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As humans, we are hard-wired to strive for growth and improvement. Neglecting this aspect can lead to stagnation and complacency.
This statement is particularly true in the workplace, as a staggering 91% of employees want personalized and relevant training. It's a clear sign that many workers are looking for ways to improve their on-the-job performance.
There's no one-size-fits-all principle to make each employee magically develop overnight. But several areas of improvement apply to virtually every employee, regardless of their job title or industry.
In this blog post, we'll explore nine significant areas of improvement and discuss actionable steps you can take to improve your employees' workplace performance.
Why does professional improvement matter?
Professional improvement is not just a goal but a necessity. It is the key to unlocking new opportunities for personal growth and career advancement.
But why does professional improvement matter? Think about it this way: just like a car requires regular maintenance and fuel to keep running smoothly, your employees' career also needs attention and care.
9 Key areas of improvement for employees
There is no universal areas of improvement list as each person has different areas that may require attention. However, the list below includes the most common ones that apply to most employees.
- Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
- Time management
- Distractions avoidance
- Task prioritization
- Conflict resolution
- Customer service
Leadership is the single most important skill that separates successful employees from those who struggle to advance in their careers.
However, leadership can be a difficult trait to master. Those who are not natural-born leaders often struggle to find their footing and may even face resistance from their colleagues.
That's where you as a supervisor, come in. With the proper guidance, anyone can become a genuine leader.
How to help employees improve leadership skills
Here are the tips to help an employee improve their leadership skills:
- Encouraging ownership
Allow employees to take ownership of their tasks and projects. Giving them the autonomy to make decisions and learn from mistakes fosters a sense of responsibility and ownership.
- Plant the seed of possibility
Inspire employees with a vision of what could be accomplished through their leadership and encourage them to believe in their capabilities to create positive and transformative change.
Asking rhetorical questions like "What would be the outcome if you could change the world with your work?" stimulate their imaginations and encourage them to consider the possibilities.
By planting this seed of possibility in your employees' minds, they are more likely to develop a sense of purpose and strive toward creating leadership.
- Provide opportunities for leadership roles
It is a great way for employees to practice and develop leadership traits by trying their hand at a new role. Encourage them to take on leadership roles in projects, teams, or committees.
- Develop a leadership toolkit
Identifying an employee’s leadership stage, style and strengths can be tremendously beneficial in developing it further. Provide your employees with tools and resources that can accelerate their growth toward becoming great leaders.
Create seminars and training sessions where you can teach them how to:
- Motivate and communicate effectively
- Delegate tasks
- Control workflow
- Think strategically
Remember that leaders without adequate training and guidance are like builders without tools - they might still be able to build something, but it will be far from perfect.
2. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a project management approach that involves breaking down a complex project into smaller, more manageable tasks with predefined time frames.
Introducing this popular concept in your organization may have great benefits:
- It enhances project transparency, allowing team members to track the progress of the project and make necessary adjustments as needed.
- It ensures everyone is on the same page regarding the objectives, timeline, and resource allocation.
- With a well-structured WBS, teams can more easily identify potential risks and minimize their impact.
How to help employees improve WBS skills
Here are the tips to help an employee improve their WBS skills:
- Start with the basics
Before introducing your team to more complex WBS concepts: Ensure that they have a clear understanding of the fundamentals. Start by explaining what a WBS is and why it is important. Give examples of successful projects that have used a well-designed WBS.
- Emphasize clarity
Encourage your team to use clear and concise language when creating WBS structures. Explain structures that are difficult to understand and can result in confusion and mistakes.
- Use visual aids
Visual representations can be an effective way to communicate complex WBS structures. Use diagrams, charts, and other visual aids to help them communicate their ideas more clearly.
3. Time management
Effective time management is one of the most sought-after skills in today's workforce. The ability to prioritize tasks and meet deadlines is a significant asset in employees' hands.
As an employee, it can often be challenging to manage time effectively. With busy schedules, competing priorities, endless meetings and to-do lists, it's no surprise that time management can feel impossible.
How to help employees improve time management skills
Here are the tips to help an employee improve time management skills:
- Time blocking
Ask your employees to block out specific times on their calendars for focused work, meetings, and breaks. This strategy helps them visualize their schedule and prioritize their time.
- Set clear expectations and deadlines
Ensure that your employees fully understand the expectations and deadlines for each task that they are assigned. This helps them stay on track and avoid procrastination.
- Encourage breaks
Encourage your employees to take short breaks to recharge their energy and refocus to avoid burnout and maintain productivity throughout the day.
- Minimize meetings
Meetings can be a major time-waster. Minimize the number of meetings they attend and ask them to focus on their priorities and goals.
- Pomodoro technique
This popular time management technique involves breaking down work into 25-minute intervals separated by short breaks. This technique will help your employees stay focused and boost productivity.
4. Distractions avoidance
With the constant lure of social media notifications, emails, and phone calls, avoiding these distractions's becoming increasingly difficult. Not only do they waste precious time, but they also disrupt our focus, which can ultimately affect employees' overall performance.
How to help employees avoid distractions
Here are the tips to help employees avoid distractions.
- Create a "quiet zone"
Designate an area in the office that is a quiet zone. This space should be free from distractions like phones, chatter, or music. This area can be used for tasks that require deep focus and concentration.
- Implement flexible working hours
Everyone's productivity levels vary throughout the day. Implementing flexible working hours allows employees to work when they are most productive. This can lead to less distraction and a higher quality of work.
- Encourage healthy habits
Creating a culture of healthy living can have a positive impact on employee performance. Talk with your team members about the benefits of eating nutritious meals and exercising regularly. A healthy, well-rested employee is a more productive one.
- Provide tools for focus
Noise-canceling headphones, white noise machines, and apps that block social media and other distractions can all help employees stay on task. Providing access to these tools shows your team that you value their productivity.
- Recognize and address personal distractions
Different employees will have different things that distract them. Some may struggle to stay focused due to personal issues like financial stress or family problems. As a manager, it's essential to recognize these struggles and provide support to help employees overcome them.
5. Task prioritization
Effective prioritization of duties is a critical skill that every employee should possess. With many tasks that cannot be completed within a stipulated period, prioritizing becomes paramount to job performance.
How to help employees improve task prioritization
Here is how to help employees improve the task prioritization process.
- Utilize the 1-3-5 rule
This rule encourages employees to tackle one big, three medium, and five small tasks daily. This will help them focus on what's important without getting bogged down by minor tasks. By utilizing effective task management software, teams can streamline their workflow, prioritize tasks, and achieve greater productivity.
- Apply the “Eat the frog” technique
"Eat the frog" is another interesting technique for task prioritization. Mark Twain said, "if it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest first."
This means tackling your most dreaded task at the beginning of your day, so it's not hanging over your head all day.
- Apply the Pareto principle
A surefire method to help your employees prioritize effectively is by using the Pareto principle. This principle states that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of inputs. So, focus on the most critical 20% of tasks yielding 80% of the results.
For example, if you manage a sales team, you can ask team members to spend 80% of their time prospecting and the remaining 20% making sales calls with the best leads.
- Use the Eisenhower matrix
This framework helps employees categorize tasks into four quadrants: urgent/important, not urgent/important, urgent/not important, and not urgent/not important.
Focus on the urgent/important tasks first, and delegate or eliminate the others.
Open and clear communication not only helps to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts, but it also helps to create a positive work environment where everyone feels heard and valued.
Despite effective communication's positive impact on productivity, it is still an area of improvement for many employees. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Fierce, 86% of employees and executives believe ineffective communication is the underlying reason for workplace failures.
How to help employees improve communication skills
Here are the tips to help employees improve their communication skills.
- Foster a safe environment for feedback
Feedback is essential for growth, but it can be hard to receive. Fostering a safe environment where employees feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback can help improve communication. This means being open, honest, and respectful when giving feedback and creating a culture of trust and transparency.
- Recognize the power of nonverbal communication
Communication isn't just words. Make your team aware of their nonverbal communication, such as body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. This can help ensure that their message matches their intended tone.
- Utilize role-playing exercises
By putting employees in hypothetical scenarios, they can practice effective communication in a safe and constructive environment. This helps to build confidence and allows for constructive feedback from others.
As Stephen Covey once said, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply."
Therefore, as managers, we must help our employees develop a culture of active listening, leading to a more fulfilling work environment.
Listening is an underestimated helpful skill in any work setting. You can effectively transfer and receive important information and build stronger relationships by fully engaging with colleagues and clients.
Simply put, the better you listen, the more informed your decisions and communication will be.
However, active listening requires more than simply sitting quietly and hearing what someone is saying. You can take several practical steps to improve employees' listening skills.
How to help employees improve listening skills
Here are the tips to help employees improve their listening skills.
- Use a Tree analogy
Just as a tree needs strong roots to grow tall, employees need a strong foundation of listening skills to communicate effectively. Encourage your employees to focus on building a solid foundation by actively listening and seeking understanding before responding.
- Ask open-ended questions
When giving instructions, avoid asking yes or no questions. Instead, ask open-ended questions that require your employees to think more deeply and respond with more detail. Not only does this encourage better communication, but it also helps to build a culture of collaboration and problem-solving.
- Active listening exercises
Give your employees opportunities to practice their listening skills. For example, you could hold a listening exercise where one employee talks about a topic for a set amount of time, and the other employees have to summarize what they heard. In this way, they can improve listening skills, trust and teamwork.
- Mirror listening
Repeat what your employees say to you, so they know you're actively paying attention. This creates mutual understanding and respect, which is important in a collaborative work environment.
- Incentivize listening
Consider offering rewards for employees who show exceptional listening skills. This could be something as simple as a gift card or public recognition. By rewarding good behavior, you create an environment where listening is valued.
8. Conflict resolution
Workplace conflicts cost US businesses close to $359 billion every year. This staggering statistic underscores the importance of conflict resolution strategies in the workplace.
Conflict resolution is a skill that requires patience, empathy, and consistent practice. Developing these skills takes time, but it is worth all the effort as it makes our workplaces feel safer, happier, and more productive.
With different strategies and techniques, you can approach conflicts in a more positive light and solve problems with creative solutions leading to win-win outcomes.
How to help employees improve conflict resolution skills
Here is how to help employees improve conflict resolution skills.
- Focus on the issue rather than the people
When dealing with conflicts, focusing on the problem at hand rather than the people involved is essential. Avoid getting personal, attacking employees' personalities, or making them feel like they are under attack.
- Address problems head-on
It's essential to address issues proactively. Avoidance only delays the conflict resolution process and leaves everyone involved feeling frustrated or resentful. Instead, directly approach the problem and make sure that communication is ongoing and transparent.
- Emphasize emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is critical when dealing with conflicts. Encourage your employees to understand their emotions and how they impact their behavior. Empathy, self-awareness, and emotional regulation are all essential components of emotional intelligence.
9. Customer service
Customer service can make or break a company's reputation and success. As a manager, it's your responsibility to coach your team in providing excellent customer service through up-to-date call center technologies.
Interestingly, customer service skills are also vital when working with colleagues. Employees can build better working relationships and teamwork by displaying courteous and professional behavior.
How to help employees improve customer service skills
Here is how to help employees improve their customer service skills.
- "The 5/10 Rule" Strategy
Greet customers within five seconds of arrival and acknowledge them within ten feet of their presence. Make it a habit to greet customers smiling and engage in small talk to build rapport. Customers appreciate feeling welcome and valued.
- Create customer personas
Help your team develop empathy for customers by creating fictional customer personas. This approach will give employees an understanding of their target audience. You can even make it fun by giving each persona a name and backstory.
- Invest in technology
Technology can be a valuable tool to help your employees provide great customer service. Creating a client portal, Investing in chatbots, AI, and other digital solutions can streamline all processes and free up your employees to focus on more complex customer issues.
How to identify employees’ lacking areas of improvement?
Try to gain a deep understanding of each employee. This can be done through open communication, one-on-one meetings, mentorship, and performance evaluations.
This deeper understanding will help you identify areas where an employee might be struggling and where they might need additional guidance to improve.
Ask your employees questions like:
- "What areas do you feel less confident in?"
- "Are there certain tasks or assignments that you consistently struggle with?"
- "Do you feel some areas require additional training or support?"
If they still struggle with identifying lacking areas, consider seeking a mentor or coach who can guide them and help them develop a personalized improvement plan.
Remember, identifying and addressing areas for improvement is not a sign of weakness but a sign of a committed and ambitious employee who is always striving to be their best.
Investing in professional development is a wise choice for any organization that wants to improve employee performance. The organization and its employees will reap countless benefits by providing workers with opportunities to learn and develop.
Remember that professional development is a continuous journey, not a destination itself. It's not just one area of improvement that employees should work on, but it's an ongoing process of self-reflection and learning.
Take action to improve your employees' workplace performance and see its positive impact on your bottom line.