By Greg Harris


Ensuring the safety of those who can’t look out for themselves is a major undertaking. But in 2009, that’s exactly what five Nebraska member organizations set out to do by joining together in one mission as the Nebraska Families Collaborative (NFC).

As a private nonprofit providing a community-based system of care for at-risk kids and parents in eastern Nebraska, NFC understands the importance of people — especially their own employees.

While a nonprofit doesn’t have a large budget to put toward a performance management strategy, the organization knew, in order to provide for their community, they needed a solid communication between leaders and employees.

So, HR and employees joined together to initiate one-on-one performance conversations, giving NFC’s managers and employees the ability to discuss employee performance on a regular, ongoing basis.

Highly engaged companies outperforming their peers by 147 percent, according to a survey by my company, so start building an engaging performance management strategy now. Here are four more ways performance management can pay off in a big way without breaking the bank:

Give meaningful recognition

Gift cards, bonuses, trips to warm, tropical locations — these rewards sound so enticing. But compared to other forms of recognition, how motivating are these expensive gifts?

When asked what forms of recognition were the most memorable and meaningful, only one of the top five responses from employees in our survey involved money.

So, what did we find is making employees most productive? Ninety percent of employees are motivated by positive feedback. Wasting time and money on costly recognition programs that focus only on gifts and rewards isn’t providing your team the highest form of motivation.

Instead, begin forming a strategy based on meaningful and frequent praise. Thoughtful acknowledgement from both company leadership and peers goes a long way toward showing employees their work is noticed, valued, and appreciated.

As your team begins to feel the warmth of personalized rewards, you’ll notice an upward trend in productivity and teamwork.

Get senior leadership to open up

Building meaningful, honest relationships is key to performance management. Feeling like senior leadership doesn’t even know your name makes it impossible for employees to feel appreciated.

For those of you who don’t think employees notice whether or not management is paying attention, you’re missing out on a huge engagement opportunity. In fact, according to our research, 87.5 percent of highly engaged employees say engagement is important to senior leadership, which falls in line with trust in senior leadership being one of the biggest drivers of employee engagement.

Survey employees on what it would mean to them if senior leaders opened up and got involved in recognition efforts. Do they feel management should have a significant presence throughout the office? How motivated would they be if upper management dropped by to express their gratitude? Would productivity increase if they fully believed the organization has their best interest at heart?

These answers will show senior leadership their presence is not only wanted, but also needed.

Incorporate everyone in the plan

When employee surveys end up buried under hundreds of other tasks, what’s the point? If you who aren’t making survey responses a priority, you’re not alone.

Our survey respondents said only 47.6 percent of leadership teams create commitment plans after surveying employees about engagement. What’s worse, only 35.9 percent of managers discuss survey results with their team members.

Surveys are powerful, inexpensive performance management tools, but only when they’re put to good use. It’s difficult to enact a strategy for change when the people involved don’t know what the plan is.

Create a formal plan based on the results of your engagement surveys. Set the amount and type of meetings you’ll have to keep employees informed about their progress, goals, and your expectations for one another.

Understand that engagement is a marathon, not a sprint

Employee engagement — just like any other engagement — is a long-term commitment. That’s why 77.5 percent of highly engaged companies in our survey view employee engagement strategies as a year round initiative, while 50 percent of disengaged organizations only work on it for short periods of time.

Focusing in on performance and engagement only once a year with outdated, traditional annual reviews doesn’t afford employees the frequent recognition and feedback they desire. Instead, break it down into yearly, monthly, and daily tasks to provide the motivating consistency your team needs.

Greg Harris is the president and CEO of Quantum Workplace, a company dedicated to providing every organization with quality engagement tools that guide their next step in making work better every day.