Grow Your Own Superstars: Get MORE From Middle Performers

September 6th, 2018

Average employees comprise 60 percent of the workforce. With these strategies, you can tap the potential of middle performers — and dramatically improve your organization’s performance:

Stop and think for a moment about the employees who receive the most attention from you. If you’re like most leaders, two groups come to mind: Your highest performers and your lowest performers.

But what about those employees who are doing just enough to stay off your radar?

Average employees who meet expectations but don’t exceed them make up 60 percent of your workforce and likely receive the least of your attention.

Ignoring your average performers is a mistake.

If your entire team is to succeed, you need to develop those employees. And let’s be honest — in today’s employment market, hiring a rock star is hard. It takes time, it costs money and the margin for error is great. With a little bit of attention and coaching from you, however, your average performers can develop into the rock-star team you’ve always dreamed of. Here’s how to tap their potential:

Define Clear Duties and Goals

One of the biggest reasons why employees fail to exceed expectations is the fact that they don’t know what your expectations are. Take the time to sit down with every employee to make sure their job description aligns with the duties they are performing and adjust them as needed. This may mean updating the descriptions, moving tasks around or a combination of both.

Once everyone is clear about what they are supposed to do, define success for them by setting clear goals. Remember that strong goals follow the SMART framework:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Results-based
  • Time-based

A clearly defined set of duties and clearly defined goals that speak directly to those duties gives employees a roadmap to success.

Check In and Provide Two-Way Feedback

Once everyone has their goals in place and they know what they need to be doing, set aside time at least once per month for one-on-one meetings to address progress. These meetings don’t have to be long, but they should be non-negotiable.

Provide actionable feedback the employee can use to improve their performance and ask each person what they need from you in order to achieve their goals. If someone is struggling, work out action steps they can take to get back on track quickly.

Ask Them What They Want

You may find that some of your average performers are perfectly content to stay exactly where they are. But you will likely find that most of your team members do have goals and they have an idea of what it is they want their job and their career to look like.

When you have one-on-one meetings with your team members, ask them what it is they are looking for from their career. If an employee wants to become a manager, for example, take steps to help them. Connect them with a mentor, help them map a career path, and let them know the gaps they need to fill in their skills and experience in order to take that next step.

Showing an interest in their personal goals can help reignite their passion for their work, and it will give you an idea of what motivates them to succeed.

Reward Great Work With New Responsibility

Many people fall into “average” territory because they simply aren’t being pushed beyond their limits. If someone has been doing the exact same tasks the exact same way for two years, they are bound to get a little complacent. As you start working with your employees towards goal achievement, reward those people you see improving by giving them new responsibilities.

Trusting employees with something new shows them that their efforts are not going unnoticed, and they will feel honored that you’re allowing them a chance to spread their wings. New duties and responsibilities also help energize employees by breaking up the monotony of their core tasks, and can improve their overall engagement.

Make It Safe to Fail Forward

Average employees are used to flying quietly under your radar and they aren’t apt to rock the boat by trying a new approach or testing a new idea. They may feel that failure will put them on your radar for all the wrong reasons. However, success is built on the back of failure and if you want average performers to grow, they must feel safe stepping outside their comfort zone.

Create a culture where failure is acceptable — within reason. You don’t want to promote failure every day, but start instilling in your team that a failure every now and then isn’t the end of the world. You can build that trust by sharing your own failures when they occur, and letting your team know exactly what you learned. Help them understand that they should always strive for successful outcomes, but if they try their best and happen to fail, it’s ok — as long as they learn from that failure and use it to improve in the future.

If you are looking for more strategies for success, or if you want to hire rock stars for your team, contact your staffing or recruiting partner today.

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