How to get the best from your staff in 2018

by 18 Jan 2018
Aiming to create a high-performance culture? 2018 might be the year it happens. Luis Izzo reports

For many employers, performance management is synonymous with performance improvement plans (PIP), past behaviours and warnings.

The focus for 2018 for all employers who are striving to achieve a high-performance culture must be on two key areas:
  1. Identifying what drives employee engagement
  2. Managing good performance
If employers address these two areas, underperformance can often be avoided in the first place. 

Drivers of employee engagement
Most underperforming employees weren’t born to underperform. It may sound obvious, but usually there is a reason for underperformance and often it derives from low employee engagement.

That is, the employee’s rational and emotional attachment to their job and career with your businesses may be low. This can be an easy matter to fix, provided you appropriately identify the drivers of employee engagement and which ones might not be working so well in your business.

There are generally two drivers of engagement: rational and emotional.

The rational drivers are the obvious ones people may think of. For instance, an employee may work harder if they believe it may result in more remuneration or promotion. They may also work harder if they fear disciplinary consequences for performing poorly.

However, rational drivers of engagement are only so effective. Let’s face it – you can only hand out so many pay rises!

The reality is that emotional drivers of engagement are often more easily addressed and are, in fact, the more powerful driver of employee performance. This is because emotional engagement equates to passion for a job.

Every manager should ask themselves these tough questions if they have a team member performing at sub-optimal levels:
  • Does the employee understand the importance of their job to the company?
  • Are they being given ownership over their work?
  • Does the team have a culture of respecting employees as individuals?
  • Does the employee’s team pride itself on its work and reputation?
  • Does the team manager lead by example?
  • Is there clear communication from management or are expectations not clearly identified?
  • Are employees appropriately trained for the job?
  • Are employees being treated consistently?
If any of these factors are not properly addressed, employees can become disheartened and underperformance can become inevitable.

Managing good performance
The other factor that can significantly affect a team’s performance is failure by managers to appropriately recognise ongoing good performance on an ad-hoc basis.

If managers spend all of their time focusing on the one or two underperforming team members, the emotional engagement of those employees performing satisfactorily may be affected.

This is when ad-hoc positive performance management becomes so important. It doesn’t cost anything, and it goes directly towards driving emotional engagement. 

Ad-hoc positive performance management is specific, immediate, personal and spontaneous.

It needs to be regularly applied but balanced – often enough to be effective, but rare enough to be appreciated. A general rule of thumb is for managers to try to find someone doing something right every day and let them know.

So before you reach for your next PIP or warning letter, get your managers to try some of the above and you will create a better performing and engaged workforce.

Luis Izzo is director, workplace relations at Australian Business Lawyers (ABLA). Serving business and only business, this legal and advisory firm is trusted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and is the leading voice for industry in the Fair Work Commission. If you need to review your performance management processes or would like to explore tailored training for your managers, contact Luis on 02 9458 7640 or