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5 Workplace Issues That Affect Employee Productivity

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Are you wondering whether your workforce could become more productive? It’s time to examine the key factors, like company culture and interpersonal relationships, that influence an employee’s ability to maintain peak performance.

Any employee concerns naturally affect productivity, from interpersonal challenges to the availability of training. Any issues that cause stress for employees can affect their mental and physical wellbeing, undermining their ability to perform at their best, according to the World Health Organization.

Let’s examine the five leading issues that can affect work performance.

Managerial Skills

Having a capable manager helps employees to work more effectively. Skilled managers know when to trust employees to carry out tasks effectively rather than micromanaging them. Having a higher level of control over how they execute their work increases employees’ mental health and overall wellbeing.

Great managers also check in with employees periodically, providing the coaching they need to complete a project to the best of their ability. Having a strong relationship with a manager enhances employees’ confidence and reduces stress dramatically as they know they can always turn to their boss with questions.


When people don’t feel overworked, they make fewer errors and do their job better, research has found. That’s a big reason why factory owners reduced the workday to eight hours in the 19th century. As employees grow tired, their productivity decreases dramatically. Alleviating a heavy workload can help an employee complete tasks more effectively. They’ll rest and enjoy their downtime more when they’re able to leave work on time, returning refreshed the next day.

If employees feel overworked, provide time-management training to help them learn how to work most efficiently. Also, talk with each employee one-on-one to assess their responsibilities and decide whether to reassign, postpone, or eliminate any of them. Employees will feel valued when you take the time to help them balance their workload and priorities.

Communication and Relationships

Strong interpersonal relationships between team members and people in other departments help tasks and projects to flow more smoothly. With strong communication, people stay on the same page about project objectives, deadlines, and details, clearing up any concerns that arise as quickly as possible. Stress plummets when people enjoy working with one another as well. Thus, building strong relationships across the workplace can noticeably increase employee productivity.

Working to create a positive workplace culture will encourage individual employees to develop good relationships with one another. When they see leaders and HR staff sharing gratitude with others regularly, they’ll adopt the same attitude. 

Level of Support in Their Growth

Having the training and resources to advance in their careers keeps employees working hard to excel. This support enhances their job skills and keeps them enthusiastic about performing at their best because they can envision a bright future for themselves with your company. 

“Highly engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above-average productivity,” Forbes notes. Deloitte advises offering self-directed learning options as well as real-time feedback from leaders. A software program with self-guided learning modules, combined with frequent feedback and mentoring, can strengthen performance immensely. By providing employees with the training they need to increase their job responsibility, you’ll keep them highly engaged and maximize productivity.

Clarity on Goals and Objectives

Having clarity about the company’s overall goals and vision will bolster engagement and help employees work more effectively as a team. Everyone should understand the purpose behind what they do each day. This clarity will greatly increase both morale and productivity. 

All employees need to have clarity about their individual goals and objectives, too. This will help them to prioritize effectively—a key element of time management that will boost their productivity. Managers should check in with employees regularly to make sure they understand their current priorities as well as long-term goals. They should also communicate the company vision clearly so that everyone can work as an effective team to achieve it.

Address any potential issues that arise in these areas, and you’ll have the most productive workforce possible. You’ll see motivation and morale increase across your team or organization as people become happier and less stressed (read this post to learn why happy employees are more productive). Train managers across the organization to take action in these key areas, and you’ll also notice increased commitment, loyalty, and job satisfaction.

Deloitte, “The Employee Experience: Culture, Engagement, and Beyond”

Entrepreneur, “Ways to Improve Employee Productivity”

Forbes, “Train Your Employees and Increase Your Bottom Line”

Huffington Post, “3 Scientifically Backed Reasons Why Working Less Leads to More Productivity”

Inc., “3 Effective Ways to Increase Your Employee Productivity”

World Health Organization, “Mental Health in the Workplace”

Why Happy Employees Are More Productive

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Happiness and high productivity go hand in hand. Think about the happy employees in your current or past workplace. Are they more driven, energetic, friendly, and engaged? Chances are, yes. And all those qualities make them more effective at their jobs.

Happy employees handle challenges better and contribute more to their organizations. A study by the University of Warwick found that happiness makes employees about 12% more productive. Thus, creating a work environment that promotes happiness in all employees will also boost your bottom line.

Why Happiness = High Productivity

Happiness increases employees’ level of satisfaction in their jobs, and even their capabilities, in multiple ways. Let’s dive into the five main reasons why happy employees are more productive.

Higher levels of engagement

Happy employees are more engaged in their work. In turn, their high levels of engagement mean they bring more energy, passion, and innovation to their jobs. Currently, only a third of American employees say they’re engaged in their work, meaning most companies have much room to improve in that area. Highly engaged employees take more ownership of their own growth because they have a passion for excelling at what they do.

Increased retention rates

Because retention rates increase dramatically for happy employees, those workers often know their jobs extremely well. They’re likely to stay at their company for years, giving them the chance to gradually increase their responsibilities and learn the most effective ways to carry out their work. They can train and coach others who are learning the ropes, which maximizes their value to their company.

Better health

Happier employees tend to feel better physically and mentally, which means they always bring their A-game and take fewer sick days. They have more mental clarity and energy, allowing them to work more efficiently and generate creative solutions to problems. 

Stronger interpersonal abilities 

Happy employees also provide better customer service, and they’re more pleasant to interact with for clients, coworkers, and supervisors alike. These interpersonal abilities make them more effective team players who listen and communicate well with others. Employees with an optimistic outlook are more likely to welcome feedback as they feel confident they can use constructive criticism to improve. 

Propensity to seize the day

Because happier employees believe in themselves and feel supported, they tend to jump on new opportunities. Their optimistic outlook leads them to spot such opportunities rather than letting them pass by unnoticed, and their self-confidence guides them to take chances. This belief in themselves pushes them to reach new heights in their career, which in turn increases their satisfaction in their jobs and their overall happiness.

Together, all these factors foster a more harmonious and energized company culture. The happier your employees become, the stronger your company culture.

How to Create a Happier Workplace 

To be genuinely fulfilled by their jobs and happy at work, employees need to feel that their company is fully supporting their growth and that their career is flourishing. Here are key ingredients to developing the drive and engagement that makes people happy at work:

  • Connect each of your employees with a career mentor to give them the personalized support they need. According to a survey by CNBC and Survey Monkey, nine out of ten employees with a career mentor feel fulfilled by their jobs. 
  • Encourage employees to unplug during lunchtime and other breaks to fully recharge. Spending time away from email and off their phones will help them get the most from breaks. Talking with friends over lunch or taking a tech-free walk will leave everyone feeling more refreshed.
  • Recognize employees’ hard work, which can boost happiness, engagement, and productivity by 14%.

Actions to Take Now: 

Here are a few ideas you can start implementing today to create a happier workplace:

  • Present a weekly mini-workshop on an aspect of work-life balance. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of each week sharing a tip for boosting energy by recharging effectively or managing time well.
  • Ask each employee whether they feel adequately challenged by their current projects. If they don’t, delegate a higher level of responsibility to them (along with the appropriate support). 
  • Implement a reverse mentoring program, in which newer and more seasoned employees share valuable advice with one another. That way, experienced employees will serve as career mentors to newer ones while getting something in return (like social media expertise). 
  • Give specific praise for a job well done. Encourage managers to give real-time praise each day for smaller accomplishments, and give public recognition for larger achievements.
  • Plan a group volunteering activity to encourage everyone to deepen their friendships with coworkers.

Developing a culture of trust will boost happiness by encouraging people to speak up about their needs. Taking all these steps will also make employees feel more valued, which in turn will promote job satisfaction and happiness. You’ll create a positive feedback loop that continues to increase happiness and productivity throughout your organization!

CNBC, “Nine in 10 Workers Who Have a Career Mentor Say They Are Happy in Their Jobs”

Deloitte, “Recognition Programs--Are They Important?”

Entrepreneur, “How 'Clock-Changer' Employees Can Help Increase Your Bottom Line”

Forbes, “Employees Need Purpose More Than Pay to Be Happy and Productive”
Forbes, “Promoting Employee Happiness Benefits Everyone”

Harvard Business Review, “4 Ways to Help Your Team Avoid Digital Distractions”

Harvard Business Review, “Positive Intelligence”

Harvard Business Review, “We All Need Friends at Work”

SHRM, “Considering Reverse Mentoring? Check Out These Tips

TLNT, “Happy Employees Are Good for Business”

University of Warwick, “New Study Shows We Work Harder when We Are Happy”

6 Common Pain Points in Performance Reviews, and How to Address Them

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Many employees and managers alike feel stressed at the thought of an upcoming performance review. However, when performance reviews are done right, they can provide a welcome opportunity for candid conversation, active listening, and real growth. After you address these key pain points that might be affecting your process, your employees will look forward to their next performance review.


Today, many organizations still hold performance reviews only once or twice a year. However, employees want—and often demand—real-time feedback. Millennials and Gen Z’ers expect continuous input on their performance; not a yearly or bi-yearly evaluation. As organizations grow more agile, performance reviews need to catch up.

What to do: Give employees the support they need to grow by holding performance reviews on an ongoing basis—say, once every two months or once per quarter. In between, give plenty of advice and encouragement as well. Giving them real-time feedback will help them to understand exactly what they need to improve in the moment, along with the specific things they’re doing well. Feedback is much easier to understand when you speak to these specifics rather than making more general statements.

One-way feedback

In the traditional performance review, the advice goes one way—manager to employee. This automatically positions employees on the defensive and ignores the value of their insights.

What to do: Make performance reviews a two-way street in order to show how much you value your people’s input. Set aside time in each review for employees to share insights on their own performance. Ask them to describe their own highs and lows, and what would help them improve their performance. Additionally, ask questions to determine the root of any problems employees are facing. That will help you to more fully understand the challenges they’re encountering and how you can help them to grow.

Using a poor rating system

Most managers benefit from training on how to evaluate employees in their reviews. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), common forms of bias often influence how managers rank people:

  • The recency effect: Managers may weight more recent occurrences more heavily than those that happened closer to the beginning of the review period.
  • Reluctance to differentiate: Due to lack of confidence or poor understanding of the rating criteria they should be using, managers may rate everyone similarly—whether good, bad, or in-between. 
  • The “horns and halos” effect: If employees perform extremely well or poorly in one area, the manager may view them as extremely competent or incompetent in all areas.

What to do: Ask HR staff to provide a workshop or one-on-one feedback sessions on how to evaluate employees fairly, so every employee will get an accurate performance review that truly benefits them. Looking at specific examples from recent performance reviews, explain the criteria you used and listen to HR managers’ input on where you could improve your accuracy. Establishing formal criteria that managers can use in their reviews will provide guidance for all supervisors who are learning how to fairly evaluate employees.

Focusing on the negative

Too often, both employers and managers dread performance reviews because they perceive them as focusing on the negative. No one likes delivering bad news—let alone receiving it.

What to do: Focus forward. Be a supportive coach who works with employees to determine the stepping stones that will bring them to the next level of growth. Set clear benchmarks and goals and recognize both the smaller and larger goals they’ve accomplished over the past performance period. Work to discover what will best motivate individual employees, such as new learning resources or a shift in the organizational culture. Taking these steps will help keep employees engaged and committed to improving their own performance, while giving them the tools to do so.

Blindsiding employees 

Managers often blindside employees by providing feedback that they never saw coming instead of speaking more in-depth about issues both sides are well aware of.

What to do: In addition to giving feedback early and often, tell employees the key points you want to discuss in the review. Send an email with a short list of issues you plan to talk about. This will give them time to prepare their own thoughts instead of feeling caught off guard. Ask employees to think about which key aspects of their performance they want to discuss, too. That way, employees will get feedback about how to handle any challenges they are encountering--and you might learn about new strengths they have developed.

Relying on memory

Your memory is not likely to provide accurate details about all the key issues you need to discuss with your people. By relying on their memory, managers do employees a disservice, often providing vague feedback.

What to do: Keep an ongoing log of each employee’s challenges, accomplishments, and efforts toward growth. Jot down the results of projects, examples of how specific skills need improvement, and how they have overcome hurdles. Employees will feel deeply valued when they see how closely you’re paying attention, and you’ll be able to provide them with a much more thorough review.

Once you revamp your process to focus more on motivating employees and providing consistent feedback, you’ll notice newfound value and relevance in the performance review. In turn, employees will recognize that performance reviews don’t center on finding fault with their work but rather on working together to create a plan for their growth. Instead of dreading these reviews, they’ll start looking forward to them and getting proactive about preparing their own talking points!

American Management Association, “The Dos and Don’ts of Performance Reviews”

Robert Half, “15 Performance Review Tips to Usher in a New Era”

The Society for Human Resource Management, “Managing Employee Performance”

TLNT, “The Top 5 Pain Points in Performance Reviews (and How to Solve Them)”

Are Your Employees Overworked? Here’s How to Know and What to Do

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Most managers don’t set out to overwork their employees. By encouraging their top talent to take on more responsibilities, they may believe they’re pushing their team to fulfill their potential.

However, people can reach a tipping point where being pushed no longer furthers their growth but instead holds them back.

We’re now witnessing an epidemic of overworked employees. Gallup has found that two-thirds of American workers feel burned out regularly in their jobs.

Being overworked affects the whole organization, as well as the employees themselves, in these key ways:

  • Decreasing quality of work.
  • Preventing strategic thinking.
  • Driving top talent away.
  • Creating significant health problems and stress.
  • Hindering employees’ growth by preventing them from actively pursuing new learning opportunities or higher-level projects. 
In most cases, being overworked results from the organizational culture. In other words, it’s not an individual problem—it’s an organizational one.  

Here are a few key signs of overworked employees that every HR manager should watch out for:

  • People routinely work overtime.
  • Employees often seem emotional and on-edge. 
  • The quality of work is decreasing.
  • People are frequently getting sick.
  • Turnover is increasing.

“There is a difference between a marathon and a sprint,” Entrepreneur points out. Occasional weeks with overtime may be necessary, but if working extra hours becomes the norm, that’s a problem.

How can you prevent your employees from becoming overworked? 

1. Negotiate responsibilities. 

  First, keep employees apprised of projects in the pipeline so they can consider how 
  they could contribute to them. Second, instead of just assigning new responsibilities to 
  employees, ask if they can handle the additional workload. If the new demands seem 
  too extensive, design strategies for sharing the workload, like dispersing tasks 
  between several people or hiring a contract worker. 

  Agree on deadlines together, too, rather than simply assigning them. Encourage employees
  to speak up if they need to renegotiate a deadline.

2. Teach time-management and stress-reduction skills.

  Feeling stressed or managing time poorly decreases productivity substantially. Offer 
  workshops on honing these vital skills, and coach team leaders on how to instill them in their 
  people. For example, at the beginning of meetings, leaders might initiate a quick check-in 
  about employees’ experience with using a new time-management technique. 

3. Avoid collaboration overload.

  Today’s workplace focuses heavily on collaboration. This can drive results when 
  people genuinely bring complementary skills to a project, but collaboration for 
  collaboration’s sake saps productivity. It can also make a task or project unnecessarily 
  complex, leading to collaboration overload. Encourage people to cut down on needless 
  meetings and to ask themselves if they could work more efficiently as individuals or a team on 
  particular projects.

4. Help people identify their priorities.

  Lack of clarity on responsibilities and goals can cause employees to overwork themselves
  to meet all priorities.

  According to the 80/20 rule, people should spend 80% of their time on the 20% of 
  their tasks that hold the greatest importance. Help employees identify their top three 
  priorities so they’ll know what to focus on. This will help prevent employees from becoming 
  overwhelmed, while boosting morale by making goals feel more achievable.

5. Cultivate a culture of care.

  Self-care is a key trait of effective employees, but all too often, it goes overlooked. Make
  self-care a key component of performance assessments to instill a culture of caring for
  one’s needs.

  Encourage employees to occasionally take a day off if they feel mentally exhausted. They might
  feel that they’re not supposed to take a day off if they’re not physically ill, and reassuring them
  that it’s okay to do so once in a while can make a big difference.

  By the same token, stop celebrating the tendency to overwork. Rather than celebrating
  employees for staying late and coming in early, tell them you’re concerned about their work
  habits and ask how you can help them balance their priorities.

6. Provide special accommodations.

Microsoft knows the importance of offering special conveniences that boost productivity. The
  organization offers a company-owned bus called the Connector that takes many employees in
  the Puget Sound area to work. En route, they can use the onboard wi-fi and outlets to work
  during the commute.

While you may not be able to offer a private bus line to your employees, giving them other
  conveniences can help reduce stress and boost efficiency. Cater to your employees’ needs
  —quite literally—by offering meals when they’re asked to work overtime. Allow them to work
  from home to complete their responsibilities during a busy week. Consider adding an in-house
  daycare service if you have many employees with young children.

7. Use goal-tracking tools.

Goal-tracking software helps people to steadily move toward their goals by following a clear
  timeline. Such programs can help employees develop a time-management plan and focus on
  their goals in a structured way. Give your team access to such tools to encourage them to stay
  on track and minimize distractions. As a manager, these tools will also help you keep track of
  how much responsibility each of your direct reports has taken on, to ensure that your people are
  not being overworked. When you need to assign a new task, you’ll have solid information about
  what each employee is currently working on.

 These proven strategies for avoiding burnout will help your talented employees maximize their   productivity. Your staff will also find more time for developing their potential by taking advantage
 of learning opportunities, reflecting on their long-range plans, and thinking strategically. As a result,   you’ll have a workforce of people who are ready to hit the ground running every day, bringing their   best ideas and effort!


Entrepreneur, “5 Signs That You’re Overworking Your Employees”

Forbes, “Effective Ways Employers Can Prevent Overworking Their Workforce”

Gallup, “Employee Burnout”

Harvard Business Review, “Employee Burnout Is a Problem with the Company, Not the Employee”

Mobility Lab, “Buses Fuel the Core of Microsoft’s Aggressive Employee-Commute Program”

Neil Patel, “How to Prevent Employee Burnout”

The Society for Human Resource Management, “How to Prevent Employee Burnout”

Washington Post, “Working More Than 55 Hours a Week Is Bad for You--in Many Ways”

5 Strategies to Retain Your Top Talent

Thursday, June 27, 2019

In 2019, talent retention is a key concern for most employers. Today’s job market is an employee’s market – top talent enjoys numerous opportunities. This means you need to put extra effort into making your organization a special place to work.

In our previous article, we discussed how to find top talent in this competitive market. Now, these five strategies will help you retain your most talented employees.

1. Provide a positive work environment. 

Instilling a warm office vibe will help keep everyone in a good mood, which boosts engagement. Here are a few little things that go a long way:

  • Give employees a warm hello as they come into the office in the morning.
  • Drop by to ask if they have the support they need for a project.
  • Point out people’s strengths regularly, even in casual conversation.

Offer little perks in the physical environment that also make it an inviting space. Here are a few ideas:

  • Have an open office design? Add meeting room pods within larger spaces to promote privacy.
  • Create cozy seating areas where employees can work or chat. Switching between different inviting workspaces can help people stay mentally refreshed throughout the day.
  • Provide a healthy snack bar and offer attractive reusable mugs and plates.

2. Offer excellent benefits. 

Benefits like the following enhance the positive workplace culture you’re striving to create, showing how much you value your people:

  • Flexible schedules
  • The opportunity to telecommute
  • Subsidized transportation expenses
  • Gym memberships
  • Great healthcare options
  • Ample paid vacation time

Encourage employees to use all of their paid vacation time. According to SHRM, 54% of U.S. employees didn’t use all their vacation days in 2016, up by 12 percentage points from 2013. 


“Because they fear falling behind (34%) or believe that no one else can step in while they are away (30%); 21% felt they can never be truly disconnected, and 22% wanted to show how dedicated they are to their job,” SHRM explains.

Create a culture that underscores how taking vacation days benefits the whole company, emphasizing, “We want you to recharge!” 

 Not sure what your employees want? Ask them directly!

3. Foster open communication. 

Transparency is key to building integrity and strong relationships. Employees will feel they can play a key role in the business when they’re clued into the overall company vision and important decisions. Solicit input about key changes in the works and tell employees why they’re happening. 

If adapting an employee’s role, ask them what training and support they’ll need to excel in the new position, for example. If implementing a new system, ask your employees if they anticipate any particular challenges. Get their ideas for solving any issues that may arise. Taking these steps will encourage employees to feel more invested in actively managing the issues their team is facing.  

4. Make them feel appreciated.  

Praise and a simple ‘thank you’ for specific ways people have contributed to a project go a long way. Celebrate milestones like an employer’s work anniversary, birthday, or completion of a training program.

Here are a few ideas for making people feel valued:
  • Congratulate a member of your team in front of your own boss or another company leader.
  • Mention people’s key contributions in meetings.
  • CC an employee on an email with senior leaders to thank them for their role in a project.
  • Hold a special celebration for a project’s culmination and thank the key players publicly. 
  Be specific when giving praise so that employees know you’re really paying attention. 

5. Design a personal development plan for each employee. 

Work with each individual to create a plan based on their goals and dreams. They may already have solid ideas for these goals, or you might make suggestions based on their interests and aspirations. Ask if they’re interested in making any career transitions so you can support their growth in the direction they ultimately want to go.

Here are a few key points for designing this plan:

  • Map out a timeline for achieving these goals and specific objectives along the way.
  • Lay out the tools the employee can use to get there. Provide opportunities to learn and grow, like training, conferences, and certificate programs. 
  • Decide on an online goal-tracking tool that you and your employees can use to measure their progress. 
  • Review the employee’s progress at a monthly one-on-one meeting.

Taking these steps will help ensure employees can envision themselves with your company years down the road.

Ultimately, you want your employees to be happy. Satisfied employees are more engaged and motivated, and they see a future for themselves with your company. By cultivating a positive environment and supporting their growth and wellbeing in the ways described here, you’ll help employees to find deep fulfillment in their daily work and to see a clear path for moving up through the ranks!


Stand Out to Attract New Talent!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

In this day and age, opinions circulate on social media like wildfire. This means it’s easier than ever for potential employees to find out what it’s like to work at a company with a quick glimpse. But what do they see when they look at your company?

The prevalence of online reviews from current and future employees means you need to make sure you stand out in a positive way. This holds especially true today – with the unemployment rate at just 3.6%, talented employees have numerous options.

But what can you do to make sure your company stands out from the crowd?

Take Charge of Your Online Reputation

What are people saying about your organization on websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed? Social media platforms are often the first place candidates turn to learn about a company, so you can’t afford to dismiss your online reputation.
  • Do a deep audit of your reputation. Comb through your entire website and social media platforms, examining every piece of content that projects an image of your workplace environment. Look through old blog and social media posts. Check the search results for your company to see what turns up. Then, remove material that no longer shares the current face of your brand.
  • Prompt satisfied employees to write online reviews. People who have negative feedback are much more likely to leave reviews, which means you need to get proactive about seeking positive feedback.
  • Share some personality. Create videos that show what it’s truly like to work for your company, through employee testimonials and shots of people performing various job roles. Have your CEO talk about the company’s mission, core values, and brand to help candidates envision what it’s like to be part of the team. When people like and admire the individuals who lead your organization, they’ll feel more compelled to join you.
  • Use strong SEO techniques to boost the rankings of the content that projects your desired image. Write new blog posts using keywords that sum up those qualities. If you’ve found content on other websites that doesn’t create the image you want to project and can’t be removed, the best way to address it is by pushing it further down the search results. Place new blog posts, videos, and other positive material about your current brand in the spotlight.

Gauge the Pulse of Your Organization

Don’t just focus on what’s happening out there – look at what’s happening inside your walls, too. That’s what creates your online reputation.

  • Collect anonymous feedback from your employees via surveys. Use third-party software that guarantees anonymity to encourage honesty.
  • Prompt managers to have one-on-one interviews with their employees to solicit ideas for improvement. It doesn’t have to be formal – invite them to have coffee or lunch as they share their input. This will help make them feel valued.
  • If you identify a particular area in need of improvement, consider holding a focus group discussion. Gather a group of employees together to brainstorm. You might hold it as a fishbowl-style discussion that a couple of managers listen to but don’t participate in, taking notes.

Remember, satisfaction is not just about salary – according to Glassdoor, 80% of employees would prefer additional benefits to a pay increase.

Continue seeking feedback from employees to boost engagement and satisfaction even after you’ve addressed a pressing problem. “Companies with a formal engagement strategy in place are 67% more likely to improve their revenue per full-time equivalent on a year-over-year basis,” Glassdoor notes.

Take Action!

Now that you have answers, it’s time to take concrete steps to put them into practice. Listening without acting could escalate frustrations, while decisive action shows you truly care about employees’ input and experience.
  • Strive to support your employees by meeting the needs they have voiced. Whether they want more flexible working arrangements or managers who don’t micromanage, create a plan and a timeline for achieving that objective. Communicate the steps that need to be taken to reach the goal so that they know the wheels are in motion. Whether you can implement the change immediately or need to convene a meeting of senior leaders first, your employees will know they’ve been heard.
  • Address criticism as soon as possible, responding to critical posts online. Replying to genuine criticism goes a long way toward framing your company in a positive light. You may not have the answer yet, but you can let people know that you’ve heard them.
  • Produce a company video that brands you in exactly the way you want to appear to prospective employees. Highlight interviews with employees who love their jobs.

That’s the recipe for standing out online. In a nutshell: show employees you care, listen to their input, and take action by publishing posts, podcasts, and videos that frame your company in exactly the way you want candidates to see it! Follow those steps, and you’ll develop a reputation for excellence and recruit the most qualified candidates for your organization.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Databases, Tables, and Calculators by Subject”

Forbes, “Study: 97% Of Business Owners Say Online Reputation Management Is Important--Here's How To Keep Up”

Forbes, “What Employees Really Want at Work”

Glass Door, “50 HR and Recruiting Statistics for 2017”

Neil Patel, “The Definitive Guide to Online Reputation Management”

The Society for Human Resource Management, “2017 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement”

The performance appraisal is just the jumping-off point to your SMART Goals & Objectives

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

After you get feedback in your employee appraisal, improve your performance on a daily basis with these 12 steps.

Congratulations, you’ve survived your year-end review! You might even have received some helpful feedback. The performance appraisal is just the starting point, though. It should guide your plan for the current review period – a plan that you make with your supervisor.

But let’s face it – sometimes supervisors have completely checked out of the appraisal process. Sadly, many bosses just do the bare minimum. If you’re like most employees, you’ve probably had a boss who thought she could spend all of fifteen minutes giving you feedback about the past year. You likely heard a few motivational phrases – “Strong work!” “Keep it up!” – and then it was back to the grindstone.

That doesn’t mean you’re getting a break. It means it’s time to take the reins! The review isn’t just something that benefits the company; it’s for your benefit too. Implement a self-improvement strategy that gives you the tools and guidance you need even if your boss is lax about check-ins and follow-ups.

Or maybe you have a great boss who helps you create a concrete plan and then follows up like a champ. In that case, you’re sure to impress him by taking initiative in these ways!

And hey, as you move up in the company ranks, use this plan with the people you supervise. Your employee retention will soar because they’ll know you’re committed to your people’s self-improvement!

1. Set Performance Goals

Hopefully you’ve done this with your supervisor in your performance appraisal. A good boss knows this is one of the most important parts of her job and relishes these conversations. However, too many supervisors are so honed in on the daily tasks that they completely forget the big picture.

If this is the case, you obviously still need goals. Here are a few tips for setting great ones:
  • Make sure they’re SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
  • Make sure they align with company goals – this is the “relevant” part of “SMART.”
  • Create “stretch goals” that challenge you to step out of your comfort zone.
  • Consider your career plan when setting your goals. If you want to increase your responsibilities to prime yourself for a higher-level role, share that with your boss.
  • Break your goals down into steps and review these objectives with your boss.

This chart from yGraph and InsideGood outlines what makes a goal a SMART goal.

2. Create Development Goals

Development goals are more focused on self-improvement than on the results you’ll get for the company. These are ideally created during the appraisal as well. A good manager will ask you if you’ve made any changes in your career trajectory, while a manager who fails to inquire about your hopes and dreams is demonstrating poor leadership. Today’s up-and-coming leaders expect to be taken seriously as individuals, and contemporary managers are responding.

Either way, check in with yourself on the types of self-improvement you want to make.
The same basic principles apply – they need to be SMART goals as well, and you’ll need to break them down into specific steps.
For example:
  • “I’ll take leadership in a project, showing I can supervise others effectively.”
  • “I’ll become known as an ‘ideas person.’”
  • “I’ll be more assertive at meetings, defending my ideas instead of backing down.”
Use the tools at your disposal, such as web-based performance appraisal platform where both you and your manager can track your professional growth.

3. Impose Order Over Chaos

To move toward your goals efficiently, get organized. A clean work-space and inbox will boost your mental clarity and reinforce the idea that you’re starting a new cycle. We’ve all experienced how a cluttered office leads to a cluttered brain!

4. Pursue Training

Many of us like to think we’re great at teaching ourselves new skills. However, formal training will help you learn more quickly and build confidence. If you don’t already belong to professional associations in your field, join one or two and find out what training they might be offering in your area. Attend seminars or workshops, which will also help you expand your professional network. (Keep in touch with new acquaintances – you never know when a new connection might help your career!).

If you can benefit from taking a course that will help you contribute more, ask your boss if the company will pay for it. A good manager knows that investing in people will boost employee retention--and depending on where you live, there might even be financial support for it. (In Ontario, the government gives employers grants for that purpose, for instance.) Plus, ongoing staff training helps each employee contribute more to the company’s bottom line. Training helps a company stay ahead of the competition on the latest industry changes, promote from within, and hone its team’s effectiveness. It’s a win-win!

5. Ask for Feedback

Ask for feedback often, especially if your boss ascribes to the outdated belief that you should figure everything out on your own. Proactively initiate open conversations about how you can improve. Good bosses welcome this dialogue (and they even want your feedback in turn!). They know today’s employees want consistent evaluation, in stark contrast to the boss of generations past, who might have expected you to forge ahead with zero guidance.
Keep these tips in mind:
  • Don’t just ask your supervisor; ask other people in your department as well as clients you’ve worked with.
  • Tell people about the improvements you’re trying to make, so they can help you gauge your progress.
  • Ask specific questions, not just “How am I doing?”, instead use “What can I improve about my working style?” or “What skills do you think I need to strengthen before stepping into a project manager role?” works much better. 
Taking criticism can be hard, but it’s the only way to find out how you need to improve! 

This chart from Globoforce shows that feedback from peers helps employees better understand where they most need to improve.

6. Cultivate Advocates and Mentors

Once we’ve found mentors and influential people who can advocate for us, we can start making big strides. An advocate can help you make connections with people whom others respect in your organization. A mentor can help you create a long-term plan, figure out if you’ve met your goals, or make more sense of that confusing comment from your boss.

A couple of tips:
  • Think outside the box. You might have a couple of coworkers who can each mentor you in certain areas. You might also find a mentor outside of your company who can help you with long-term strategy. Be open to the opportunities that arise.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for connections. If you’re seeking a career change, maybe your current mentor can pair you with the right person.
  • Meet face-to-face with your mentors and advocates regularly so that everyone stays invested in the relationships. (Pro tip: Remember important details about their lives, like birthdays and kids’ names, so the relationship doesn’t feel one-sided.)
Making more and stronger connections with others increases your influence at work. How can you do this?

7. Expand Your Network at Work

  • Collaborate more with others, as Fast Company suggests. High performers spend up to four more hours a week collaborating with others than the average employee.
  • Join or create a cross-functional team to boost your exposure even more. 
  • Give at least two people a genuine compliment every day especially people you don’t know very well. For instance, after a meeting, go up to someone who had an insightful comment and share why it stood out to you.
  • Ask someone you don’t know very well to grab a cup of coffee or have lunch together once in a while. Tell each other about what you do at work on a daily basis. Then you’ll both know whom to reach out to when you need a particular skill set. 
This will all help you build a coalition of folks who can serve as allies in the future – say, when you’re vying for your next promotion.

8. Grow Your Soft Skills

Ask yourself what soft skills will support you in achieving your goals. For example, honing your communication skills, ability to motivate others, and conflict resolution skills will help make you a stellar team leader. It could mean the difference between totally losing your cool and wigging out on someone, and guiding a conversation that leads the group to new insights. We’ve all had those moments, haven’t we?

9. Read More

We all need to look beyond our workplace to keep learning. Even if we have great colleagues, they give us a limited perspective. Find out what leaders in your field are reading – books, articles, reports – and read them too. Professional associations will probably have suggestions. Stay up-to-date on news in the field, looking at the latest trends on Twitter, in the newsletters of professional organizations, and in respected publications like Harvard Business Review. This will give you ideas for which books and studies to read.

10. Use Social Media Wisely

Social media makes getting ideas from thought leaders easy. Using social media platforms like Twitter also lets you promote yourself as an expert, sharing tidbits of information you’ve gleaned.

Plus, participating in an open conversation beyond the walls of your workplace will show you’re serious about success. Just make sure to read your company’s guidelines and policies for using social media as a company representative. (Then tip off your boss to your social media prowess!)

11. Schedule Check-Ins

Aim to have a monthly check-in session with your manager to make sure you stay on track. Prepare your thoughts and questions about your accomplishments and next steps before each session.

If your boss takes a passive approach to managing, ask for more direction. A good boss knows this is vital to employee retention and performance. In some cases, we might take our own development a little more seriously than our boss does, though – and we need to speak up about our needs! Having an open conversation on a regular basis is far better than a single annual review.

12. Create a Reminder System

Once you’ve created your strategy, give yourself reminders of your goals and priorities. Organize the info on your goals and the steps toward them so you have a handy reference. Post it on your wall where you can glance at it for clarity whenever you need to.

Then plug your priorities into an electronic reminder system so that you never forget a training session or lunch date with your mentor.

Follow this 12-point plan, and you’ll feel truly proud of your accomplishments over the current review period. By the time of your next appraisal, you’ll have increased your expertise, honed your leadership skills, and gotten the attention of key decision-makers with this guide to self-improvement.

County of San Mateo Human Resources Department, “How to Set SMART Goals”
Fast Company, “The Five Best Times and Ways to Ask for Feedback”
Harvard Business Review, “What to Do after a Bad Performance Review”
Inc, “5 Ways Resilient People Bounce Back after a Bad Performance Review”
Payscale, “4 Things You Must Do after Your Annual Performance Review”