Addressing Performance Issues Through Accurate Analysis
“My sales reps have missed their sales goals once again.”
“We have received more complaints from existing clients about our CSRs.”
“My team is not doing what they should be doing.”
“People don’t speak up at the meetings; they are so disengaged.”
“Tim is always late for work.”
“Sue is very slow in responding to work emails.”
“I can’t rely on Joe because he makes a lot of mistakes at work.”
“Linda is not a team player; she is way too aggressive.”
“Larry often doesn’t follow the work procedures which is frustrating.”
Regardless of your position in your company, do any of these observations resonate with you ? If so, what do you think may have caused these issues? Do you think the individuals are the source of the problem? Do you consider them work behaviors or performance problems, or both? What have you done to address the issues? What solutions have your supervisors/managers offered? What do you think are the consequences if these issues are left unaddressed?
The list of scenarios can go on, and so can the list of questions. Both are worth serious consideration because they are core to performance analysis — a critical element of effective performance management.
When analysis is accurately performed, it can illuminate performance gaps and inform decision making. Unfortunately, for various reasons like lack of time to process and understand, evaluators (managers and supervisors) tend to focus on what they can easily observe (like the issues listed above) and look for a quick fix, including training.
As a result, the root causes of these issues are missed, leading to unintended consequences.
To help get to the heart of the matter, let me introduce performance analysis at two levels: individual and team.
Individual-Level Performance Analysis
Ample research indicates that employee performance is influenced by many factors beyond the individual level. Commonly recognized individual performance variables include performance expectations, job design, individual capability, task support, consequences and incentives, and performance feedback.
These variables, independently and collectively, affect an employee’s job performance. For example, one of the common problems reported by salespeople is that they spend way too much time on administrative tasks rather than selling. This imbalanced allocation of time will likely lead to lower sales productivity than desired.
On the surface, it appears to be an individual performance issue that can be addressed through sales training. However, when digging deeper, we may discover the real cause is lacking an adequate administrative support system, which is a structural or work process issue rather than an individual competency issue. In this case, simply offering sales training without changing the work process will not resolve the problem.
Team-Level Performance Analysis
Work teams prevail in every organization, and in both the face-to-face and virtual contexts. Some teams are permanent and function on an ongoing basis. These include HR, marketing, sales, finance, operations, and IT. Others are formed for a specific task and function on a temporary basis, such as a special task force, project team, or work committee.
Through teamwork, each employee makes a different level of contribution depending on their capacity and capability.
In the team environment, individual performance is affected by different variables, including goal clarity, task structure, group composition, team functioning, and performance norms. These variables, independently and collectively, affect team effectiveness as reflected by team performance and quality of work life.
Team performance can be assessed using hard measures like reduced costs, increased productivity, and improved quality. On the other hand, team effectiveness reflected by the group member’s quality of work life can be evaluated using soft measures like work satisfaction, team cohesiveness, and organizational commitment.
Effective performance evaluation is grounded in accurate and holistic analysis. To expect the desired performance outcomes at both the individual and team levels, all the relevant performance variables must be identified and analyzed.
In addition, our focus needs to be broadened beyond the symptoms to uncover the root causes for performance related issues.
To learn more about the different performance variables mentioned above, and specific tools, and best practices for conducting accurate performance analysis, please join me via Zoom on September 28, 2023 at 10 a.m. CT for the third installment of the four-part Talent Management Webinar Series from MSCI. Click here to register.
Wang is an expert in human resource and organizational development. She is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development at Texas A&M University where she teaches graduate courses in the educational human resource development program and is a contributor to the curriculum design.