Employee Or Employer: Who Is Responsible For Improving Employee Performance, And How?

Employee Or Employer: Who Is Responsible For Improving Employee Performance, And How?
Summary: Figuring out how to improve staff performance and productivity might seem like an ‘employee problem’. But when your employees underperform, so does your company. Improving employee performance is a game that takes 2 players, and winning requires the joint efforts of employers and their staff.

Tips For Improving Employee Performance For Companies And Staff

During your career, you’ll have stumbled across one or two employees who arrive late to meetings, submit poor quality work, and bring a generally negative attitude to the workplace. And if you haven’t, you will. So, if you can’t avoid poor performance, the important question becomes, what do you do about it?

Some say “Replace underperformers!” But let’s face it. The company’s already invested in their recruitment and onboarding. Not to mention the relationships those employees have built with colleagues and customers, or the insights they’ve gathered about company processes. Besides, doesn’t this put all of the accountability for improving employee performance on the employees?

Maybe there’s an alternative. As former CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz once said, "success is best when it's shared" [1]. So, could the secret actually lie in the combined efforts of employees and employers? If you’re all ears, let’s explore some employee performance improvement ideas that involve companies and their staff.

How Employers Can Improve Performance

Improving employee performance isn’t a case of the chicken or the egg. Without a doubt, it starts with the company. And accepting this is your first step toward higher staff productivity. After that, you’ll want to jump straight into these strategies to improve the performance of your employees.

Help Employees Identify Their Development Needs

Sink or swim is rarely an effective approach to managing performance. In fact, employees often don’t even realize when they’re not meeting expectations, because they weren’t aware of those expectations, to begin with. So, take the time to evaluate employee performance, and then have open conversations with them about their development needs.

Start with the standards and expectations that the company has for them, and then ask employees what personal performance goals they might have for themselves. Perhaps Sarah would like to perform better as a Sales Executive so that she can earn a better commission. Joe might be looking to fast track his career and secure a management position in the next year.

Once the destination is set, discuss the path for getting there: which particular performance areas need improvement, and how they will be improved. Remember to be open to two-way feedback during this conversation. Because sometimes the key to improvement simply lies in a quieter office, a more approachable leader or clearer workplace processes. Many times, though, employees need training.

Equip Employees With Learning Tools And Resources

Getting better at anything requires learning. So, you’ll need to ensure that employees have all of the tools and resources for learning available to them. But what sort of tools and resources? Today, training can take the form of self-directed, online, instructor-led, classroom-based—you get the idea. Figuring out where to start can be tough.

Taking a blended approach to training means that you don’t have to choose. By using a blended learning LMS, you can offer employees online courses to work through in their own time and live virtual Instructor-Led Training sessions. Plus, a powerful LMS, like TalentLMS, means that you can use features like gamification and microlearning to make the experience engaging and personalized for employees.

The variety of activities offered by blended learning, including multimedia like videos and infographics, also means that employees can explore the same concept or skill from different angles. And this is bound to strengthen their retention of new knowledge. But, learning won’t be enough on its own to achieve an increase in employee performance. Employees need opportunities to practice, too.

Provide Real Opportunities To Practice New Competencies

The end goal of any training program is to develop the skills employees need to improve job performance. But in order for the impact of employee training on work performance to be meaningful and measurable, employees must apply their new skills in the workplace. This is where you come in.

Give employees real job assignments to practice their new skills. This could include job rotation, job expansion, or just allowing an employee to stand in for a senior staff member who’s on leave. Just be aware that employees will only feel confident to apply their learning at work if they have the support of the company.

Offer Continuous Support And Reinforcement

The effects of training on employee performance will be short-lived unless employees feel safe and supported when it comes to practicing their new skills. They’ll also need to have easy access to constructive feedback and guidance, and should be appreciated when they start to improve.

Be sure to create a company culture where mistakes are not punished with a harsh hand, but rather accepted as part of the learning process. Assign employees a mentor or coach to guide them along their journey to improved performance. And offer tailored feedback when an employee tries something new.

Finally, keep employees motivated and energized as they strive for increased productivity, or higher quality work. You can do this by rewarding employees when they achieve their learning goals, or meet a performance target. This won’t just make those employees feel valued, it will encourage other employees to improve their performance, too.

3 Ways Employees Can Improve Performance

Once employees have the resources, guidance, and support of their employer, it’s up to them to take advantage of opportunities to learn, improve and reach their full potential. Here are some of the top ways an employee can improve their performance:

1. Be Open To Constructive Feedback

Hearing about your flaws, shortcomings and disappointing behaviors is always a little painful. And as humans, we have a tendency to become defensive in these situations. But, before an employee can start improving, they’ll need to first accept that there are attitudes, behaviors or competencies that need improving.

So, performance evaluations shouldn’t be viewed as a tool for annual pay raises. Rather, these should be seen as opportunities for employees to find out from managers, colleagues, and customers where they can invest more effort, or improve their skills. When performance is at the center of feedback, benefits like increased pay will naturally follow.

2. Make Learning A Work-Related Habit

Training and learning opportunities should be grabbed with both hands. Why? Because a recent survey found that 61.5% of employees believe training enhances their overall professional performance. But improving employee performance is an ongoing process, which means that learning must become an integral part of every employee’s workweek.

Employees can make learning a habit by engaging regularly in training, and by including learning in their weekly schedule. For example, one employee might make a habit of completing microlearning modules on their mobile phone while taking the train to work every day. Another might arrive to work an hour early, twice a week, to meet with their coach. Creating repetition and regularity will transform learning from an extra task to a normal part of the job.

3. Ask For Help And Guidance

Improving employee performance is all about learning new competencies, practicing them as often as possible, reflecting on what worked well (and what didn’t), and then trying again. But while mistakes are a necessary part of learning, help from someone more experienced can save employees a few grazed knees.

So, employees need to ask for guidance when they’re unsure of what to do next, and for feedback when they’ve applied a new skill and want to understand how they performed. This help could come from a colleague, manager, mentor, or even a direct report. For example, a manager looking to improve his leadership skills should value feedback from those he is trying to lead.


When it all comes down to it, you need to remember that employees are human beings. And most people don’t wake up in the morning and think “Today, I am going to make mistakes, feel negative and fail to be the best version of myself”. In reality, most people want to improve, they want to be successful, and more importantly, they want to achieve their potential. All they need is an employer that can help them do it.


[1] Howard Schultz's Graduation Advice: Keep Asking These 3 Questions

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