Improving Employee Performance

April 8, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

The challenge of managing and operating a multi-mobile disc jockey service can be very rewarding. Most of us started out as an independent disc jockey, and as business increased, we expanded our services to include multiple DJ systems. We hired people to work for us, and BOOM!!!!!!!!!! The next thing you know, we are now a manager and supervisor to several employees. In most instances, the new multi-mobile disc jockey manager is not properly trained or prepared to supervise other employees. That’s when the problems start to arise.
Very often, the untrained supervisor experiences two extremes in management style. The first one, is the dictator. This is the type of supervisor who feels that he or she has the legitimate power to order people around, because they are the boss. They tend to use their power to get the employee to perform, instead of using constructive ways to motivate the employee. This type of supervisor usually comes from the school of “you will do as I say, because I am the boss” type of mentality. The problem is, that the mobile disc jockey service is not the Marine Corps. For most DJ’s, it is a part time position, and they can easily do without the job. This type of manager soon realizes the consequences of dealing with his or her employees as a dictator. Each time you fire an employee, you have to re-train a new one. This becomes very time consuming, and you lose experienced disc-jockey’s. In addition, the employee turnover becomes a problem. If you are good at what you do, you most likely get referrals from the banquet hall managers in your area. High employee turnover is quickly noticed by banquet hall managers and they tend to be reluctant to refer any business that appears to be unstable.The second type of manager is the complete opposite of the dictator described above. This type of manager often wants to be liked by his or her employees, and is too lenient in the way they supervise. Often, the employees take advantage of a boss who tries too hard to be a friend, instead of an effective supervisor. A variety of problems result from this style of leadership. DJ’s will start taking advantage of a weak supervisor, if they know they can get by with it. Some examples might include the employees being late arriving to the event site, dress code requirements not being followed and other similar problems will arise until the supervisor loses complete control of their staff.

In order to become a successful supervisor, you need to formulate a compromise between the two extremes listed above. Your ability to communicate with, and improve employee performance will be a major factor in your success as a supervisor. How do you improve employee performance? You begin by doing two things:

. Take full responsibility of the performance of your employees.

. Set clear and concise performance standards for your employees, and then monitor the employees to ensure that your standards are met.

Here are a few tips to get you started in improving employee performance:

Provide a positive work environment for your employees and make your them feel that they are part of a professional and well respected team. This all begins in the hiring interview and continues throughout the training program, and ultimately, during the course of their employment. You must convince your staff that they are working for a top of the line, professional organization. Stress the importance of your staff maintaining your reputation and good standing in the community, and the adverse effect of negative image due to poor work performance. In essence, you need to get the employee to “buy into” all of the important concepts that make your company a professional organization, and get them to want to become a part of that positive image.

Be consistent as a supervisor. You need to remind them on a regular basis of what you expect from them. Praise your employees when they are performing well, and give constructive criticism when they need to improve their performance. Don’t confront your employees only when they are performing poorly.

Make them feel as though they are part of a team. Don’t treat them like children or un-equals to you. Be positive in the way you deal with your employees.

Never jump to conclusions when a problem arises. No matter how obvious a problem appears to be. Ask the employee why first. I can’t tell you how many times I have saved myself a lot of embarrassment by asking why first, before jumping down someone’s throat for something. You never know what unusual circumstance may have lead to the problem.

Provide your employees with clear and concise performance standards, from day one. Lack of communication on what you expect from an employee will almost certainly lead to problems that need correction. I prefer to head off problems, before they arise, by communicating what I expect from my employees in a positive manner. Remember last months issue on company training manual’s?? This is an important component in communicating with your employees what you expect from them.

Improving Performance and Disciplinary Action

First, it is important to differentiate the difference between improving employee performance, and disciplinary actions. Improving employee performance is strictly an educational session with the employee to assist them in finding ways to improve the way they provide services. In contrast, disciplinary action is a punitive session where the employee is counseled for an infraction of your rules or performance procedures. Lets first discuss improving employee performance.

Once a deficiency is noted, the efficient supervisor will set up a meeting with the employee to discuss the deficiency. You should avoid discussing performance problems with the employee on the job, while they are performing. This tends to rattle most DJ’s for the rest of the event. How you start the meeting to discuss the problem is extremely important. Begin by complimenting the employee on the positive things that they are doing and tell them that they are a valuable part of your team. Emphasize that the problem you have observed is relatively small and that you want to assist them in refining and polishing their performance. Getting off on the right foot can make or break how well the employee receives your constructive criticism.

Keep your conversation constructive and positive, and always ask for your employees input when discussing the deficiency. The key here, is that you are discussing an issue, and not a person. Listen carefully to what the employee has to say. Tell the employee how you think they can improve the deficiency and agree on specific actions that each of you will undertake.

Lets say that you have a disc jockey who you have noted has a problem mis-pronouncing names when introducing the wedding party. In your meeting, you should start out by praising him or her on the good job they do on a consistent basis. Tell them that you have noted a small deficiency that you think they can improve. Explain the problem, and remind them that mispronouncing a name is a very visible mistake. Ask the employee if they noticed that they had this problem, and ask them if they have any ideas on the best way to correct it. Then, you should suggest your own idea on the best course of action, such as phonetically writing the name as it sounds, and taking a little more time to double check pronunciations when the bridal party is lined up. Once the employee recognizes the problem, and agrees on a specific action to correct it, you should follow up on the employee to see if the employee made the necessary adjustments. The key here, is to stay positive, but firm.

Disciplinary action usually is necessary when you have already confronted the employee about a problem or infraction, and the employee has failed to take corrective action. In some cases, disciplinary action may occur on the first offense, when that infraction is significant in nature. It is important to note that failure to take disciplinary action, when necessary, may damage your credibility as a supervisor with the employee, and other co-workers. The key is to be fair and consistent.

When disciplinary action is necessary, you should anticipate some form of hostile reaction from the employee. Your job is to keep a calm, cool and collective demeanor. If you, the supervisor, become involved in a hostile argument, you become part of the problem, not the solution. Tell the employee the nature of the problem, and remind them about previous discussions you may have had about this issue. Ask the employee for any reasons that have prevented them from changing their performance or behavior. You should re-affirm the company’s position on the issue involved, if you have had previous discussions on this problem. This brings up an important point, documentation. You should get in the habit of documenting any problems or infractions that may result in disciplinary action in the future.

Without failure, employees will very often plead ignorance and claim that they don’t remember discussing an issue that you brought to their attention previously. Anytime that a performance problem is noted, and discussed, you should document the date and the nature of the conversation in the employee’s file. For example, lets say that you observed and documented that an employee was late in arriving to an event on two occasions. Being able to recite those specific dates and details will assist in resolving any dispute that may arise in the future. This is especially important if you use no-compete contracts with your staff and you have to terminate their employment (see the December issue of the DJ Times for more information).

Refer to the appropriate standard in your company training manual, if you have one. Lets say that the employee is required to arrive to the event site one full hour prior to the event to set up, and make a proper equipment check. If this standard of performance is outlined in your company training manual, you can point out the non-conformance to the employee in a way that shows where they are deficient, without it becoming a personal attack on the employee. This is yet another reason that you should have a company training manual.

Once you have identified the problem, and referred to the appropriate standard of performance, you should outline the disciplinary action that you are going to take. It is imperative that you are consistent in this area. You cannot give one employee a five week suspension for an infraction that a different employee received a one week suspension for. Word does have a way of getting around about these types of things, and you must be consistent to maintain your credibility.

In addition to outlining the disciplinary action you plan to take, you need to make the employee aware of the consequences if a future infraction should occur of the same or similar nature. Depending on the severity of the infraction, the employee needs to have a clear picture of what will happen if the problem is not corrected. This will help prevent any misunderstandings, should the problem happen again.

After you have outlined the disciplinary action you are going to take, you should discuss specific steps on how the employee can conform to your standards of performance. Be constructive and positive toward the employee, and try to get the employee to describe what actions he or she will take to conform to the standard. This is a very successful technique, as an employee is much more likely to follow through with a plan that they devised. Just be careful that the plan is suitable to correct the problem. Assist the employee with ideas of your own, and set a follow up meeting to make sure that the problem is corrected. This is important, because you are telling the employee that you won’t forget about the issue.

At the conclusion of the meeting, tell the employee that you value him or her as being an important part of your team. Try to end the session on a positive and upbeat tone. This will go a long way toward correcting the problem, and improve your credibility as a supervisor.

I have experienced a variety of employee’s over the last 16 years. There have been many challenging situations that I have had to deal with. In the early stages of being a supervisor, I simply wasn’t prepared to deal with them correctly, and wound up learning by trial and error. I would strongly encourage anyone who is in a position to supervise others, to go to their local college and sign up for as many supervision and management courses as you can afford to attend. This is what I did, after I took enough knocks the hard way.

The author, Paul Beardmore, welcomes anyone who has questions or specific employee problems to contact him by email at: , or by phone at (540)635-3503

Mobile Beat Staff Writer (371 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.

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