How to Motivate Your Employees to be their Best

Written by: Fargo Inc Staff

The landscape for performance management is shifting, according to Saba “only eight percent of companies believe their performance management process is highly effective in driving business value, while 58 percent say it’s not an effective use of time.” What organizations are finding is that is ineffective, costly and defeating to their culture. Gallup reports that “fewer than 15 percent of employees are optimistic that performance reviews benefit them in terms of performance.”

If a manager is looking at the performance of an employee over an entire year, it is typical that they only focus on the last three to six months, as it is more relevant than the entire year. Traditional performance management processes and tools require employees to track information throughout the year and complete a self-evaluation at the end of the year, the manager then completes an evaluation with a score.

The challenge with this approach is creating the right behaviors to drive results and maximizing performance from your team members. Athena Kaviris, a senior HR executive for GE Transportation states, anytime you wait a year to give meaningful feedback you are working with old news.

“Scoring them in various areas and providing feedback based on that score does not drive inspiration and motivational performance. Because of this, traditional performance management processes are being replaced with performance motivation. Performance motivation focuses on overall organizational impact through measures of success (key performance indicators). Organizations want to drive results through performance-based outcomes and ultimately motivate their workforce to achieve results. It starts with understanding the role-level expectations of each team member through building solid Impact Descriptions, these descriptions are tied directly to measures of success (key performance indicators) and replacing the traditional job description which focuses on responsibilities.

The impact description provides clarity of empowerment, the impact of the role on the vision of the company and direct value to the team and/or organization. Performance motivation is focused on individual development. The individual has accountability to drive their own development plan and has defined support by leadership. A question that leadership may ask them, “How can WE support YOU?” rather than “How can YOU support US?”

Because of the shift of supporting the employee, conversations between team members are frequent. Leaders provide coaching and immediate feedback. Feedback is not about praise, it is specific, results-oriented and timely. According to Impraise HR Software, “70 percent of users say that getting regular feedback from peers and managers helps them improve their performance.” Team members and leaders should seek feedback, asking for feedback puts the individual asking in a position of control, which also reduces stress, and allows for the receiver or all parties involved to be specific about the aspects of what they discuss. Research by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and the Center for Effective Organizations (CEO) supports the idea that organizational and financial results improve when positive and productive goal setting, performance assessments and career development conversations are focused on employee motivation, engagement and retention. Simply put, motivation wins the day.

A coaching culture shares best practices and examples of what has worked well and how these examples align with the overall team and organizational success. Coaching helps move the mindset to focus on the future rather than the past. 

Focus on:

  • Feedback should have a clear business focus, feedback is not about giving advice and praise, it is focused on specific outcomes/goals and acting.
  • The future.
  • Effective feedback isn’t about the person, it is about the process/actions.

Moving on to formal valuations:

Organizations are replacing goals with measures of success (key performance indicators). It’s obvious that for this to be successful, the team must have visibility into the organization’s vision and strategies. Leadership and team members must understand the underlying state of the business, what is standard, acceptable or unacceptable. Having clear measures of success (KPI) help the team member and leader understand if they are on track or if a course correction is needed. Key performance indicators are focused on a targeted result. Key performance indicators must be clearly defined with the ability to track and report and be affected. The measures of success will provide factual evidence over a specific period of time, so defining them for each position will be a challenge.

Employee tools for preparing for feedback, coaching and their development plans:

  • Showcase your work, provide visibility to your achievements
  • Align expectations with leadership
  • Raise issues proactively
  • Welcome and invite feedback
  • Seek coaching
  • Invest in yourself: “If you don’t ask, it’s not going to happen.” “Be specific.” –Timothy Butler, Director of Career Development at Harvard Business School
  • Be prescriptive in your message: crisp, description phrases that best support your message. 

If a course correction is needed, accountability is both at the manager and employee level, some useful tools for team members not meeting expectations are:

  • Listen, take in the feedback
  • Dig deep, take an honest look in the mirror, own it and act appropriately (self-reflection)
  • Stop and think it through (Cookie Monster)
  • Ask for help, use your tools, resources and take action to create a corrective action plan
  • Seek a second opinion from a trusted co-worker or mentor
  • Invest in yourself (education, certifications, trainings)
  • Open communication, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification
  • Evaluate job fit 

Transitioning to a performance motivation strategy will increase productivity, innovation, employee and client satisfaction, financial performance, quality and will help in attracting talent. Highly motivated team members will work beyond the expectations of their role when their organization shows investment in their success. Market leaders such as IBM, Microsoft, GAP and Adobe have transitioned from traditional performance management practices to performance motivation cultures.

Donna Morris, Head of HR at Adobe who led the company transition stated that “performance management processes should respond to the dynamic nature of organizations, workforce and changing cultures, rather than follow a static model. When you think of the ranking and rating, it suited a certain time, it does not suit today and today’s worker. In my opinion, it’s a process that looks in the rear-view mirror, that’s focused on what you’ve done a year ago. That just isn’t current with how I think we’re working and how many of the employees that we’re looking to attract or grow have been raised.”

The primary reason for the elimination of traditional performance management processes is the way it affects the mind of an employee. The research has shown “the response that the human brain gives to criticism of any kind is the same type of neural response that they give when confronted with some kind of physical danger.” Evidence shows “that the performance of an organization is dependent on its employees. After all, your employees are the engine of your organization.”

Sources: christinecomaford/2016/10/22/why- performance-management-is-dead- performance-motivation-is-here-to- stay/#1a0a9a822dfe do-when-your-boss-thinks-youre-not- meeting-expectations 2019-part-3-performance-reviews/ (Andre, Workplace Trends in 2019: Part 3 – Performance Reviews)

Essays, UK. (November 2018). Relationship Between Motivation And Employee Performance. Retrieved from ukessays. com/essays/commerce/relation-between- motivation-and-employee-performance- commerce-essay.php?vref=1 performance-management-process/


With a mission to “Use our collective voice to foster the business community and empower the HR professional with education of best practices and strategic leadership,” the FMHRA chapter was established in 1976 to provide human resource professionals in the Fargo-Moorhead area and surrounding communities a forum to exchange ideas and to improve the effectiveness of the human resource profession. Membership has grown to over 400 members representing over 200 organizations. FMHRA is an affiliate chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.

About Johnson

Brenda is a Certified Senior Human Recourse Profession and holds both her SPHR (HRCI) and SHRM-SPC (SHRM) certifications and is the Director of Talent & People for Razor Consulting Solutions as well as the President for the Fargo- Moorhead Human Resources Association. Brenda is a seasoned management professional with over 10 years of demonstrated experience spanning business leadership and human resource management fields. Johnson is also the President for the FM HR Association. 

Brenda Johnson from FMHRA talks about sexual harassment
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