Performance Management: How To Train Employee - 8 essential tips

Piers Murray
November 24, 2008 — 3,604 views  
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Performance management and employee training done badly can cause misery, failure and frustration for everyone concerned. Done well it can create a culture of accomplishment and skyrocket an organization's success. It can make or break a career too!

Are you looking for some key tips to guide you in tackling this crucial area?

Here are eight to get you started:

    TIP 1 - use a combination of activities

For best results, regularly employ a variety of different performance management and training activities and settings - one-on-one coaching, group coaching, reviews, formal group training and presentations, group and individual exercises and activities. Done right, the cumulative effect of various activities and angles will have a far greater impact than the sum total of its individual elements.

    TIP 2 - cut activities that don't add value

The flip-side of the above is to be ruthless in assessing your activities and acting on that assessment. Be prepared to change or cut any elements which, in the cold light of day, aren't truly contributing to your goals and needs, to make room for those that do. This applies even more so to any outside training or courses that you source, or any activities which take a lot of time or money. Training and performance management should be a very high priority, not for their own sake, but because of the result they deliver.

    TIP 3 - training is nothing without follow-up and implementation

Speaking of results, it is not enough simply to provide the training or coaching and hope it will work.

When I was a new to my first management job, my team got sent on a training course. A couple of weeks later, the company's national CFO (soon in fact to become CEO) dropped by and put me on the spot. He wanted me to show him examples of what my team had been doing differently as a result of the training. I started to mumble some nonsense. "What is the most important part of training?", he asked me. "Implementation", I answered, knowing I was caught out.

If you have training without strong follow up, you are almost certainly wasting time and money. If people don't make changes in response to the training immediately, or at least within a couple of weeks, old habits will hold fast and the training will soon be lost and forgotten in the turmoil of day-to-day business.

Always make sure your people have the chance - no, the imperative - to put the changes into practice immediately after it's finished. Always follow up to make sure this happens. If this is difficult, for example if the training concerns certain situations that your employees only encounter on rare occasions, then you'll need to contrive some sort of follow-up where they can act on the training soon after.

    TIP 4 - make your examples practical

For the same reason, your training and performance management exercises should use examples that relate closely to the real-life situations which your people will encounter. There is a place, too, for the more abstract or quirky examples to illustrate points, but these should all ultimately lead back into scenarios where your group or employee will be able to apply the learning for real.

    TIP 5 - have clear goals

Performance management and training is for a purpose - to create change, drive improvement, to meet your goals, whatever they may be.

Make sure you are clear on your goals and that the people you are managing or training are clear on them too. Agree with them a specific (quantified, if possible) outcome that you both hope and expect to achieve as a result. Often this is easy, for example if relating to performance against simple sales targets or such like. Other times, desired change and outcomes can be broader, for example when managing performance in a small business where employee roles are multi-faceted. But for best effect you must be specific about what you're looking to achieve.

    TIP 6 - agree SMART goals

It may be a cliché, but make sure the goals you set yourself and your employees are SMART. That is: - Specific (as just discussed). - Measurable - so that you will know when it has been achieved. - Agreed - your people are unlikely to bring about the successful outcome you want unless they "buy into" the goal. - Realistic - because we're expecting to achieve these goals, right? - Time-bound - know when you're aiming to have it complete.

Set your sights high and yet don't invite failure by being unrealistic. As one small goal after another is hit successfully, increase pace and momentum. Be aware of your team's level of ability and confidence and stretch them accordingly.

When you've got a high-performing employee or team, it's not time to relax but to coax them on to greater success.

When dealing with underperformance, often managers panic and either tolerate low standards or demand an impossibly fast turnaround. Neither is the answer. Setting the right expectations with achievable, measurable steps back to target, with strong review and follow up is nearly always what's required.

    TIP 7 - useful lessons from learning psychology

Research into learning psychology points to a few principles of effective learning which are worth noting in relation to training and performance management.

One is that repetition. If you're following tips 1 and 3 you've probably got this covered.

Another is participation / interaction, which indicates that one-way, lecture-style training is usually not the best way to have the desired impact.

Thirdly, emotional response is another contributor to learning retention. So stories, humour or surprise can be useful tools in training. However, it is possible to go too far with this - don't let it overshadow the message itself.

Fourthly, you may have come across the idea that people vary in the way they naturally receive information best - audio, visual or kinaesthetic being the main categories. There are all sorts of complicated recommendations that different people make as a result of this research. However, a highly effective key takeaway is simply always to have some sort of visual aid when training or presenting, even if it is a couple of short written bullet-points. Just the mere fact that there is something to look at noticeably improves people's retention, especially for the high proportion of your audience who will be visually inclined.

    TIP 8 - Bringing it all together

Have long term and short term goals for your performance management activities. Your short term goals should feed into your long term ones.

Over time this allows you to build and improve effective methods of approaching each of the core functions within performance management and employee training. The same challenges and opportunities are likely to arise regularly with employee induction, for example. Likewise with particular areas of the continual development you provide for existing team members at different levels. Even with remedying problems or underperforming employees you'll almost certainly find certain issues coming up repeatedly.

Use these key recurring situations to develop effective performance management that you can use again and again.

About the Author

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Piers Murray