Effective Performance Management

Effective Performance Management

In order for a store, or district or region, to operate profitably all employees need to be performing well in their positions.

Cashiers must be leaving a wonderful last impression on customers as they are checking out and leaving; Aisle Associates (or floor clerks) must be available for assistance with a smile and Sales Associates must be selling and meeting their targets.

Every employee must be doing what is expected of them, and beyond.

If every employee is doing what is expected of them and the business is thriving, managing performance is very easy – just follow the plans and all is well.

However, it is a rare business that is fortunate enough to have everyone performing at the expected level.

It could even be argued that if a company were in that position, then perhaps expectations were not set high enough.

In any case, usually people are not meeting expectations because there is a lack of performance management taking place.

The Highly Successful Retail Manager (HSRM) takes performance management very seriously and schedules it into his day/week/month.

There is always something to do when it comes to managing performance in the store(s).

It might be something as small as a coaching conversation with a cashier who made an error the day before, or it may be putting 30 minutes aside to have a quarterly performance review.

To be sure, HSRM’s do not think about Performance Management only once a year – that simply would not work for the associates, the manager or the company.

It is unfortunate (not to mention unproductive) that so many companies only engage in performance management activities annually.

Performance management, particularly at the associate level, is not effective at all when it is done only once or, even twice, a year.

Associates need feedback on their performance much more often, and with regularity.

The annual and semi annual performance evaluations are important and must be part of the overall employee evaluation process but, alone, they just won’t do the job.

HSRMs make a point of talking to their subordinates regarding performance weekly.

That is, however, a heavy schedule for a lot of managers particularly if they are not using an evaluation system specifically designed for that purpose.

Consensus among HSRMs is that short, very focused weekly evaluations are best but monthly evaluations are the absolute minimum and even that is leaving someone to wonder about their performance, and how they are measuring up to the standards, for a little too long.

HSRMs do weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual performance evaluations.

Predictably, the weekly evaluation is very short requiring very little time for preparation; the monthly evaluation is a little more in depth but still not a big time investment.

The quarterly and annual evaluations take more time but HSRMs maintain that if you are evaluating people weekly and monthly, then the quarterly and annual evaluations just flow from those and there is really not a lot of time required for preparation on the part of the manager.

During the quarterly and annual evaluations the employee should be given the lions share of the time allotted, to talk about their careers and to get advice.

This assumes, of course, that the employee is doing well. If they have made it to the annual evaluation they should be employees whose performance is sound.

HSRMs also find it very helpful to do quick coaching.

As they observe someone doing something – whether a task or steps in the selling process – they take a moment or two to coach; to offer some advice in a non-critical and non-threatening way.

The HSRM knows that you never stop learning so, even when an employee is doing something well, he looks for that little extra thing that will help them do even better and he offers that as advice.

There is, however, one caution with this. The HSRM does not over do it.

An employee who is doing things well can become de-motivated if their superior continually offers advice on how to get better.

They may start to think they can never do anything right or that their manager will never be happy with their performance.

So, be careful with quick coaching of individuals who are performing well and use it only when appropriate.

When the time comes to let an employee know that they simply are not performing up to the expectations of the position they hold, HSRMs do not hold back.

They speak very clearly and do not get distracted by any excuses the employee may make in their defense.

While it is always a good thing to do some listening during these conversations, the HSRM stays on point and is focused on the behaviors that are negatively affecting the associates’ performance.

In a perfect world, the HSRM has trained associates well and has discussed their performance with them often and every associate has been coached and is performing up to expectations.

But we do not live in a perfect world and sometimes an employee turns out to be a poor performer.

In those cases, it is up to the HSRM to make sure the employee has had the opportunity to correct the behaviors that are causing him to fail.

That means it must have been discussed and the employee has been given a certain period of time to improve.

This type of action is always put in writing and is signed by both the manager and the employee.

If the employee’s performance does not improve, then it is time to take disciplinary action up to, and including, termination of employment.

As always, proper procedures must be followed to avoid any misunderstandings and expensive legal action brought against the company.

HSRMs consult the Human Resources professionals in their organization before taking any action to terminate an employee.

In fact, as soon as it is apparent that serious performance discussions are going to take place they brief their Human Resources professionals and keep them apprised of the situation as it progresses.

One thing that HSRMs always do in these cases is act quickly.

They understand that a non-performing employee is a drain on the other employees and on the company.

The quicker these issues are dealt with, the better for everyone.

A word about terminations is in order here because not everyone finds terminating someone’s employment an easy thing to do.

HSRMs occasionally find it difficult but, most of the time, they are comfortable with it because they have done everything possible to give the employee every opportunity to improve.

It is important to remember that some people are simply not worthy of holding a position representing your business.

That does not mean that they are not good and decent people – of course, many poor performers are.

However, it is not your responsibility to look after them by continuing to pay for their work if that work is not benefiting your organization.

The poor performer’s life circumstances must not play a role. It is not cruel, it is just good business practice.

That is not to say that no compassion or empathy is ever required, of course it is, but it should never be used to make excuses for ongoing poor performance.

The HSRM lives by these rules with regard to terminating employees:

  •  Be respectful in all dealings with employees
  •  Offer every possible opportunity for the employee to improve but keep the time frame as short as possible to avoid other employees from being affected negatively
  •  Be fair and reasonable
  •  Be critical only of unproductive or negative behaviors and not of the person
  •  Ensure someone in the Human Resources department of your company is aware of the situation and heed their advice
  •  Make a written record of all conversations with the non-performing employee
  •  When you have tried your best to no avail, terminate.
  •  During the termination conversation, do not get into arguments or discussions. At this point, all conversations should already have taken place, so just terminate privately and escort the employee out.

Every employee must be aware that there are rewards for good performance and negative consequences for poor performance.

HSRMs make sure that is the case. Termination is made much easier when this is all well understood.

What about good, great, even outstanding performance? HSRMs ensure that people performing well are given opportunities to learn and to grow.

Top performers get assigned to special projects, like training new employees.

They are asked for their opinions on many issues; presumably they are making more money (commissions and bonuses); they are on the HSRMs succession plan; they are usually well known to the HSRMs superiors and many others within the company.

Managing performance means managing the good and the bad. It is important to do a good job of managing both if you are to be a HSRM.