How do you get employees to improve their performance? Telling them what to do won’t get you very far if they already know what you want. Certainly people need to know what you expect of them, but repeating it with a stern voice could have the opposite effect from the one you want.
First, try to understand why the work is not getting done as you want. Is your employee in the wrong job? What is her work style? Some employees are creative thinkers with a short attention span. They won’t be very good at lengthy, routine or highly detailed tasks. They may have some good skills, but the cost of continually correcting their mistakes might be more than it’s worth. People perform best in roles that play to their strengths. How well do you know your employee’s strengths and work preferences?
Suppose your employee is in the right role. Then what’s wrong? Are personal problems blocking his ability to focus? How can you help him alleviate this stress? Is she not very organized? Some people perform best at the last minute. They hate planning ahead. They aren’t motivated to finish their work with time to spare. They need the sense of urgency that only last minute pressure can offer. One solution is to ask for work to be done well ahead of when you need it. You’ll only create mutual frustration if you try to change this employee’s basic work style.
Maybe your employee was doing a good job but is now demotivated because the job has become routine or because she feels ready for a promotion. An important step in motivating people is to sit down with them regularly and ask them questions about what aspects of their work they enjoy and don’t enjoy. Find out what they would like to do more of and less of, what new things they would like to be exposed to or new skills they would like to learn. If your employee wants a promotion, discuss what you see as his development needs and give him developmental tasks. Whenever you delegate a project to this employee, select the task based on how it will appeal to his self-interest. Keep in mind that we are all motivated to do what is in our own interest. Finally, do more question-asking than telling, such as: “What do you feel really motivates you?” What other kinds of jobs appeal to you?” “What kinds of work really hold your attention?” “What sorts of things do you tend to put off doing?” “What does it take to really give you a lift?” Maybe they just need a little more recognition from you.