Two Powerful Ways to Boost Personnel Performance
by Adele Sommers
Is there a standard cure for every achievement gap? When your organization detects areas it wants to improve, it’s critical to prescribe the right remedy for each situation. Otherwise, it’s very tempting to view every symptom as a nail just because you happen to have a hammer handy!
This article explores two ways (of many) to close achievement gaps using 1) training to increase employees’ job knowledge and skills, and 2) organizational tune-ups to banish “burning hassles” and eliminate obstacles that hinder staff productivity.
Training: A Powerful Solution When Appropriate
Training is the “how-to” information that people need to perform effectively on the job. (This, of course, presumes that the employees’ talents are a good fit for their job responsibilities. If not, a job reassignment might be in order.) People usually need training when they:
- Are brand new on the job
- Need to develop proficiency on new or more advanced procedures
- Require a brush-up on industry changes, or
- Need to refresh forgotten skills
How do you know whether people already possess the job knowledge they need? Dr. Robert Mager suggests that if people would be able to perform their jobs if their lives depended on it, it means they already have the know-how to do those jobs. Instead, they might need more practice, information, or resources, such as:
- A clearer understanding of what is expected of them. For example, they might need better access to, or more knowledge of, standards that would tell them exactly how well to perform the work in each case. This is critical in industries in which several layers of rules and regulations govern the quality requirements for various types of processes.
- Electronic support systems that provide many procedural details, data entry tools, calculations, and even expert advice — especially crucial for complex, rapidly changing industries.
- Supervised practice and feedback. Supervised practice can significantly enhance the proficiency and effectiveness of your personnel when it includes timely, constructive feedback.
- Just-in-time facilitated workshops. This approach combines training and live practice, using the participants’ job-related projects as case studies. The workshops reinforce what participants are learning by helping them apply the new skills directly to their jobs.
Organizational Tune-ups: Removing Obstacles to Success
If people fully know how to do their jobs but still aren’t producing as desired, more training is most likely not the answer. Instead, look for obstacles impeding their progress. You can involve everyone in the work group in identifying the obstacles, and then prioritize them for correction, as explained here.
Consider this quote from Robert Bacal on the subject of workplace obstacles:
“Poor managers create workplace hassles for everyone. Average managers neither create nor reduce workplace hassles, while excellent managers reduce hassles for themselves and their employees.
“Simply put, poor managers are always creating ways to shoot everyone’s feet off, the average ones just use the usual ways of shooting feet off, and excellent managers want to stop the amputations.”
Consider that system-level snafus (rather than worker ineptness) tend to account for about 85% of poor organizational performance, according to W. Edwards Deming. To counteract these ubiquitous hindrances, try pursuing proactive solutions, such as those listed below:
1. Troubleshoot any clogged communications that delay or distort important broadcasts. These could be dragging down both productivity and morale. When you communicate via meetings, use agendas and summaries to avoid meeting hassles and ensure that non-attendees receive the recaps as quickly as possible.
2. Identify missing information, such as nonexistent, incomplete, outdated, or inaccurate meeting summaries, procedures, standards, schedules, facts, or data needed to do a job. Supply the information as quickly as possible, and be sure to maintain it regularly.
3. Be alert for poor cooperation from managers, peers, or suppliers. And by all means, please don’t “shoot the messenger” when people report these problems!
4. Investigate any absent or inadequate tools, equipment, resources, space, lighting, supplies, or any inherent constraints in the workflow that would naturally limit the rate of throughput. Such conditions can seriously reduce the ability to do one’s job.
5. Flag uncalibrated machines or uncontrolled processes that may be causing unnecessary variability in product quality. These issues are often beyond the individual worker’s control.
6. Uncover overly complex procedures that can be simplified, automated, or even eliminated. The simpler you can make your processes, the better!
7. Correct any work environments or conditions that are problematic or unsafe. Do everything possible to avoid accidents and liability concerns.
8. Recognize where task support ought to be coming from supervision, job aids, quick reference guides, or online assistance. If it’s missing, supply it!
9. Look for and reduce extreme work pressure due to unattainable deadlines or workloads. People can’t sustain their productivity under these conditions.
10. Be sure people have regular, complete feedback on work-related quality, including timely access to data about customer desires and concerns.
11. Sort out any conflicting priorities or directions coming from management, especially when people work on multiple projects. Also be sure that people have the authority as well as the responsibility to do what’s expected of them.
12. Align consequences in the organization. This includes ensuring that no one discourages people from doing what needs to be done, while also encouraging the behaviors, actions, attitudes, and results that you do want to see.
In conclusion, if people have true skill deficiencies or not enough job practice, you would remedy those through training and/or more task practice. But if they already know how to do their jobs and yet are still facing roadblocks, you would perform an organizational tune-up to get rid of the headaches!
Copyright 2016 Adele Sommers