The Secret To High-Performing Employees? Focused And Frequent Conversations
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Forbes.com in October 2019.
By Jim Barnett
Frequent conversations, done well, drive better performance-related interactions between managers and employees, and increase employee engagement. In fact, our recent study found that people who had one-on-one meetings with their manager more than once per month (compared to less than once a quarter) were 2x as likely to say they receive effective feedback and 1.3x as likely to say they receive the support they need from their manager.
A focus on conversations is the key to boosting employee performance.
Countless hours of energy and loads of money have gone into the performance management conundrum, but the traditional approach has not delivered on its broad purpose. The solution is to be clear on what we intend to achieve and establish the right structure, focus, and habits to get there. As a result, we can simplify our efforts and maximize our impact.
Traditional performance management focuses on extrinsic Over intrinsic motivation
Performance management has arguably two main objectives with different focus areas and unique levers to get there: individual performance, growth, and engagement vs. organizational compliance and compensation decisions.
Historically, our performance processes have centered on the latter — focusing on standardizing the way we view contributions to fairly and defensibly allocate rewards and ensure compliance with practices like performance ratings and performance distribution curves. These techniques tend to predominantly evoke extrinsic motivation by explicitly tying performance to external rewards. However, study after study has shown that extrinsic rewards are limited in their power to motivate.
Less consistent emphasis has been placed on intrinsic motivation (e.g., role fit, development, enablement, autonomy) and creating the conditions for it, which come from within, such as the joy one feels after accomplishing a challenging task, or the curiosity and desire one experiences in achieving mastery of a new skill. Intrinsic motivation leads to people experiencing a sense of growth, commitment, and fulfillment, while more sustainably increasing individual performance.
It’s time to shift the focus to a more powerful and sustainable approach that harnesses the power of intrinsic motivation to build a workplace where people can bring their best selves to work, delivering on ambitious objectives not because they have to, but because they want to.
The recipe for conversations that truly motivate people
I believe that the path to better performance for both individuals and the organization is through regular, high-quality conversations between managers and employees — informed by the right data — that tap into those intrinsic motivators that drive employees to do their best work.
But these conversations require a thoughtful approach to achieve the outcomes we want to see. There are a few steps we can take to start using conversations as the key mechanism to inspire better performance and higher engagement.
Conversations are a great opportunity for self-reflection, feedback, and coaching. But the reality is that many people have a hard time knowing where to start. Creating an easy-to-follow structure is an excellent first step to help managers and employees build the muscle of effective conversations.
This means getting clear on expectations and leveraging technology to set the discussion format, reinforce frequency, and prompt actions. Simplicity is essential to making it easy and intuitive for managers and employees to participate. And integrating best practices, such as preparation and follow-up, into the flow of work via email and calendaring platforms enables people to get better at conversations in the apps they already use daily.
To truly enable peak engagement and performance, we need to put people at the center of everything we do. We need to make sure they have a voice, show them how they fit into the bigger picture, provide them with the resources they need to be successful, empower them, and support their continued development and growth.
By starting with a focus on what will benefit people and adding in the context of organizational needs and priorities, such as company-wide goals and values, we can create mutually beneficial conversations that allow individuals to grow while achieving business objectives.
Habits are the foundation for making sustained progress over time. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg notes that almost 40% of our actions each day are the result of habits, not decisions. These habits are often embedded into the way we approach life at a subconscious level.
Through light-weight, frequent conversations between managers and employees and regular reminders and simple nudges, we build a routine of good practices that enable performance – focusing on the individual, aligning on goals and expectations, and creating connections and trust. Repetition of these conversations makes them easier and self-sustaining over time, and organizations reap the rewards of better engagement and performance.
It’s time to take a more agile and forward-looking approach to performance management and prioritize practices that drive individual growth, fulfillment, and commitment. More frequent, high-quality conversations are the key mechanism to help create this shift. Putting in the structure, focus, and habits to enable these conversations makes the difference between one more check-the-box exercise for managers and a game-changer for business success.
Learn more about Glint’s People Success Platform.