Some days are awesome, and some are awful. Some employees regularly knock the ball out of the park and others are in a perpetual slump. What you need, as a manager are employees that deliver consistent, high-quality performance that you can count on receiving every day.
Wouldn't this make your work days grand? It's a great thought and it's unlikely to ever occur unless you get lucky every once in a while.
While you can rarely have every day work out perfectly (after all, you're dealing with humans who get bad colds and who have fights with their family members), you can get more consistent performance if you plan and prepare well.
In fact, the heart and soul of obtaining consistent performance from your employees are to:
- institute procedures,
- provide training,
- grant permission to make decisions, and
- reward employees who consistently perform.
Here's how to obtain consistent performance from employees.
Emulate the Pharmacists With Consistent Procedures and Practices
Pharmacists are famous for delivering quality care to every person. If you come in on a Tuesday and speak to Pharmacist Jane, and then come back on Thursday and speak to Pharmacist John, both will know your condition, which medications you're on, and who your doctors are. Why? Because they document the heck out of everything.
Pharmacies can provide consistent care because they have consistent record keeping, and all pharmacists can access everyone else's work. (Within the company, of course. Your CVS pharmacist can't look up what a Walgreen's pharmacist wrote.)
Most businesses don't deal with life and death the way a pharmacy does, but they can certainly benefit from the idea. Document and have consistent procedures. When do you call for help? When do you say yes? When do you say no? What is the standard of care for each project or procedure? When everyone on staff can access the necessary information, you'll find more consistent performance from employees.
Train and Follow Up With a New Employee to Obtain Consistent Performance
Many, many managers are completely swamped with work. So, when they hire a new employee, the training consists of “Your desk is here, your computer login is this, and make sure not everyone in the department leaves for lunch at the same time. If you have any questions, let me know.” And, the new person is left to figure out her job all by herself.
Sometimes, the new employee jumps in and does a fantastic job. But, most of the time, a person needs more training. Even if your new hire is beyond fabulous and does an amazing job with minimal support, the way in which she does the job will be different from how the previous employee performed the job. She will also perform the job differently than the other three people in the department.
What happens when insufficient training is provided? Customers or clients (internal or external), get different answers and see different performances from different people. They are naturally going to prefer one person over the others. This then results in a lopsided workload for employees and unhappy clients when they don't get their preferred analyst.
Instead, invest in training your new employees. This doesn't mean micro-managing. Consistency doesn't mean you must do everything identically; it just means that the performance is consistent. The client shouldn't be able to easily tell who did the work.
After you've trained the new employee, follow up. If your new employee has ideas about how to do the work differently then listen, and if it's truly better, have the new person train her peers on how to do the new method.
This training never really ends. It's not an all-consuming time suck, though. It's simply a regular follow up with employees, tweaking the process when necessary, and changing the process when an employee develops a better way to perform the tasks.
Give Decision Making Authority to Employees for Consistent Performance
This may seem counter-intuitive to the idea of consistent performance. If you want consistency, then all line employees should do the same thing, in the same way, and any exception needs to go through a manager. You see this way of operating a lot in retail or call centers.
The cashier isn't able to make a return; you have to go to the service desk. The person who answers the phone at your cable company can't lower your costs, but her manager can.
While this is standard, it can lead to inconsistent performance and unhappy customers. Why? Because the customers see the front line employees as the enemy that they have to get through to talk to the people who have the authority to solve their problem.
People who are aggressive get better treatment than people who are nice (which encourages bad behavior). And everyone has to wait in line, or on hold while you wait for the one manager to make the decision.
Instead, give your employees the authority to do almost everything. You can set rules for returns and ask the employees to enforce them. If the employee tells a customer, no, then the manager should back the employee up, as long as the decision is within the written guidelines.
The result is customers who receive consistent performance and treatment without waiting. Acting like a jerk doesn't improve the customer's chances of getting their own way, and the employees feel empowered. It's a winning situation.
Reward Performance Not Personality
If you want consistent performance, give consistent praise. Make sure that you don't assign projects and praise based on how much you like the employee but on their performance. If Jane gets praised for so much as showing up, and John only gets a pat on the back for doing an outstanding job, you can bet that you won't get consistent performance out of your department.
What you want is for everyone to do a great job all of the time, so you want to make sure you praise actual performance. You may like Jane better, but unless her performance is great, don't praise her. Hold employees to consistent standards and you'll get consistent performance in return.
If you do these four activities well, you'll see a more consistent performance from your employees. Consistent performance is a win for your customers, your employees, and your business.
Suzanne Lucas is a freelance journalist specializing in Human Resources. Suzanne's work has been featured on notes publications including Forbes, CBS, Business Insider and Yahoo.