Performance management is really just the process of helping employees become the best version of themselves. However, many workers have inner blocks that prevent them from realizing their true career potential. The good news is that those blocks can be removed, unlocking the full potential of your team members.

How to Unlock Your Employees’ True Career Potential

A Mindset Shift

Before we begin discussing how to unlock employee potential, it’s important to understand the mindset shift that needs to occur for this to work. Up until recently, performance management was viewed as more of a punitive tool – straighten up and fly right, or else. Today, that’s not the case.

Modern performance management success hinges on the realization that employees actually want to do a good job, and threats (particularly to their financial well-being) are not really the right way to go about helping them do that. In fact, threats can build resentment, and even encourage employees to go elsewhere.

So, before you start trying to unlock career potential within your employees, make sure you’ve eliminated the punitive performance management mindset. Does that mean that there are no repercussions for actions and decisions? Not at all. Accountability is also critically important. It’s just that you shouldn’t tie performance goals to an employee’s ability to make ends meet.

With that caveat out of the way, it’s time to discuss what you need to do to ensure success for your employees.

Check Yourself

Often, the problem with performance lies not with the employee, but with the manager. If your team members aren’t willing to invest 100% of their effort, it could be that you’re doing something wrong. Take a deep dive into your actions, decisions, coaching efforts, and other behavior to determine if there’s something you are doing that might be stymieing success.

It could also be something that you do not recognize that you’re doing (or failing to do). In some instances, taking a leadership course can help you identify what you’re doing wrong or failing to do, allowing you to take corrective action and improve performance across the team as you apply newfound knowledge and skills.

Measure Engagement

A lot has been said about engagement in recent years, which makes a great deal of sense since it is one of the most crucial elements of success in your organization. However, you cannot simply be content to “feel” it when your team is working well together.

Engagement can make or break an entire organization, and if you don’t take steps to actively measure it (and maintain it), you could find that your employees are unable to achieve their true potential. So, how do you measure something as ephemeral as engagement?

You can do several things, including measuring the balance between your expectations and employee performance, observing how employees handle mandatory tasks, and gauging employee willingness to take on additional tasks. You should also take a long, hard look at the environment within the business, listen in on conversations surrounding responsibilities and accountability, and measure the contributions employees make toward organization-wide success.

It’s Time to Personalize Your Motivation

One sure way to drive performance improvement is to offer incentives. Cash is usually used, and that’s a perennial hit, but you cannot always offer financial incentives. In addition, some employees may not react to financial incentives in the way that you want.

It’s important that you strive to motivate your employees, but that you can personalize the motivation. This will require you to really understand your employees and what they value most. For some, an extra day off to spend with their family might mean more than a cash bonus. For others, it could be something completely different.

The point is that to unlock employee career potential, you need to know them at a deep level. What makes them want to participate and give more? What makes them feel more engaged and loyal? Learn that and you’ll be on your way.

Invest in Training

Performance management and learning and development are two sides of the same coin. You cannot improve performance or unlock career potential without training. So, it follows that you need to invest in the training-related assets your employees need to succeed.

What sorts of assets might those be? A modern, cloud-based learning management system (LMS) is a great place to start. However, you’ll also need to populate that LMS with remarkable content that engages employees and inspires them to learn more.

Bring Them Together

If you really want to unlock your employees’ potential, you need to find ways to bring them together. Working as a team can only happen when people feel like a team, and that requires that they have an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. With that sort of understanding, your people automatically begin to position themselves so that they augment strengths and offset the weaknesses of others. This also opens up new training and development opportunities, while bolstering performance both now and in the future.

How do you bring them together, though? Team building events can do a great job. However, don’t underestimate the value and utility of simple social interaction. Yes, a team-building weekend or retreat can yield major results, but a couple of team lunches or afternoons spent bowling can yield some surprising results, too.

Give Guidance

Finally, take an active hand in career development. Work with employees to determine their interests and passions, and then build on those with training related to their desired career paths. When they feel supported and valued, when they realize that you are taking an active hand in helping them grow and evolve, many performance blocks will simply fall away.

It’s That Simple

Unlocking employee potential can seem complicated, but the reality is that it can be as simple as we’ve outlined above. The trick is to focus on helping them develop and grow by supporting them with training, development opportunities, and providing the right guidance and the right time. When you bring all those elements together, you have the recipe for success.