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Why it helps to define what good staff performance actually looks like  

Staff performance and appraisal
Appraisals help managers and employees stay on track with good performance

From a weekly health check to project management software, staff performance is at the forefront of the agenda for Love Energy Savings and Smarter Digital Marketing as the two businesses look to make their workforces more productive. 

There is a clear link between getting employees to perform better and an uplift in productivity. But what does this mean in reality? How do you define what good or better performance is and, crucially, measure the improvement? We talked to two business leaders who believe they have found an answer. 

A story involving a company turning to rags doesn’t normally inspire growth and optimism. However, energy comparison site Love Energy Savings is somewhat different. Managing director Phil Foster has introduced a daily staff performance review, under the moniker “RAG”. 

It is short for red, amber and green, and involves each employee being given a sales goal they need to work to each month. The RAG status rating system gives an indication of where someone is in terms of meeting that goal.  

“If you’re in the red, what do you need to do to get yourself back into the green?” said Foster. “In terms of support, how can we help you to achieve your aims?”  

Open, transparent and honest

The RAG ratings also form a “weekly health check”, where managers sit down with their team-member, a one-on-one basis, and have a chat about how they’re performing, whether they’re on target, and figure out how they can help them hit their marks.  

Then, at the end of the month, staff have a more formal one-on-one appraisal with a manager, which lasts from 45 minutes to an hour.  

“What’s important to stress is that this system is about being open, transparent and honest,” stated Foster. “We have a sophisticated appraisal system in place in order that small issues don’t become much larger ones. If a member of staff takes one step over a line you’ve drawn in the sand, it’s easy to bring them back if you spot it quickly.  

“If they’re taking ten, 15 or 20 steps over the line, then it becomes a much harder situation to manage. We’re lucky in that the atmosphere at Love Energy Savings is really conducive to constant coaching. And we don’t just mean formal coaching, it’s about seeking and receiving guidance from team briefings, from your neighbour, or even over a sandwich with a teammate in the staff canteen.”  

In terms of defining what good staff performance looks like, Foster said it is simply “black and white” at his business. “We set monthly goals relating to the number of new customers brought into the business, every team is aligned to this and has access to reports to understand where they are against the target,” he added.  

Unless you’re a brand-new recruit still in the induction period, every staff member has exactly the same target to work to. We don’t shift the goalposts and it’s vital everyone in the organisation is clear about their responsibilities. So good performance for us simply means hitting those targets consistently and helping the company to grow.” 

Of course, not everyone will meet these targets. If not, Foster said they will be offered extra group tuition or coaching.  

Improving employee satisfaction

“For us, performance management is about making sure people know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. And that’s not just for the company’s benefit, that’s for the benefit of the individual, too,” he said. “When a new member of staff joins they undergo six weeks of training before they actually begin. Two weeks of that training is classroom based, as they get to grips with the real fundamentals of the role. We believe that if a new member of staff goes into a job lacking confidence, it’ll show in the work they do, and the business will then have to shoulder the responsibility of poor performance.” 

This focus on performance management is paying benefit with regards to staff turnover rates and employee satisfaction. “We have a ‘Glassdoor’ rating of 4.8 out of 5 and I’d hope that speaks volumes about how we both prepare our staff for a long-term career and then nurture them every step of the way,” he added. “Communication is vital. We want to make sure everyone is aligned and swimming in the same direction. We want employees to strive to be the best, to continue their career progression, whether that’s becoming an assistant manager or being the lead sales generator.”  

Task suitability

Brian Lonsdale has chosen a technological solution to improve and measure staff performance at his SEO firm Smarter Digital Marketing 

Managing director Lonsdale explained the group has invested in project management software to aid the process. “The system we use helps you monitor how many hours employees work on a particular task and how long it took them to complete it. They can add a description onto the system outlining what they have done during their working time,” he added. “We begin with a checklist outlining the tasks we are going to give each employee, alongside who is working on a project, and we can then see how they are performing at each point up until the point it is eventually completed. It helps us to see how productive they are being and how efficiently they are working.” 

Lonsdale told us the system is reviewed daily to keep an eagle eye on performance. “By carrying out regular reviews it helps you to see what tasks are best suited to which employee. So, if someone takes 45 minutes to do some keyword research whilst others take over an hour, we know we should give them that type of task again,” he added. “Conversely, we can see which tasks not to give certain people the next time.” He believes the staff performance system has made a fundamental difference to productivity. 

“You can track everything and see where performance is struggling, or projects are being delayed,” he went on to say. “Employees have adapted to the system quite well and as it has led to better work outcomes it means happier customers as well. I think it is vital for businesses to have a management system in place to better monitor performance. You need to involve you employees because if everyone knows what is going on it will help overall productivity.” 

Think you might not be reviewing staff performance enough? Use our benchmark tool to find out where you sit.

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