4 Steps to Effective Performances Management
Set expectations and coach your team to develop a more effective workforce

Maximizing employees' potential has always been a challenge for employers. But, in the construction industry, receiving the best performance from employees can dramatically impact owner satisfaction and profitability. Performance management is not just about dealing with the poor performers. It is a holistic process that involves hiring the right people, setting employee expectations, coaching employees to effectively deliver a high-quality product on time and terminating poor performers. Rather than finding ways to get a poor performer to do a better job after a problem surfaces, construction employers should understand that performance management begins when a job opening is created. They should invest in preliminary activities like recruiting, screening, orienting, training and creating effective performance evaluation systems.

Step 1: Hire the right people

In sports, the coaches with the best records are usually the best recruiters. The same principle applies to the workplace. If you get the best talent in the first place, you will spend less time coaching their performance. Getting the right personnel starts with your recruiting efforts and continues through the screening and in-person interviewing stages. This part of the process involves using criminal, credit, motor vehicle, education and other background checks that are legal and appropriate for the position you are seeking to fill. Even after a hire, during the introductory period of employment, you should be diligent in determining whether or not you made a good hiring decision.

Step 2: Set expectations

Once a selected applicant becomes your employee, provide that person with a thorough orientation that familiarizes the individual with your organization, his or her role in the firm and the overall company culture. Explain your firm's values, benefits, rules and expectations for successful performance. The more precisely you articulate these expectations, the more likely the person is to meet and exceed your expectations. This orientation stage is important for motivating new employees and inspiring a positive attitude about the opportunity to work with you.

During orientation, the employee must complete all basic employment forms. Make sure to provide new employees with a detailed employee handbook. This is also the time to execute any employment agreements or restrictive covenants that may contain confidentiality or non-competition provisions. Having these documents in place will convey that you operate your business in a professional manner. The orientation process is also the time to educate employees about the various rules, regulations, procedures and quality and safety standards that are unique to your operation.

During the course of an individual's employment, you will also issue policies or directives. Clearly articulating your expectations in writing will ensure that employees are aligned with your expectations and will help prevent employees from straying outside the bounds of acceptable performance and conduct.

In addition to issuing policies, construction employers must train employees and managers about their policies and procedures. Attendees should complete sign-in rosters and individual acknowledgement of training forms to be retained in the employees' personnel files. In addition, construction employers must document all safety training.

You should also provide employees with on-the-job training opportunities. As with clear policy direction, on-the-job training can help employees deliver the quality product you expect and, in turn, minimize the need for negative performance counseling, discipline or even termination of employment.

Step 3: Implement performance coaching

If you get the first two steps right, then performance coaching becomes much easier. But even with high performers, you need to have pre-existing mechanisms in place to periodically review and improve performance. The most basic mechanisms for performance coaching are progressive discipline procedures and periodic performance evaluations.

In addition to annual or semi-annual performance evaluations, construction employers can use checklists or inspection reports to offer employees feedback on a daily basis. This feedback can have an immediate impact on identifying and improving performance issues.

Although progressive discipline is not required and should not be promised, most employers want to rehabilitate employees before terminating their employment. To be effective, discipline needs to be objective, consistent and appropriate for the circumstances. Progressive discipline may also help you avoid legal liability.

Where discipline has not been necessary, formal performance evaluation systems can help you fine-tune employee performance. Employees want feedback, and having such a system in place allows you to offer constructive input without the employee feeling threatened. The process also provides an opportunity for you to offer additional training and guidance to help the employee improve performance. Additionally, performance evaluations allow employers to more effectively gauge the morale of the workforce and identify areas for change. A good performance evaluation system will allow you to plan for an orderly succession of roles.

Step 4: Let go of poor performers

If your attempts to set expectations and rehabilitate poor performers fail, your last resort is transitioning poor performers out. Effective termination of employees eliminates poor performers and sends a message to the remaining employees that they must meet expectations or suffer the same consequences. Termination of poor performers may also help a construction employer avoid legal claims. Termination of employment is the most negative of the performance management tools, but its utility cannot be denied. The ultimate goal is to select high performing employees and to avoid disciplining poor performers. Achieving this will help the organization improve its overall performance.