we want to help other organizations do the same.
The Problem: A Lack of Visibility
Management can feel reluctant to embrace remote work for many reasons, but one of the main gripes we hear is that they can’t simply pop over to someone’s cubicle to check in on their progress. But in all fairness, if you’re relying on that brief touchpoint with employees to be your complete gauge of their performance, you likely have a very inaccurate representation of how they’re actually doing.
This perceived problem of “lack of visibility” that comes with remote work is one of the things we have learned to embrace. Instead of relying on haphazard, random communication with our employees, we developed a management approach that gives the visibility needed to take employees’ performance and engagement to the next level.
The Solution: The Manage 4 Performance Way
High performing teams won’t happen by accident, especially when your employees are empowered to work from wherever they choose. That is why we developed our Manage 4 Performance™ approach – to eliminate the confusion around what performance is and make it easy to coach your employees to be top performers. While these 10 simple strategies can (and should) be implemented for in-person workforces, they’re especially critical when your team isn’t meeting face-to-face.
- Know the goal. You cannot expect your people to hit a target they cannot see. If you are not in an office where you can quickly check in on what your people are working on, it’s imperative that both managers and employees know what “success” looks like. We suggest not only naming the goal, but keeping it somewhere for all to see.
- Consistent meetings. We’re not suggesting filling your calendar with meetings just for the sake of it, but having consistent touch points with your employees helps ensure everyone is on the same page. Our preference is for weekly meetings between managers and employees, but find a rhythm that works for your people!
- Conversational, not confrontational. Just because you’re not in person does not mean you have to micromanage your people to ensure they’re accomplishing what you need them to. Typically this serves to only harm your relationship with employees, not help. Aim to keep your meetings conversational and employee-driven vs manager-driven.
- Be supportive. A manager’s job isn’t just to make sure tasks are completed, they’re there to help if something comes up or progress isn’t going as expected. Build trust with your employees by assuming best intent and supporting their career growth and development.
- Be flexible. Meetings don’t have to be hour-long zoom calls. The consistency of a meeting is important, but some days that time is better spent getting work done and an instant message or an email can do the trick. On the flip side, sometimes you need a whole half day to work together as a team to knock a project out. Be flexible to the schedule changing, while still holding to a regular routine as much as possible.
- Demonstrate care. It’s much harder to build the personal connection with employees when you’re not having the daily “water cooler” conversations. We utilize the FORD method to deepen relationships and get to know our teammates.
- Know your team. Some people like to take the lead and work in a silo, others prefer to get everyone’s input before finalizing a task. Understanding your employees’ unique drives, motivations, and preferences and managing them accordingly is a huge step toward remote management success.
- Access to tools. What does your employee need to succeed? Giving your team all of the tools they need to do their job and to do it well is critical, yet this is a common complaint from employees who are working remotely. Investing in the necessary tools (including computer communication platforms) will reduce the problems in the future and boost employee performance. Better yet – give your employees a space where they can discuss on comment with what tools they feel they need or would love to have to be even more successful.
- Even more communication. One of the downfalls of working remotely means it’s harder to ask questions. That can leave the individual hanging and waiting for a response. The only real way to combat this is to be extremely thorough at the outset when explaining a project or a work expectation and to be as available as possible when questions arise.
- Celebrate successes. When a milestone is hit in an office there usually is some celebration – whether it’s an announcement, thank you, or even a lunch party. When no one works in the same office, the temptation is to skip it – avoid this temptation! Employees appreciate recognition, especially when they’ve worked hard. Celebrations will need to be modified, but they are still key in teambuilding and employee appreciation.
A Note on Hybrid Situations
If you’re working in a hybrid situation – some in-person work, some remote work – the tendency for managers can be to primarily focus on employees when they’re in the office. While it may be the seemingly “easy” approach, it’s a management trap for a couple of reasons. Here’s why.
First, if you’re only communicating when they’re in person, it leaves employees out on a limb when they’re remote. This is arguably the time when they need the most support. Second, it can make the office feel like a “meeting zone”. Employees may grow to resent coming in to work because they won’t get much accomplished if their calendar is swamped with meetings.
If you operate in a hybrid work situation, it’s best to treat this as remote work with an added bonus of some face-to-face time! If you allow the employee to decide if they’re coming in to connect, then those connections are more meaningful. If they’re simply coming in to accomplish work in office, then they’ll appreciate having the ability to be productive in the office.
Of course, there can be times when management encourages everyone to come in and connect or discuss big updates. By giving the employees this information beforehand, they can plan better for their day and their workload.
The Manage 4 Performance™ Difference
While we’ve been talking primarily about management approaches and philosophies, we also believe in the importance of a management platform to equip managers to be as effective as possible. Our Manage 4 Performance™ software provides visibility on performance, giving managers and employees the ability to track progress toward their goals. The best part is it completely removes the guesswork of management – and when working remotely, that’s critical. Both managers and employees can hone in on what performance looks like and know what it takes to get there.
Want to learn more about our Manage 4 Performance™ software? Click the button below to start a conversation.