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Improving Employee Performance Is All About Communication

Nicole Fallon

Every boss wants his or her employees to use their talents to the fullest capacity. But realistically, it's not possible for this to be done 100 percent of the time; everyone has ups and downs in their work output, and any team member is bound to go through a brief dip in productivity from time to time.

As a manager, it's your job to help your team power through those slumps and bring performance and engagement levels back to their peaks. There are a number of ways to express that you want greater results from your staff, but barking orders and demanding that everyone puts in more effort won't get you very far. An open, honest two-way conversation will help you get to the root of any performance problem, even if it's minor or temporary.

"Clear communication and consistent feedback are the keys to success," said Cord Himelstein, vice president of marketing and communications for employee recognition company Michael C. Fina. "People always appreciate straightforwardness and genuine interactions over management gimmicks. Setting a tone of sincerity and giving the employee a judgment-free space to articulate their challenges is the best way to elicit an honest dialogue."

Business leaders shared their tips for how to effectively communicate with your team, which, in turn, will encourage them to be more productive and efficient. [8 Things Bosses Say That Make Workers Happy]

Empower your employees. "Empowerment is the key to making people efficient. It makes teams happy, and if they're happy, they produce higher-quality work and are more productive. [Let employees] have their own strategy and goals — leave it up to them. They don't need to come to you and ask a million questions. [This approach] empowers teams to think long-term, and not tactically about the day-to-day." – Todd Ross Nienkerk, co-founder and partner, Four Kitchens

"[Ensure] that your employees have access to the resources they need to succeed. I empower my employees to create and plan for how they can best be successful, as this brings out their vision, and then hold them accountable on this vision by establishing clear deliverables and deadlines. Better results come when a team feels valued and [is] equipped with the proper resources needed to perform the job successfully." – Charlie Nooney, CEO, MobiTV

"We are really good at giving people affirmation and letting them know they’re doing a good job. Give your employees the empowerment to push their limits and strive for new innovative solutions. Reward your employees for their successes [and] trust them to accomplish company goals." – Eric Nordyke, CEO and co-founder, AdBoom Group

Ask the right questions — and listen. "Ask plain, open-ended questions that start from square one and get to the root of the problem: 'Tell me in your own words your understanding of the objectives you have to meet. What do you feel is holding you back from meeting your objectives? Why do you think that? How would you overcome this roadblock?' More important than asking the right questions is keeping quiet and being a good listener. One of the biggest sources of frustration in the office is feeling like you aren't being heard." – Cord Himelstein, vice president of marketing and communications, Michael C. Fina

"We interview the employee and ask them what they like and dislike about their position, [and] ask them to be very forthright. Oftentimes, we'll find that a particular position isn't the right fit for that individual at all. And once we receive their feedback, most times, we realize that they need a new position altogether. This has actually been a powerful exercise for us because we have created new positions, which previously didn't exist, after learning about a struggling employee's dream role." – Beau Hale, president and co-founder, AdBoom Group

"You need to diagnose the source of [an employee's] struggle.  Some possibilities are that they do not have enough clarity [regarding] expectations, standards, priorities, methods; they lack skills or confidence; they are not team players; or they lack motivation. Once you know the source of the struggle, you can take the appropriate leadership action which may be direction, coaching or career counseling." – William Dann, author of "Creating High Performers: Seven Questions to Ask Your Direct Reports" (Growth Press, 2014)

Implement the right technologies. "In today's world, where workforces are often decentralized ... creating powerful communications channels is incredibly vital to individual employee success. With a collaborative platform, managers can communicate with their teams with action items they can use to validate comprehension, allowing for a fully closed-loop communications solution to drive engagement and performance." – Mal Poulin, senior director of product strategy, Ancile Solutions

Communicate (nonverbally) through your investment in employees' well-being. "We've been successful in improving our employees' performance by providing amazing employee perks. From unlimited PTO and profit-sharing plans to monthly team outings like 5K runs and charity events, our employees appreciate the ownership that we have given them. We knew that if we started to give them more freedom, not only would their creativity start to take off, but they would be given the liberty to start to act like business owners themselves," – Corey Baggett, co-founder, AdBoom Group

"It's not all about money, and yet when you structure everything around bonuses and KPIs [key performance indicators], you're saying it is. We pay well [and] promote frequently from within, [but we also] support staff 'flourishing' through opportunities, training and interesting travel." – Andrew Fallshaw, CEO and co-founder, Bellroy

"When you invest in someone, it ... creates an environment where people want to work hard. Care about what's going on in their lives. Show them it's not just about ... the bottom line or getting the job done — it's [about] what you're doing together. If you genuinely care for someone and their well-being, they'll allow themselves to be pushed harder because it's not coming from a place of greed." – Jay Bacrania, CEO, Signet Education

Image Credit: ra2studio/Shutterstock
Nicole Fallon Member
Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.