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How to Get Your Employees Engaged With Performance Management

Enhancing employee engagement with continuous feedback, collaborative goals and data-drive insights

Engaged employees are in the game for the sake of the game; they believe in the cause of the organization.

Paul Marciano, co-founder of Guess? Inc

When deciding on the right approach to performance management for employees, engagement should be a top priority. The events of 2021 have radically changed how business leaders seek to engage their employees. The rapid rise of remote working – paving the way to a hybrid workforce split between office and home – has brought about new dynamics between managers and their employees.

When it comes to engagement, as Lisa Earle McLeod and Elizabeth Lotardo outline in their article for the Harvard Business Review, financial targets alone simply don’t cut it anymore. Businesses wishing to foster an engaged workforce need to think well beyond monetary rewards and dig deep into the daily processes which truly engage individuals to perform better.

“Leaders seeking to ignite creativity and drive exponential effort must go upstream, using their time with their teams to build belief in the organizational purpose, the intrinsic value of the employees’ work, and the impact the teams have on customers, and each other.”

Let’s examine in more detail why engagement matters, and how performance management tools and processes can maximize engagement across the workforce.

Why is employee engagement important? Understanding the key performance benefits of an engaged workforce

Companies that dedicate time and resources to boosting employee engagement experience a wide range of benefits. Engaged employees deliver more discretionary effort, and are prepared to go above and beyond the basics of their job description.

Some of the key benefits to having an engaged workforce include:

  • Better health and well-being. Engaged employees who feel motivated by their role are more enthusiastic and content with their work. A Gallup study has demonstrated how engaged employees eat healthier and exercise more often.
  • Reduced rates of absenteeism. When an employee is engaged they are less likely to avoid the workplace or succumb to illnesses. Highly engaged individuals will on the contrary dedicate more hours to getting their work finished to a higher standard.
  • Greater employee retention. When employees feel as if their work is valued by the organization they are less likely to consider moving to another company. High levels of engagement keep them aligned with organizational changes and committed to playing a role in transformation.
  • Increased productivity. When employees are engaged with a given task they are committed to the work and consequently more productive than their disengaged counterparts.

Using challenging goals to motivate and engage employees

Goals are a powerful tool for motivation and engagement. But in order for goals to be effective, they need to be established correctly. Simply assigning goals to employees arbitrarily and hoping for positive outcomes is likely to do more harm than good.

Personal development goals to align and engage

One of the most effective ways to drive employee engagement is through the pairing of their personal ambitions with the overall objectives of the organization. By framing personal development goals as a “win-win” situation in which all parties are set to benefit, engagement is further enhanced. Viewing the success of the company as synonymous with their own professional success helps to drive enthusiasm.

As such, when crafting Personal Development Plans (PDPs) and other goal-oriented strategies, employers and employees should work closely together. By making the creation of these plans a shared process, employees are more likely to work harder towards accomplishing these goals. 

Stretch goals to push performance to maximum potential

Whereas Personal Development Plans help strengthen engagement on a professional level, stretch goals encourage employees to think big. Such goals are intentionally ambitious and can be used to push performance towards its optimal point. 

Stretch goals motivate employees by pushing them beyond their comfort zone. One of the primary obstacles to engagement is an over-familiarity with a given employee’s role and responsibilities. Stretch goals pull employees out of the autopilot mental framework and get them to accept challenging tasks beyond the job description.

Stretch goals also engage employees by pushing them beyond their baseline skills. Effective performance management requires HR leaders and managers to understand the existing skill stacks of employees. From this understanding, complementary skills can then be added to help employees create a more rounded talent stack.


Fostering day to day engagement with SMART goals 

Personal development goals engage by pairing personal ambitions with organizational goals. Stretch goals give employees a grand ambition to aim towards over the long term. By contrast, SMART goals offer a tangible framework for engagement on a day to day basis. 

SMART goals are:

Specific

Specific goals remove ambiguity and allow employees to focus on the necessary steps to achieve them. These can address a wide range of performance factors, from production and sales output to the development of soft skills.

Measurable

Employees and managers alike work more effectively when they are able to accurately measure progress towards goals. Performance management tools allow users to track this progress in real-time, addressing obstacles before they become overwhelming. 

Achievable.

Unlike stretch goals, SMART goals should be realistic to accomplish. Employees are more likely to engage with the task of completing goals when they consider their completion as within their abilities.

Relevant.

All tasks employees approach should whenever possible fit in with both their personal ambitions and the function of their role in the wider context of the company. Nesting short term goals within broader ambitions drives engagement by adding a greater sense of purpose to smaller tasks.

Time-based.

Putting an end date on a SMART goal sets clear parameters for performance expectations. Employees who have clear deadlines can drive the right resources and personal time management towards completing the task in a timely manner. By using performance management tools, these tasks and any related catch-ups with team leaders can be properly managed and scheduled.

Continuous conversations for optimal performance management employee engagement

The rapid rise of remote working due to the crisis of 2020 led to an equally rapid rise in engagement from millennials. But as a report from Gallup revealed, this spike in engagement among the millennial generation comes with a caveat:

“The new engagement numbers only apply to millennials working remotely since the onset of COVID-19, and, in the case of the staggering 75% engagement level, only among millennials working remotely who also strongly agree their managers keep them informed and who feel well-prepared at work.”

Performance management software provides the framework for managers and team leaders to keep continuous conversations going. Feedback can be easily scheduled so that conversations become an integral aspect of an employee’s workflow. This structure allows for more meaningful interactions which allow employees to thrive.

Fostering relationships and strengthening trust with regular manager-to-peer feedback

Ongoing conversations between managers and employees can be scheduled as regular one2one check-ins via a performance management suite. Progress towards goals, catching up on problems that might be affecting their well-being and a wide range of other issues are open for discussion.

Building trust and strengthening relationships sits at the heart of these conversations. When managers engage with employees on a regular basis, problems can be addressed in a timely manner and employees feel a closer connection to the priorities of the company.

Some questions relating to engagement managers can ask during these feedback sessions include:

  • Do you have the necessary resources to be able to achieve your goals to the best of your ability?
  • How energized are you by the work you are doing?
  • Do you look forward to coming in to work each day?
  • Are you getting the support you need from colleagues and peers to accomplish your goals? Are you comfortable asking others in your team for help if you need it?
  • Do you feel you are acknowledged when you accomplish something for the company?

Peer-to-peer feedback and collaboration – effective methods to boost engagement between teams and departments

Lateral feedback between colleagues within teams and departments adds an extra dimension to an employee’s understanding of their role. Such feedback encourages a culture of shared responsibility, more effectively engaging team members and providing fertile ground for brainstorming sessions.

Managers should encourage constructive peer-to-peer feedback as part of an overall performance management strategy. Peer-to-peer feedback should go beyond a focus on corrective behaviour and strive to bring employees an increased knowledge of the complementary roles performed by their colleagues.

Performance management employee engagement digital tools to bring hybrid workforces closer together

Millennials who have grown up with social media are accustomed to frequent engagement. Liking and sharing articles and interacting in comments sections are all replicated in performance management software. 

Tools that encourage engagement with these familiar methods of interaction include:

Newsfeeds

Communicating important company updates can become problematic when using emails alone. By channelling all announcements through a performance management news feed, business owners can be sure messages are reaching the right people. 

Critical alerts ensure emergency information and other urgent updates reach employees across all devices through push notifications.

Social intranet

Encouraging employees to engage with one another on a range of topics helps bring peers together and drives innovation. Using social intranets allows individuals to customize the information they receive and engage on the subjects most relevant to their role.

Awards and recognition

Manager-to-peer and peer-to-peer recognition for great behaviour is known to boost confidence and replicate successful habits. By integrating this process of recognition into a performance management employee engagement system, visibility is maximized across the workforce. 

When an employee feels valued for their contribution to organizational success their sense of motivation and engagement is increased.

Understanding employee engagement with data analytics and reporting

Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.

Charles Babbage, English polymath

Performance management software offers insights into engagement in a variety of ways. Likes, comments and other interactions in news feeds and social intranets highlight which users are well engaged and which aren’t. 

Additionally, analytics provide HR leaders and managers with raw data which can be used to make informed decisions relating to employee engagement. Performance management AI-based reporting allows users to cut through the noise and single out the data points which matter the most.

Understanding when employees are disengaged with HR admin tools

Understanding when employees are disengaged is as important as tracking engagement. Performance management software that features integrated HR administration tools allows HR leaders and managers to hone in on those employees who are demonstrating a lack of engagement.

Sickness and absence patterns can be easily registered and tracked using HR admin tools. Furthermore, types of absence can also be logged so that managers have a better insight into the reasons why employees are missing work. Through analysis of digital reports, business leaders can spot individuals, teams and departments which may be falling behind and invest time and energy in boosting engagement.

Using performance management software to track progress towards goals

Setting clear metrics removes ambiguity and allows for clarity of expectations when it comes to performance. These metrics can then be tracked in real-time through performance management software. 

The process of establishing and tracking goals includes:

  • Setting Objectives and Key results (OKRs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Setting KPIs and OKRs allow employees to focus on specific desired outcomes set to explicit deadlines. The ability to monitor this progress in real-time helps keep employees oriented towards their goals and motivated to achieve them.
  • Delivering real-time performance feedback. Managers who receive a consistent flow of performance-related data are best positioned to deliver real-time feedback to employees. Whether this feedback is through scheduled one2one check-ins or on an ad hoc basis via performance management tools, employees experience a higher sense of engagement.

Day to day performance tracking with dashboards and reports. With vast amounts of potential data available it can be easy to get swamped in too many details. Performance management dashboards allow users to customize and prioritize the data they receive. The versatility of dashboards means they can be used to drive engagement in a variety of ways, for instance by facilitating a smooth onboarding process.