You’ve decided you want to get the most from the human potential in your organization. You’ve laid the groundwork by creating KPIs that align with your strategic objectives, and you’ve established balanced scorecards that link those objectives and KPIs to tangible results. What’s next? Now’s the time to put your performance program into action.

Let employees know where they stand

Scorecards are powerful tools to align strategic goals with expectations, but they must be shared with your employees in order to drive behavior. It is critical that feedback is provided on a regular basis to allow your employees to recognize their contribution to the organizational objectives and also serves as an indicator that they need to adjust course when necessary. Monitoring their progress over time is an excellent way to keep your team engaged and focused. Giving employees real-time visibility into how their performance stacks up against expectations eliminates surprises and motivates self-improvement.

Interview your top performers

Why do some employees perform better than others?

The best way to find out is to ask them — but it may not be feasible to make time for a 1:1 interview with every employee. Instead, focus on those with a fully weighted score of 4.5 out of 5 or above. If your performance scorecard is properly calibrated, this will be a manageable portion of your overall population — perhaps 2-5% of the employees in a given role. Meet with these individuals to figure out what they are doing that allows them to excel. It’s possible they’ve just been in the industry a long time and built a great network of contacts, or maybe they’re located in an especially favorable market.

But often times the secrets of success are transferable.

For instance, their team might follow a process that is particularly streamlined, or they might leverage certain technology tools or marketing techniques that others in the company could adopt.

Bear in mind that the top 10 performers in one KPI might not be the same people with the best overall performance. For instance, you may have employees with great volume but low quality and speed, or you may have someone with terrible volume but excellent quality and app-to-funding speed. Using a balanced scorecard is the best way to identify the people who are hitting the right stride.

Recognize top performers’ success — and how they got there

Share the success stories of employees who exceed expectations. You might include a shout-out in the company newsletter, or you could invite top performers to share the habits that drive their success at your next quarterly meeting. Whatever you do, be sure you communicate how top performers got to the top; what are they doing differently that has led to their success?

Recognizing top performers in this way will have several desirable results: recognition lets your top performers know that their efforts are valued, and in turn they will feel more appreciated and engaged; you’ll give those who are striving to improve a model to emulate; and you’ll help the entire team overcome the fear that performance management is just a punitive effort.

In truth, performance management is about celebrating those who are most successful and creating development and learning opportunities that everyone can enjoy.

Coach with compassion — and with numbers

Developing the skills of your own people is usually less expensive than recruiting new employees. The key is to create a culture that rewards an individual’s strengths and supports areas where growth is needed. A successful performance program encourages retention and fosters an environment where employees who are motivated can continuously improve.

To make this work, it is important to properly calibrate your performance metrics so that the majority of your employees will fall into the “safe zone” or the “range of acceptability”. This allows you to focus your efforts on coaching them on how to achieve the best possible result.

Imagine you are a branch manager and an LO comes to you and says they’re not making enough money. Leveraging their scorecard allows you to identify tangible areas that they can focus on to meet their objective.

In addition, your KPI’s will help reveal the areas of opportunity. For example, maybe this LO has decent volume but isn’t an overall top performer because he’s slow to get from app-to-funding or his pull-through is low. Instead of saying, “go get more volume” or trying to add more BPS to his compensation plan, you would be able to offer some constructive suggestions. In this case, maybe the answer is that he needs to focus on getting his applications over to processing faster or develop better follow up skills to make sure that the customer remains engaged throughout the process.

Narrowing their focus on steps will help them be more successful, and in turn help you become a more effective manager. Setting up this kind of performance management framework takes some work, and not everyone will be receptive to it right away. Communication and transparency will be the keys to your success. Make the program easy to understand and make the data accessible to employees at all times so they know where they stand. Once the team feels they can trust the framework, they will feel empowered to improve performance on their own without a lot of handholding.