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How To Shift Employees Into High Gear

Steering wheel
Anne Rippy | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images
Steering wheel

Your workforce is the engine underneath the hood of your business. A sluggish workforce makes your business a lemon; an efficient one makes it a pearl. And everyone wants a clean ride. That means keeping up on maintenance, following through with inspections, and not overworking your engine. In business, it means leading, motivating, and driving employees to top performance with the right metrics system in place.

Managing employees with metrics is important to building a strong company. Effective metrics drive employees to work toward their own goals that support broader company goals. Similar to a bad corporate metrics system, measuring employees with the wrong metrics does more harm than good. It focuses employees on the wrong goals. A well-planned metrics system teamed with a clear leadership infrastructure makes employees feel like a vital part of the business engine, so long as employees are asked to meet realistic expectations that they value. Here’s how to install a metrics system that will turn your workforce into a high-performing engine.

Set Goals as a Team

Just as a great driver listens to the engine and addresses its needs, a great company leader listens to employees and takes their needs into account when goal-setting. Leaders are not just CEOs or presidents – they’re department managers, team leads, and anyone else with direct reports. Great leaders recognize that employees push the company forward each day. They know that exclusively setting top down goals will have the business stuck in neutral, because employees won’t be motivated.

Leaders must establish high-level company goals, and then use them to provide the context of why individual employee goals are important. This gives employees a sense of purpose, which motivates them to set individual metrics that fall in line with company goals. This is the most effective way to find common ground between your company’s definition of success and your employees’ definition of success.

Trust Your Employees to Perform

Employees should feel like metrics are goals instead of tasks, so leaders need to let them decide how to meet their metrics. You don’t actually push your engine pistons back and forth as you drive. You step on the gas pedal and trust the pistons to work. Great leaders trust their employees similarly. If a sales rep is well-spoken and comfortable in front of clients, develop metrics around getting that rep in front of customers. Let that rep decide how to reach those customers. Leaders should mentor employees along the way and review processes with them. Other than that, find out what fuels your workers, build those motivators into your metrics, and let employees accelerate.

Choose Clear Metrics for High Performance

In a healthy engine, each part has a clear function. Employee metrics must be equally clear. At Axcient, appointment setters collect contact information cards from technology events and try to turn a percentage of those into sales calls. Account managers then try to turn a percentage of those sales calls into new customers. And they all work with regional sales managers to establish new, specific goals each quarter. Axcient also automates systems that pull metrics to show employees where they stand against their goals. Employees should only focus on meeting 3-5 clear metrics each quarter.

Practice Regular Metrics Maintenance

Regularly evaluate your metrics before problems arise, especially within start-up companies, where processes and goals are ever-changing. The Axcient sales team revisits some metrics weekly and others monthly to make sure they’re measuring their work against the right ones. If something isn’t working, we change it. Don’t be afraid to change metrics that are not working. Just keep employees’ personal goals in mind when you do. Establishing metrics based partly on employee goals is the best way to show workers that their jobs are vital to the business’ success. And when each employee feels like a valuable, contributing member of your company, you can step on the gas and listen to the engine purr.

Justin Moore is CEO of Axcient. You can follow him on Twitter at @justinrmoore.

Email us at SmallBiz@cnbc.com and follow us on Twitter @SmallBizCNBC.

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