How well do you know your staff?

After I was discharged from hospital earlier this year a nurse has had to visit my home daily to administer intravenous medication.  Each day a different nurse from the same team has attended and it has been fascinating to see how differently each nurse performs this seemingly routine task. I wish I could have had the chance to sit with the Nursing Manager to give them the feedback on their staff.

Bottom line: Each nurse delivered the medication successfully using the exact same method. So how did the ‘customer’ experience differ? Well, my favourite nurse was friendly but most importantlyperformed the tasks required within a 30 minute time frame. She was competent, friendly and got the job done. Another nurse who impressed me took an hour but was very interested in my welfare and gave me some great advice. Some of the less pleasant experiences included nurses who were awkward to speak with, or just incompetent. It took one nurse two hours to perform the task that all the other nurses did in an hour or less. Not only did she perform the task slowly, she also wasted a lot of time talking, mainly about her pets! Do you have a member of your team who takes twice as long as everyone else?

The above experience has caused me to think that it is likely, in some cases, that our customers know our staff much better than we do. How well do you know your staff? Do you know who your most efficient employee is? Do you know who the time-wasters are?  If the most valuable customer in the world walked into your business tomorrow, which member of your team would you want them to be served by, and why?

Why Should I get to know them better?

Familiarising yourself with the daily activity of your staff has many benefits. Let’s begin by examining the two very broad categories of employees you might find in your business:

Poor Performers:

Perhaps the biggest benefit of gaining a better insight into how your employees interact with your customers is that you can prevent poor customer service occurring in the future. If you come to realise that someone is performing poorly you can work with that person until they are either at the required standard, or in a different job that suits them better.  It is ‘commercial suicide’ to have a dissatisfied or incompetent employee directly serving customers.

Strong Performers:

One of the worst things that can happen is that strong performers can either become poor performers, or even leave due to a lack of recognition. It’s not good enough to give these people a slap on the back from time to time. You need to get to know what it is that they are doing right and consistently reinforce and praise these behaviours. Once you identify your star performers they can also help you work on improving the poor performers.

If you can achieve the above, your business will benefit from:

  • Happier clients – increased return sales.
  • Improved productivity – reduced staff costs.
  • Better staff retention – lower recruitment and initial training costs.
  • Better quality sales staff leading to increased sales.
  • Reduced customer dissatisfaction (and they won’t tell others about their bad experience!)

How can I get to know them better?

The challenge for the home nursing service is that their manager is sitting in an office at the hospital while their nurses are out in the field.  This makes it very hard to monitor the performance of each nurse. However this doesn’t have to be a problem, as all they have to do is ask the patients! If your team work in the same building as you, then that is an advantage. If not, here are some tips to help you gather information about the performance of your staff:

  • Ask your customers, either informally or through a customer feedback process (or both).
  • Have a defined complaint-handling process that alerts you to problems.
  • When implementing ‘Mystery Shoppers’ – Make sure that every employee has been assigned a name badge and that the Mystery Shopper records names.
  • Observe the workplace yourself – to do this you will need to sit / stand next to them for a period of time!
  • Data – Each member in your team should have set KPIs in place. Are you monitoring these regularly?

It’s all about feedback

There is obviously no point taking the time to get to know your employees better if you don’t then provide feedback. There are two types of feedback that have been shown to be effective in improving performance, and two that have not.

Effective Feedback Techniques:

  • Constructive: Talk about behaviours, not attitude.  Communicate what it is that they need to improve and how they can improve it.
  • Positive: The danger here is being too vague and this is where the top managers distance themselves from the pack.  Identify exactly what it is that the person is doing so well and reinforce this behaviour.

Ineffective Feedback Techniques:

  • Negative: Sometimes it’s hard to avoid being negative, but there is no point showing someone what they are doing wrong if you aren’t going to encourage them to do it right. Constructive feedback is far more effective at improving performance than negative feedback.
  • No feedback: This is a crime that most of us are guilty of, and really, the crux of this article. Many of us are too busy completing our own work to provide feedback to the team around us. To improve employee performance, our mindset needs to be that providing feedback is the most important work we can do. Silence allows poor performance to continue or good performance to go un-recognised.  Both are bad for your business.

Final Thought

Once you are sure you know your team and are providing constant feedback to them, why not turn the tables? Ask them what they think of your performance!


Chris Young – Resurg Partner and Facilitator