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7 steps to better communication with employees

Do you do performance appraisals in your business? If so, how productive are they?

Here are some ideas on how you can improve the quality and outcomes of your performance and development conversations with your people.

1. Define the purpose 

Be clear about what you are trying to achieve. You have made an investment in people and you want to get the optimal return on that investment, don’t you? So the process should be about how you work with your people to improve their performance thereby improving business performance.

2. Connect the dots

This is about getting people doing what you need them doing in the way that you need it done all of the time. Provide that alignment by connecting the dots for people and teams:

  • You have a business strategy (vision, values and plan) which sets out your goals and how you are going to achieve them – the BUSINESS plan;
  • You have teams which are established to execute specific elements of your business plan – the TEAM plan; and
  • You have people who are engaged to execute specific elements of their team plan – the PERSONAL plan.

3. Keep it simple and practical

What you need is a simple process that is logical, easy to use and applied consistently in practice. For example, put together a basic action plan model for business, team and personal plans which set out:

  • What is the goal? Ensure alignment between business, team and personal goals
  • How are we going to achieve it? Detail the activities and the learning required to achieve the goals.
  • Who is going to do it? Make teams and people accountable for delivering the expected outcomes but also recognise support they require.
  • When is it going to be done by? Set realistic timeframes.

4. Make the time

Just as you need to continuously monitor and review your business plan (because things change), so you need to ensure that your teams and your people are adapting to any changes required.

Have regular meetings at each level to review progress against the plan, confirm outcomes, identify areas for improvement and make any necessary adjustments. At the personal level these should be at least quarterly.

5. Manage the time

How do you get the most out of the time together?

Start with being structured – allocate a specific period of time for the meeting and have a simple agenda which might be:

  1. Review progress against the plan
  2. Identify any changes that are required
  3. Congratulations on achieving outcomes
  4. Confirmation of areas for development and focus,
  5. Set next meeting date

And stick to the commitments – if your people are your greatest asset, why wouldn’t you!

6. Have balanced and transparent conversations

People value constructive feedback which is balanced giving hem recognition for their achievements, clarification with improvement requirements and support with learning. It is very important that you listen to what others have to say and give them constructive feedback including the reasons why you hold a particular view whether or not that accords with theirs.

Above all, there should be honesty and no unpleasant surprises.

7. Change the language

Drop generic HR terms like performance appraisal which, over time, have too often been associated with ineffective practice and unwanted events. Be innovative and think about words that resonate with your business goals and values integrating them into the process.

Get these seven steps right and you’ll enjoy both the process and the results!

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Peter Maguire

Peter Maguire

Peter is Managing Director of IIP Australia which helps businesses to improve performance with the international Investors in People standard. He is also a Workshop Leader for Business Victoria and the founding principal of award winning consultancy firm Ridgeline HR which provides specialist HRM services to SMBs.

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