What’s the status and potential of your workforce?

by Rob Marchalonis.

Lead a workforce? One of the most challenging responsibilities of a leader is to evaluate employees. If you have a workforce, it’s imperative that you understand, evaluate, and develop worker performance. Obviously, every worker (and thus every workforce) has a unique performance profile. Consider the following employee continuum or performance spectrum example, “as loosely labeled and described by me”, to begin to understand and evaluate employees in a range from desirable to undesirable.

How would you describe your employees? Have you found it challenging to assess the performance of your workforce like I have at times? As you consider the list above, who or what comes to mind? Do you know people who fit some of the descriptions and can you think of specific events or outcomes that correspond to these behaviors? How much do you struggle to accurately describe or label your employee’s performance? What about yourself? Where would others describe you on the performance spectrum?

A reflection of each of us? I’m no psychologist, but I’ve heard experts claim that virtually all of us exhibit behaviors that fall under each of the performance labels above! Yes, from All-Star to Evil, we have or will perform or respond in ways that fit these descriptions. What is your bias? You may be critically aware of the failure or weakness in others, but do you also give equal consideration to their strengths and potential? How critical are you of yourself?

Evaluate and grow. As a leader, you have an opportunity (and perhaps the responsibility) to help bring out the best in others. You not only need to evaluate your team but more importantly find effective ways to select, support and develop them. Often, the process begins when you assemble a team and begin to assess how well the members fit with your goals and strategies. Consider this 5-step approach I’ve used to guide team building, especially when hiring:

  • Recruit – connect selectively with individuals who sync with your purpose, vision, and values. “Narrow your network.”
  • Hire – clearly communicate the responsibilities, desired outcomes, and potential rewards to find a fit. “Close the deal.”
  • Train – educate, develop, provide learning experiences, and benchmark others. “Build team strength.”
  • Motivate – provide encouragement, learn from failures, and incentivize results. “Celebrate and reward success.”
  • Retain – hang on to your winners by promoting healthy relationships, communication, and opportunities. “Care and share.”

You need talent. A critical outcome of the steps above is to acquire and develop talent. The good news is that talent is almost always supported by evidence. One of my favorite interview questions is, “Tell me about your track record of success.” High-potential candidates will have no problem answering this question, supported by their stories of leadership, accomplishments, victories, promotions, persistence through adversity, recovery from failure, and more.

Equip your employees for success. One way to bring out the best in your employees is to have a clear destination and a good reason for going there. Both recruits and seasoned veterans will respond better when you provide a clear plan with a compelling outcome. Answer these key questions and communicate them regularly to your team to ensure that everyone understands your destination:

  1. Purpose – why does your organization, department, or project exist, and why should your stakeholders care?
  2. Vision – how can you define an exciting future that describes what your success will look like?
  3. Mission – what value must you provide to your clients or customers that will allow you to achieve your vision?
  4. Values – what are the critical behaviors or considerations that should guide your decisions and actions?
  5. Critical Outcomes – what are the few top objectives that you wish to accomplish in the coming 6 – 18 months?

Be worthy of the talent you seek. Establishing a clear destination for your organization is critical, but there’s more you must do to attract and retain the best employees. You must be talent attractive by providing a culture and environment that supports them. Talented employees have the most employment options, so it’s imperative that you respect and appreciate their contribution. They are willing to work “as smart as they can and as hard as they have to” to achieve remarkable results, but they will quickly avoid or exit an unhealthy environment. For more on this topic read the blog post Are You Talent Attractive on IncentShare.com.

Evaluate, equip, and encourage your employees. Become a better evaluator and you will become a better leader. Look to identify talent, beginning with your recruiting. Equip your team for success with training and development. Encourage and reward your team’s victories, ideally by sharing a portion of your success through incentives. Understand that everyone has the potential to rise or fall, and that you as a leader may have the most influence on the direction and magnitude of the outcome.

Rob Marchalonis is the founder of IncentShare and author of IncentShare: Motivate, Recruit, and Get Results with Incentives, now available at Amazon. Connect with him at www.IncentShare.com