Gen Why - Michelle Eggleston

Employees need continuous development and feedback to be successful. They look to their employers to provide them with the necessary tools and resources they need to improve their performance. Reaching your full potential is a two-way street. Leaders must inform employees on where they stand in terms of their performance, but it is up to the individual to take steps toward improving their own performance with guidance from their manager or mentor.

Interestingly, fewer than half of employees know if they’re doing a good job, according to research by Leadership IQ. In fact, only 29 percent of employees say they “always” know if their performance is where it should be. That number is alarmingly low and shows that managers are not eliciting feedback as frequently as they should be.

Gallup research further reinforces the bizarre lack of clarity around performance expectations, finding that only about half of employees strongly agree they know what is expected of them at work. So, if only half of an organization’s workforce knows what is expected of them, then what is the other half doing? That’s a scary thought. These individuals are essentially blindly navigating the halls of your organization without a clear sense of direction.

Leaders need to set the precedent of outlining clear expectations for employees. Annual performance reviews are no longer cutting it when it comes to employee development. Employees need regular feedback, especially feedback-hungry millennials. Whether it’s quarterly, weekly or immediate feedback, employees need visibility into their strengths and weaknesses. It’s a win-win situation for both the business and the employee when all the cards are on the table.

Overall, performance improvement is a shared responsibility. While managers hold a large amount of responsibility in the development of their employees, it is inevitably up to the employee to want to improve and drive their own performance. Here are a few steps that employees can take toward achieving a greater level of success.

  • Goal Setting: Goals are essential to being successful both inside and outside the workplace. When meeting with a manager or coach, employees should discuss their career aspirations and chart the skills and experiences that will be crucial in getting there.
  • Embrace Mistakes: While mistakes are frustrating and often viewed as a setback, they are actually a necessary evil to establish perseverance and resilience in the face of a challenge. Without failure, there is no risk taking, and without risk taking, there is no growth beyond the status quo.
  • Accept New Challenges: Always be on the lookout for new opportunities to improve and expand on your skills. This could come in the form of learning a new task, managing a project or peers, or simply strengthening communication and listening skills. Throughout the workday, there are many opportunities that arise to develop new skills.
  • Training & Development: Employees need to take the feedback they receive from managers and seek development opportunities whenever possible. If organizations do not have any formal training offerings, then ask to take online courses through providers like Lynda.com, Udemy or Coursera. Learning can also come in the form of peer mentorships, job shadowing and social learning.

It is shocking to believe that half of employees are utterly unaware of their workplace performance. While the blame is shared with managers, employees also need to hold themselves accountable for their own performance. These statistics may also be indicative that employees are not adequately included in the goal setting of the business. A high-performing company culture must be one that is accepting of involvement from employees versus just doing a job. We need to develop an inclusive culture that moves the needle on performance.

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