If you’re eager to improve work performance, your head is in the right place.
But it’s important to remember that doing so is a team effort—one best led from the top down.
Because leading by example, and setting foundational, repeatable processes and workflows, empowers your talent to perform better. Not to mention, it boosts company morale and builds a culture of accountability. This rings true for contractors, individual departments, and entire companies alike.
High-performing teams don’t happen by accident, though. Boosting performance requires a conscious effort by management and some tried-and-tested changes to your workplace.
We’ve broken down nine specific and actionable ways to improve work performance on behalf of your entire team. These tips will bring out your employees’ strengths without having to micromanage them.
1. Set crystal clear goals, deadlines, and milestones
This is the first and arguably most important step to getting more out of your employees.
When workers have expectations and goals to work toward, they’re more likely to focus and stay on task.
That’s exactly why so many teams today can’t live without kanban boards and collaborative calendars. These tools highlight deadlines and goals and make it easy to see what’s coming up, what’s in progress, what needs review, who’s responsible at each stage, and so on.
But perhaps more importantly, collaboration software fosters a team mentality. When coworkers are held accountable and acknowledge that their teammates are relying on their work, it’s all the more reason to exceed expectations and step up.
This is where software like Teamwork can come in clutch. Our collaboration software allows teams and companies alike to track the progress and go back and forth on any given project.
If nothing else, a collaborative calendar ensures that projects don’t drag and workers finish their tasks in a timely manner. This encourages better performance in and of itself.
Note: Don’t be afraid to be flexible when it comes to deadlines and goals! As you get to know your team and establish a workflow, setting a realistic schedule becomes much easier.
2. Consistently keep your teammates in the loop with performance data
Let’s be clear, here: performance ≠ productivity.
Both terms are used interchangeably, but keep in mind that performance is tied to outcomes (versus just getting things done).
And sure, productive workers are typically high-performers. But there’s a difference between being “productive” (hint: “busy”) and having your tasks tied to actual results.
Whether those outcomes are winning deals, closing tickets, or completing projects is totally up to your team. What matters is that your workers are aware of their performance and have context as to what’s considered “good.”
Unfortunately, only one-fifth of workers feel that they have control over performance metrics they’re measured against.
That’s unfortunate, given that you can’t expect anyone to improve their performance if they’re in the dark about predefined expectations and resulting outcomes. This speaks to the importance of being transparent about performance data and regularly sharing feedback.
Instead of relying on annual reviews (or worse, waiting until you’re downright unhappy with someone’s performance), make a point to:
Share performance milestones and outcomes with your team on a regular basis (whether it’s in weekly 1:1s, monthly meetings, or quarterly reviews) and don’t silo data.
Empower teams and departments to share their data both among themselves and with other teams—this may materialize in a monthly organization-wide meeting where each team presents their stats, or via an internal team message.
Celebrate employees that go above and beyond—the positive correlation between employee recognition and engagement is well-documented.
This is yet again where a tool like Teamwork comes in handy, providing a place to share wins, updates, and key performance data. The Messages feature is extremely flexible and adaptable to update specific teams, departments, clients, or the entire organization.
It's simple to update specific teams and create a space for important notifications – all within Teamwork.
3. Give your workers a much-needed sense of flexibility and autonomy
We tend to do our best work when we’re in “the zone,” or a cognitive “flow state”.
But the factors that create a sense of focus and productivity vary from person to person.
To ensure you’re giving your team members the space they need to get in the zone at their own pace, give them some flexibility and autonomy. If an employee needs to hunker down, unplug, or take some extra time to do their best work, and it won’t negatively impact the project, why not let them?
Doing so requires both structure and supportive company culture. Similar to “unlimited vacation”, it will only work if your team understands that they cannot sacrifice quality or performance in the process of balancing self-care with work duties.
This balancing act is best supported by good policy, great training, and a culture of mutual respect.
For example, rather than needlessly interrupting people with endless notifications all day every day, make a point to build time into their schedules for focused work. This way, they know that on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, they don’t need to check work email or asynchronous comms.
Of course, this requires trust on your part, and the ability to self-manage theirs. But as micromanaging is noted to produce negative outcomes, It’s certainly worth it.
We’ve seen firsthand how remote workers responsible for their own schedules are actually more productive at work. Data gathered by Hubstaff notes that remote workers likewise experience greater results as a byproduct of that productivity.
Don’t be afraid to give your employees the reins if they’re meeting or exceeding your expectations performance-wise. Oh, and avoid workaholic culture like the plague.
Let’s say someone needs to put themselves into “do not disturb” mode in order to finish a work sprint. Awesome! They shouldn’t be judged for doing so.
4. Eliminate as many of your team’s interruptions as possible
Not-so-fun fact: 40% of workers experience at least 10 interruptions during any given workday.
This might seem obvious, but it really drives home the point above. The more you can do to establish a productive environment where your colleagues can actually get down to business, the more you can improve work performance. Doing so means:
Not springing meetings or projects on workers at the last minute
Slashing tedious, time-consuming tasks that could be automated by apps (think: scheduling, time-logging)
Empowering your team to build breaks into their schedules and discourage working around-the-clock
Interruptions happen. That said, managers and other colleagues shouldn’t be at the center of them.
Non-stop notifications and annoying email chains need to go the way of the dinosaur.
Alternatively, team chat apps provide a straightforward, real-time channel to communicate with your colleagues without eating into each other’s schedules. This ultimately reduces bottlenecks and creates a more collaborative culture.
And in short, colleagues are encouraged to help and support each other, but with the ability to mute notifications, set statuses like do not disturb, and more with chat.
With an all-in-one communication tool like Teamwork, your team can discuss projects and move them forward without playing the waiting game.
6. Identify performance problems before they have a chance to snowball
Missed deadlines and lackluster projects are tell-tale signs that a worker needs support.
But many companies fail to intervene with “underperforming” employees until there’s a bigger issue at hand.
Ideally, companies should be able to spot such issues before they turn into performance-related problems. Doing so means having a transparent company culture and regularly checking in with employees.
Spotting bottlenecks in projects can be really tough if you don't have the right tools. Luckily, team management software like Teamwork was built to help managers identify issues and resolve them as quickly as possible.
Teamwork's Project Health report is a great example of ensuring tasks get completed but also finding where the issues tend to occur. This allows you to reallocate certain tasks to different team members and avoid overload for some and low-effort work for others.
7. Ensure that your teams’ workload is appropriate and manageable
No surprises here. Workers can’t perform if they’re bogged down and overburdened.
And on the flip side, go-getters shouldn't be saddled with “busy work” or tedious tasks that don’t allow them to play to their strengths.
Coming up with an appropriate workload is somewhat of a balancing act. Everyone is different in terms of their skill sets and ensuring equity might require some trial-and-error.
By tracking tasks and treating them as a data point, you can better understand what to expect in terms of performance and what your employees can realistically get done.
But remember: your role is to be a motivator, not Big Brother.
8. Hook your team up with resources to get help on-demand
Although this is among the improvement ideas at work that require the most time to set up, it’s also totally worthwhile in the long run.
In short, so much of reducing slowdowns and ensuring your teammates stay on task means providing them with the resources they need to do their jobs. This might include:
A comprehensive help desk
A library of resource documents, training videos, and so on (for example, a marketing agency might have a Google Drive with their style guide, brand creatives, specs, etc.)
Designated employees to oversee and assist employees as-needed
These points are especially critical for new employees who might have frequent questions or be hesitant to ask for help after onboarding. Again, this is where having a supportive, team-focused culture is a game-changer.
9. Encourage teammates to clearly define their priority tasks
Simply put, workers should be able to answer “What do I need to be working on?” at any given moment.
We get it: it’s easy to get lost in the weeds of your day-to-day duties. That said, the ability to clearly spell out your priority tasks makes it so much easier to not only focus but also prioritize your schedule for the sake of performance.
Whether it’s after a meeting or on your kanban board, spelling out what you’ve completed and what’s next ensures that you keep moving. Here’s an example from our guide to project collaboration, highlighting how chat tools can automatically summarize notes from standup meetings to help keep workers on task.
Through task management and prioritized to-do lists, you can wrangle your schedule and encourage your team to do the same.
So, what's your plan to improve work performance for your team?
Getting better performance out of your employees means empowering them, plain and simple.
Creating a supportive culture. Giving them a productive environment. And of course, providing them with the tools they need to do their jobs well.
The steps above and apps like Teamwork are key to putting together a tight-knit, high-performing team that knocks their projects out of the park.