Employee performance: 10 things managers should always know

Written 30 October, 2019, 6 minutes to read

Happy teams are productive teams. But employee happiness isn’t a given constant – its appearance depends on ongoing, thoughtful support. Managers need to keep a range of different needs and aspirations in balance to keep their teams motivated, content and psychologically safe. Some, however, are easier to identify and track than others.

Understanding employee performance

When it comes to teamwork it’s the effort of the whole that matters most. You need to keep everyone pulling in the same direction, collaborating harmoniously, with access to the right resources at the right time. But understanding individual employee performance is fundamental to achieving that. Beyond simply keeping everyone on-task, measuring employee performance can help you:

  • Learn what engages your team and why
  • Break down internal costs to root our inefficiencies
  • Protect employees against burnout
  • Align with your company’s objectives and goals
  • Understand progress against targets
  • Correct miscommunications before they snowball
  • Collaborate more intelligently
  • Build fairer practices based on feedback
  • Accurately document all employee overtime
  • Develop better HR standards and practices
  • Create a positive employer brand

10 things every manager should know

Employee performance KPIs can seem rather clinical when an individual’s performance at work depends on wider psychological factors, like their wellbeing. Managers need to quickly identify things that antagonize their teams – by creating undue stress, frustration, disappointment or disengagement. They also need to be able to recognize the good, and identify new opportunities that stretch skills and refine processes.

Managing employee performance will always be a tall task, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Making sure you have a good understanding of these ten factors that impact employee performance is a great place to start:

1. Capacity

Tracking the hours your teams work in a week is essential when it comes to managing performance. It gives you an immediate indicator of their availability and workload – essential for balancing work across your team, and pinpointing anyone who might be struggling or overloaded.


2. Workflow

A healthy workload requires an even distribution of work throughout the week. It’s not a deluge over the first two days, followed by a drought. Inconsistent workloads can take a massive toll on employee engagement, seeing employees work needlessly in bursts of intense, unmanageable stress – which can quickly lead to burnout. Keep an eye on how your team’s workload is distributed, remembering to keep individual goals small and consistent.


3. Overtime

Besides being a legal requirement for companies in the EU, it’s generally a good idea to document all your employee’s overtime. A disproportionate amount of overtime is a clear sign that something is structurally wrong with your team – whether it’s a lack of resource, unrealistic expectations, poor estimation or misunderstanding of what needs to be done. It’s also universally resented – especially when you don’t have the records to remunerate it accurately.


4. Team activity

It sounds obvious, but every manager should know what tasks their employees are working on. It’s essential for making sure everyone is working to your priorities and on-task. It can also help highlight bigger issues, especially if a task is taking much longer than normal to complete. For team members themselves, knowing what colleagues are up to is a great way to stay aligned and offer proactive support.


5. Employee satisfaction

It’s important to gauge employee satisfaction, not just in the interests of retention rates, but because happy employees produce the best work. According to research, there is a direct correlation between feeling satisfied in the workplace and producing outstanding work, with highly-engaged teams showing 21% greater profitability. Engaged employees are also likely to stay on track with their goals for longer, and feel a stronger sense of purpose.

6. Time off

Taking the time off you’re entitled to is not “slacking off” – it’s vital to peak productive performance and producing quality work. Managers need to keep an eye on employee leave – not to pressure availability, but to ensure every member of the team uses their full vacation allowance.


8. State of mind

Employees’ mental health is just as important as their physical health. For managers, that doesn’t mean wading into employees’ private lives. It means offering employees the right resources to support good mental health at work. Part of that involves communication – creating a feedback culture that lets people feel comfortable and safe to discuss their wellbeing. But it goes well beyond it – providing structures, education and support to help people manage their mental health.

9. Low-value work

Knowledge work is saturated with a ton of meaningless, unproductive tasks that keep people from applying the skills they are actually passionate about. While some are necessary evils, they can be made more efficient or outsourced entirely. Tracking your team’s biggest low-value tasks is an essential for managing them long-term.


10. Career goals

You’ll likely know the goals or purpose of a project, but do you know where each employee wants to go in their own career path? This has a huge impact on motivation and engagement – if employees feel like they’re in the wrong role to achieve longer-term career goals, they’re unlikely to give it their all. Take the time to talk and understand everyone’s individual aspirations, and help find opportunities to help them get there – even if that ultimately means supporting them to move to a different team or department.

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