Four Actions You Can Take Right Now for Productivity and Engagement

Outlined below are a few everyday practices you can utilize right away. The time you spend now on coaching, leading, providing support and establishing expectations and accountability will pay dividends later. Conversely, if you don’t give attention to these actions now, you will likely spend a lot of time addressing problems later.

1) Make it Clear
2) Provide the Resources They Need to Get the Work Done Effectively
3) Tell Them How They are Doing
4) Provide Support for All Employees to Maintain High Productivity

Make it Clear

Clarity and focus are how you establish the roadmap for your unit. When people understand what is expected of them, and how these expectations will help achieve unit goals, they are able to actively contribute to moving your unit forward.

Conversation Starters

  • Do you have all the information you need to move forward on this?
  • What can I do to help you with meeting your expectations?
  • What questions do you have regarding …?
  • Tell me some ideas you have for meeting our unit goals.
  • Do you have any questions about what I expect from you?

Actions

Set expectations from the start

  • Put expectations in writing and make them available beginning the first day of employment, or if you are conducting a re-organization.
  • Employees need to hear from you regularly and often.
  • Never assume you are communicating enough.

Resources:

  • Learning and Development Resource Center – An offering of books, videos, CD-ROM programs, and audio-books available for checkout. Use the search engine to locate available resources using key words, such as "expectations," "communication," or "accountability."

Get them on board

  • Clearly outline performance expectations (what you need them to do and the level to which they need to perform) during the employee’s orientation period. The performance measures will provide a means for promoting and supporting an employee’s success.
  • Develop a plan/checklist to orient all new employees.

Resources:

Link their job to unit success

  • It is a good practice to review position descriptions each year as part of an employee’s annual performance review. This will help to ensure alignment with work that needs to be done to achieve unit goals.
  • Show employees what they do contributes to the unit’s success. You can do this by:
    • Discussing how their responsibilities relate to overall unit objectives.
    • Involving employees in discussions about ways to improve individual and unit level performance.

Resources:

Coach them

  • Through coaching you will be able to create a performance culture. You do this by:
    • Communicating and getting agreement on goals (keeping the individual and the organization in mind).
    • Linking goals to unit/divisional/organizational success.
  • Coaching is an active endeavor. It is:
    • A year-long process, comprised of multiple conversations.
    • A process that requires supportive information to be collected year round (both developmental and positive).
    • Encouraging of self evaluation and preparation.

Resources

  • Your supervisor or your HR Unit Representative (If you don’t know who your HR Unit Representative is, you can find out by going to the "Personal" tab in your Employee Self Service and selecting "My HR Unit Rep.")
  • Coaching Tips - from the video, The Practical Coach, by Media Partners (available by calling 335-2687)
  • Researcher Handbook
  • Performance Management Miniseries
  • Call 319-335-2687 for a short phone consultation.
  • Performance Management Consulting - Supervisors who would like help on how to appropriately conduct a performance review or give performance feedback may contact Sean Hesler or call 319-335-2687.

Provide the Resources They Need to Get the Work Done Effectively

Whether an employee is struggling or would benefit from opportunities to develop professional skills, the University of Iowa has numerous resources available for individuals at all levels and stages of development. These resources are designed with employee and organizational success in mind and cover a wide range of topics and content.

Conversation Starters

  • I want you to be successful, so let’s talk about some ways I can help you develop your skill set.
  • I sense this project may be overwhelming you. Let’s talk about ways to break it down into manageable chunks.
  • Tell me about the aspects of your job that you enjoy the most. (Opposite: Tell me about the aspects of your job that you enjoy the least.) Why?
  • You are doing very well in your position. Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years?

Actions

Talk with staff about how the work could be done easier/better/faster

  • Have regular discussions about work productivity and efficiency. You will better understand the work they do and also be able to see where improvements could happen.
    Ask:
    • Do you have what you need to get your work done (time, technology, money, data, supplies, and equipment)?
    • For example: Do you have access to the information you need when you need it?
    • What in the work that you do needs to be done differently to make the job easier/better/faster?
    • Note: discuss options and promise to get back to them with answers.

Resources:

Encourage the development of every employee

  • Make use of the talented employees already on board to help guide and teach others.
    Ask them:
    • What parts of your job do you really enjoy?
    • In what areas would you like to learn more? Let’s talk about how you could acquire more experience, knowledge, practice, etc. in those areas you are interested in.
    • Note: Connect staff with development opportunities and/or financial assistance.

Resources:

Tell Them How They Are Doing

The undervalued employee is a disengaged employee. People want to grow, play a part in the success of the team, and be noticed for what they do. Commitment can flourish when an employee works in an environment where an individual's contribution is relevant and integral to the success of the unit. This commitment involves loyalty, belief, dedication and enthusiasm, all of which are beneficial to both the individual and the organization.

Actions

Give feedback that will be heard

  • To give feedback that will be heard by staff, you need to do two things:
    • Giving the message that their success is important to you by asking them on a regular basis – How are you doing? What can I do to help you? Note: this is a basis for trust.
    • Giving them regular feedback about their work using supporting data.
  • Tell them on the spot what was specifically done correctly, what was on track, what is working, and how it supports your unit’s goals. If you need to give your negative feedback, then don’t hesitate - try to do so as soon as you can after the performance you want corrected occurs. Your feedback will be much more effective as a result. Use “I” statements.

Conversation Starters:

  • I liked the way you trained your co-worker. You outlined the protocol in writing and then listened as he relayed back to you the process. Great job!
  • I noticed that this report has several typos on each page. I need you to proof carefully before each report is sent out. Let’s talk about a plan to insure these mistakes are caught in the future.
  • I observed that you were 30 minutes late on Monday and 15 minutes late on Thursday. It is important you be here on time at 8:00 a.m.
  • I noticed you don’t look up and address customers when they come up to the reception area. I need you to do this.
  • You know I value your knowledge of the technology that works best here. I do want to discuss with you what we could be doing differently to let customers know that we are here to serve them.
  • When you close your eyes during the meeting, I assume you are not listening. Is that accurate?
  • You have brought many great ideas to this meeting. I would like to hear from some others before we make our decision.
  • When you react to my feedback by crying, I wonder how I should let you know when I have concerns.

Show appreciation regularly

  • Use “fly-by” appreciation to quickly give an effective compliment in three sentences:
    • What you did – I noticed…
    • Why it is important – That helped us…
    • How I feel about it – I appreciate…

Conversation Starters:

  • I am impressed by your work with ...... . It makes us all look good.
  • I saw what you did in our meeting, and I appreciate that you help to include everyone’s perspective.
  • I can see that you are making strides in what we planned - thanks for your effort.

Resources:

Foster a sense of accountability

  • Foster in every staff person a sense of accountability for their job responsibilities and for the success of the area measured in quantity, quality, cost and time. Discuss these questions:

Conversation Starters:

  • What specifically do we want to accomplish in the short and long term?
  • What should we achieve?
  • What major steps must we take to be successful?
  • The decision making about this is yours. Feel free to ask me questions.
  • Thank you for letting me know about this challenge. Now we can work together to change that.
  • What have you done so far to improve the situation?
  • Note: Often this discussion leads to collaborative goal setting that adds to staff personal accountability and understanding for the need to focus on results.

Provide Support for All Employees to Maintain High Productivity

Open lines of communication and constructive feedback are at the center of a strong supervisor-employee relationship. Successful communication begins with showing employees that you want them to be successful. In doing so, a supervisor reinforces the idea that even though there will be challenges in the workplace, the employee also has support.

Actions

Support employees who are experiencing difficulties

  • When an employee is having trouble meeting job responsibilities, it is time to have a caring discussion. Use this Five-step process to get to the root cause so that you can assist your employees appropriately:
    1. Observation: Tom, I’ve noticed that you have ………
    2. Relationship: Until recently, your performance was good (or great)
    3. Expectations: I need to have you……
    4. Open the door: Is there anything going on that I should know about?
    5. Follow-up: Let's meet again in .....
  • If personal difficulties - offer to listen, then ask what they would like from you, problem solve and agree on an action, or if you know you can’t help in this situation, ask them if they have checked with their doctor or accessed the free confidential service at UI Employee Assistance Program.

Conversation Starters:

  • When I see you, you do not seem like you are enjoying work the way you did, say three months ago? I’m concerned about you ....
  • What would it take for work to go better for you?
  • What do you need from me?

Resources:

Lead employees through changes

  • Leading staff through change can be done well when you communicate thoroughly - using messages that speak to the staff's point of view, and provide opportunities to listen to staff individually and in small groups throughout the change. Change may mean loss to staff: a sense of competency, change in expectations for future, work relationships, comfortable workplace, etc.
  • Communication keys:
    • Speaking about the change: Provide reasons why it is in the best interest of all stakeholders to support the change (what’s in it for me is made clear). People are alerted by data -so provide it. However, they are persuaded by emotion. More than likely, staff will be thinking:
      • What will this change mean to me?
      • Will I have a job?
      • Do I have the needed skills and knowledge to succeed in the new environment?
    • As you speak, address those underlying questions. Remember that when people do not get information, they spend time speculating about the future which decreases individual and team productivity.
    • Provide many opportunities to listen to your staff. A large change should be conveyed in small groups so that staff will be able to ask questions immediately. Have an open door policy that welcomes staff to share their concerns. Part of your role during change is to support staff as they go through the natural stages of change. It is normal during a change to experience these stages: anger, denial, grief, testing out the change, and acceptance.
    • Check in periodically by asking - How are you doing? If you see that a staff person is not progressing, ask if they have accessed free confidential services at Faculty and Staff Services, 335-2085.

Conversation Starters:

  • We have a change to implement. Let’s look at how it will affect each of us and what we have control over.
  • What are your feelings and thoughts about this change?
  • I will give you information that affects you and your role as soon as I get it.
  • Thank you for bringing up what might go wrong so that we can avoid that.
  • Let me know your concerns about this change and if you have suggestions for making the transition positive.
  • Management thinks this will be better. Here’s what I think will be better for our work.

Attend to performance that is low, average or great

  • Tips for the person needing improvement:
    • Prepare – Do your homework.
    • Prioritize what two or three work issues are most important to change.
    • Focus on the problem behavior or issue, not the employee.
    • Involve the employee in the discussion.
    • Create structure in a performance improvement plan to achieve goals.
    • Be direct and honest.
  • Tips for competent and steady staff:
    • Build their confidence by increasing their responsibilities.
    • Give frequent and accurate performance feedback.
    • Teach them how to set goals.
    • Never let great work go unnoticed - when you see it, say it.
    • Connect them with a mentor.
    • Customize rewards that appeal to their personal values.
  • Tips for highly engaged staff:
    • Get them involved.
    • Delegate and avoid micro-managing.
    • Encourage them to teach.
    • Provide training.
    • Have them fill in for you.
    • Stretch them.
    • Promote them.

Conversation Starters:

  • Low: It is important for you and for the unit that you develop this skill. How do you like to learn something new?
  • Average: What skills do you have that you would like to be able to use more often?
  • Great: When I heard about this project, I thought of you. Is this a good time to discuss this opportunity?