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Enhancing performance

For: Employers and managers

Performance development or management is a core part of every manager and supervisor’s job.

All managers ‘do’ performance management, while great managers enhance the performance of their team.

Watch the Video Good work design: Enhancing performance for an introduction to this topic.

Tools for enhancing performance

Why enhancing performance matters

Effective performance development is the key to having an engaged, motivated and high performing team – which ultimately makes your job much easier.

However, research shows that only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.

Inadequate reward and recognition is a psychosocial hazard that can create a risk to health and safety.

How to enhance performance

Every organisation has different performance systems and processes to follow. Managers who also undertake these simple performance activities are likely to have higher performing and engaged teams.

1. Give clear expectations

People work best when they know the purpose of the work and what is expected of them.

  • Let your team members know what they need to do, why they need to do it and when they need to do it by.
  • Make sure you know who in the team is best placed to do the work and what resources they need.
  • Check in with your workers to see if they are clear on what they need to do.

2. Focus on strengths

  • Talk to your team members about what their strengths are and how they can use them in their work each day.
  • Help your people to develop their strengths. Focusing on weakness is ineffective and demoralising.
  • Review roles and encourage your employees to engage in their own job crafting to shape aspects of their work to align better with their values, strengths and passions.
  • Remember that people who work in a strengths based environment learn their roles faster, produce higher quality work, stay with their organisation longer and are more engaged.

3. Give regular 'real time' feedback

  • Provide feedback to your team members on their work while they are doing it or as soon as possible.
  • Recognise and reward progress and quality performance.
  • Offer suggestions for improvements that the person can implement immediately, without criticising them or keeping the focus on the past. For example, ‘I noticed when you talked about X this morning that Amy looked confused. How about you provide some more background on X at the next meeting and highlight why we want to do it this way?’
  • Make it a conversation about how improvements can be made. Listen to your worker’s perspective and ideas and create space for them to be part of the solution.
  • Understand that ‘real time’, future-focussed feedback is meaningful and likely to shape your employees’ upcoming work.

4. Focus on future performance

You can’t change a person’s past performance, but you have an opportunity to develop future performance.

  • Keep conversations focussed on ways to shape and support future performance so that people can meet deliverables and achieve results.
  • Understand that most people want to grow personally and professionally. Know your workers’ career goals and motivations and provide helpful development opportunities. This can include individual coaching, training courses, workshops, seminars, conferences, shadowing, mentoring or stretch opportunities.

5. Check in regularly

Research shows that touching base with employees regularly—daily or weekly—is more likely to lead to a more motivated, engaged and high performing team.

Ask simple questions every day or week.

  • ‘What’s going well in your role?’
  • ‘What challenges are you facing?’
  • ‘How are you feeling?’
  • ‘What feedback do you have for me?’
  • ‘How can I help?’

6. What about when performance declines?

Performance declines for many reasons and there may be more than one factor involved. Sometimes people are managing an illness or other difficult personal circumstances.

Sometimes there are problems at work. Whatever the reason, a decline in performance can indicate that a person is struggling and needs more support.

  • Find out why performance has declined. This is your chance to understand if there is lack of clarity about their work, if work demands are unsustainable, if there are relationship issues at work, or if they have something else going on in their lives that is impacting their performance.
  • Support them to get back on track. Consider how the work design can be altered to better support the person’s whole life. This could be as easy as providing clearer expectations, more work resources, or flexible work arrangements that help them to meet personal demands, while still delivering their work.

It could be as simple as saying:

‘I’ve noticed your work is falling behind. Is everything ok? What can I do to help?’

More information

Page last reviewed: 13 March 2024

GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 |

Date printed 19 May 2024