Be the Business spoke to three forward-thinking SMEs about the strategies employed to both identify when staff are missing targets, and get them back on track.
With employees a company’s most important asset, management must ensure that they are working as effectively and efficiently as they can every day. However, targets and KPIs will be missed as often as they’re hit – so how can that be dealt with constructively?
Every month, the 22 employees of promotional merchandising company Outstanding Branding are asked a simple question – “how happy are you?”.
“It’s our happiness survey,” explained chief executive officer Sarah Penn. “We ask our staff to give a rating of between one and ten, and also to provide some comments about how the workplace could be improved. We reveal the results, which are on a Net Promoter Score basis, at our monthly company meeting. It gives us information on how our employees are feeling and if they say they are struggling or feeling stressed then we can take measures to address that.”
The survey gives Outstanding Branding another measure to help identify the causes behind underperforming or demotivated staff. “We’ve had people tell us that they are feeling stressed out, which is affecting their mood and their performance. We’ve also discovered other causes such as people getting divorced or coping with illness in their families,” Penn added.
“We can tackle these by adding extra resources and recruiting to strengthen certain departments – or just being a shoulder to cry on and give help to those people struggling in their personal lives. We have an open-door policy here and encourage our staff to come and talk to senior and line managers if they have an issue.”
The easiest way of identifying underperformance is to determie whether business targets are being met. “With our sales team, we carefully analyse statistics on a weekly basis such as headline sales figures, average orders and how many quotes are being generated,” Penn stated. “We look at it from an individual basis. So, we consider that an established sales employee will be less likely to generate quotes as they already have a number of key clients in place compared with a new employee who needs to generate more quotes and interest from customers.”
If an employee is missing targets, then they will be invited to a weekly meeting with their sales manager to determine a “path route” to getting them back on track. “We will find out if they are speaking to the right people or whether they are using their time most effectively. Are we asking too much or giving them excessive work? Sometimes it is hard for people to step up and say ‘help’,” she said.
“If needed, we have a business coach on a retainer who can come in once a month and take either a group or individual session to help them work in a more timely and efficient manner. We hired the coach around four years ago and have seen a big step up in performance since then. The coach also helped us on one occasion with an employee who was suffering from a mental health issue. We felt out of our depth, but she helped our employee through her problem.”
Outstanding Branding also runs regular quality audits to identify underperformance. “We have a set of criteria for each department,” Penn explained. “In our order processing department, we can take five orders and audit those intensively to see whether processes such as saving client approvals in the right place have been followed. We have a threshold score and if it is not being met then, again, we question employees more deeply and ask whether they are handling too much work and how we can make it easier for them. We are in a nice position, with a team of 22, in that we can look at individual performance more easily than a larger business,” Penn believes. “We want our people to be happy both for them personally and for the work they do to keep us growing.”
Treat them as humans
Manchester-based Toast PR also believes in the power of words to help rectify underperformance. “At the end of the day staff members are human beings too, and a fall in productivity is an indicator that something is wrong. A conversation is a starting point, trying to identify the source of the problem,” explained Julia Mitchell, managing director at the business.
“If it is stress, it is likely that they will have been less productive, and it will have caused performance issues that will be obvious to both parties. Stressed humans are physically, mentally and emotionally affected and as a result will perform less well at work. Everybody loses in this instance. The boss, the employee and the relationship between the two. The idea is to identify it before full burnout happens.”
Mitchell does this by encouraging team members to care for their mental, physical and emotional health.
“Working from home, taking time off and listening to their problems or issues all helps,” she said. “But as a manager, I also have to model self-care by ensuring that I also take breaks, sleep, exercise and sleep well. A culture of burn-out is very 1990s, it is now recognised that healthy employees are productive employees.”
Leeds-based recruitment group Charlton Morris offers massages and wealth management advice to its employee as part of its benefits and rewards package. It believes this can help employees who are feeling demotivated or not missing targets.
“Our wellbeing offerings are there all the time – our masseuse comes in once every four weeks and everyone has the option of a massage then,” explained marketing manager Kris Holland. “We encourage people to use them all the time, too. When it comes to stress and personal issues then, again, everyone is an individual so to try and rectify problems we’d tackle them on a case-by-case basis.”
In terms of underperformance, Holland said employees work in a highly-targeted environment – so it’s quite easy to identify when someone needs extra support.
“Being in a sales environment, targets are there for a reason and if they aren’t being hit consistently, not just as a one off, then of course we’ll be having a conversation with the person about what they’re finding challenging and then work through that. That being said, we work in a totally open office environment, with regular interactions throughout every day, so visually it can become apparent that way too.” he stated.
“In order to address and rectify this we have regular meetings with our training manager and director of development in addition to daily meetings with said staff members own line manager. Through these conversations, we tend to be able to identify and rectify any problems that are being experienced. Improvement is monitored – just as performance is monitored on a regular basis. Again, there isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule as to what we do across the board, but this will usually involve more involvement from our training manager, director of development and line managers.”