When it comes to tracking employee performance, most managers keep a record of things like hours worked, self-presentation, and bottom-line numbers that appear in weekly or monthly reports. Otherwise, most managers monitor employee performance only incidentally, when they happen to observe the employee working; if they are approached by a customer in regards to a specific employee; if there is a big win; or if there is a notable problem. They rarely document employee performance unless they are required to do so, leaving no written track record other than those bottom-line evaluations that tell so little about the day-to-day actions of each employee.
The less knowledge you have about your employees’ day-to-day work, the more out of touch you will be as a manager and the less power you’ll have to:
- Provide guidance, direction, on-the-job training, and coaching
- Identify resource needs
- Anticipate problems and correct small routine errors as they occur
- Keep employee conflicts to a minimum
- Prevent employees from behaving inappropriately
- Keep everybody focused on the work
- Set ambitious, but meaningful, goals
- Assess the appropriate scope of responsibility to delegate to employees
- Evaluate performance against expectations
- Hold your employees accountable for their actions
- Motivate employees by fairly linking their performance to rewards or detriments
- Prevent low and mediocre performers from becoming comfortable in their jobs
- Prevent high performers from leaving
- Help the best people develop into new leaders
If you want to be the manager who is all over the details, you need a tracking system to document performance on a daily basis. Tracking performance in writing, for example, adds so much clarity to the management relationship. Simply talking about expectations and performance is sometimes not enough. Writing down the details allows you to confirm every step of the way with each employee: “Are you sure you understand?”
Tracking is also the key to ongoing performance improvement. Constant evaluation and feedback help you revise and adjust your marching orders to your team: “You did a great job on A, B, and C. Now let’s talk about D. On D, you missed the following details. Why? What happened? Let’s talk about how you are going to fill in those details in the future.” Ultimately, this process of revising and adjusting performance is the key to growth and development, too.
There are five ways to monitor the concrete actions of employees:
Watch Employees Work
One of the most effective ways to monitor an employee’s performance is with your own eyes. Watching an employee interact with a customer for a few minutes will tell you more about the employee’s customer service performance than a batch of customer feedback surveys. If you are having difficulties helping an employee succeed with a particular task, shadow that employee while he does the task.
Ask For An Account
In every one-on-one conversation with every employee, ask for an account of what that person has done well, and what has gone not so well, since your last conversation: “What concrete actions did you take? Did you meet spelled-out expectations?” Then listen very carefully, make judgments, and ask more probing questions. Asking for an account is the number one method for holding a person accountable for his actions. Then move on to discuss next steps.
Help Employees Use Self-Monitoring Tools
You can also ask employees to help you keep track of their actions by using self-monitoring tools like checklists and activity logs. Employees can monitor whether they are meeting daily goals and expectations laid out by their manager, and make notations within checklists. Then these tools can be used to report to the manager at regular intervals.
Review Work In Progress on a Regular Basis
Check your employees’ work carefully in process along the way. Even if an employee is not responsible for producing a tangible end product, watching that employee work is the same thing as reviewing work in-progress. You can’t actually keep track of everything every employee does, but you can check random samples on a regular basis.
Ask Around a Little
Gather intelligence. Ask customers, coworkers, and other mangers about their interactions with specific employees. Always ask questions about the employee’s work, never about the person. Don’t ask for evaluations, but ask for descriptions. Don’t ask for impressions, but ask for details. And don’t believe everything you hear; the unverified statements of third parties are simply hearsay. But the more you keep your ear to the ground, the more you know which sources can be trusted. So ask around on a regular basis.
When you are a manager who is “all over the details,” you will be respected and powerful due, if nothing else, to the very fact that you track performance so closely. Armed with knowledge about every employee and his work, you will be in a position to make judgments that will increase productivity, quality, and the experience of your customers and employees.