A woman sitting in an office, listening intently to someone speaking.

Improving your performance management process can improve employee performance.

Your palms are sweaty. Your heart is racing, and you feel sick to your stomach. You’re not sure what to expect. It could be great; it could be a disaster.

No, you’re not going on a blind date. You’re sitting down for your annual performance review, where you might get praise and a raise, or you might spend an hour hearing about all the areas in which you’re falling short.

Is this how your employees feel during their evaluations? If you don’t have an ongoing performance management process, then yes, it probably is.

Employee Development: An Ongoing Conversation

Annual performance reviews have made for many funny television moments and “Dilbert” comic strips. However, it’s no laughing matter for employees who don’t know what they’re walking into, or for managers who must deliver bad reviews and suffer the morale fallout afterward.

Because of this, a performance management system supported by communication technology is essential for any employer, whether it’s a brick-and-mortar business or a virtual company. The lines of communication remain open year-round, rather than during one dreaded meeting. No one feels blindsided come first quarter, and because employees are continually being coached and developed, their performance is more likely to improve over time.

What does it take to develop a seamless performance management process?

1. Goal Setting

Most people want to do a good job, make their bosses happy, and advance at work. Yet it’s hard to reach the finish line when you don’t know where it is. By setting performance goals with measurable outcomes, managers give employees a clear path to success.

For example, salespeople tend to have clear metrics. Along with meeting sales quotas, they’re also measured based on the number of calls they make, the number of sales prospects they actually reach, and the number of inbound leads they follow up on. They know where they stand and where they’re falling short.

While other employees don’t always have such a clear roadmap, it’s still worth the time and effort to ensure employees keep upping their game.

2. Data Gathering

It’s never been easier to track individual progress or to share that information with the employee. Performance management technology and other automated workflow solutions with reporting capabilities let managers monitor employee performance and allow employees to see where they stand in real-time. Simply put, if goals tell them where they need to be headed, technology can serve as a GPS — keeping them on course and letting them know how far they have left to travel.

For example, salespeople use CRM solutions to document interactions with prospects and customers — at least when they remember to do so. CRM in the cloud can be integrated with other enterprise tools that sales teams use every day, including the business phone. This way, all calls are automatically logged in the CRM, and sales reps can check their progress on call-related goals at any time, from any device.

3. Regular Reviews and Feedback

Management is a lot like marriage. If you withhold every complaint until the end of the year, you’re going to be pretty mad by December. If you only give out compliments once a year, you might wind up alone. It’s better to dole out feedback along the way. The same is true with employees. The sooner they know there’s a problem, the sooner they can act on it. And the more often they hear they’re on the right track, the more likely they are to stay on it.

These days, there’s no excuse for poor communication with employees. Even with virtual teams, managers are never more than a phone call or video chat away.

4. Development

Between data gathering and regular conversations with employees, managers can easily identify areas that need improvement and strengths they can build on. Then, they can provide the training tools or individualized coaching that team members need to excel.

The bottom line? When it comes to your performance management process, a little communication goes a long way. With communication technology, leaders can keep the conversation going year-round, whether their teams work right down the hall or hundreds of miles away.

To learn more about unified communications technology for your team, speak to a Vonage Business representative.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

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A woman sitting at her desk, speaking on the telephone.

Today’s professionals have many business communication tools available to them.

Today’s professionals have a greater range of business communication tools at their fingertips than ever before. For some people, the sheer volume of options can be dizzying and perhaps even overwhelming. However, these tools offer choice and flexibility in communicating a message. As Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message.”

When initiating a conversation, the business communication tools themselves can influence the way a message is interpreted. That dynamic can determine whether the result is effective collaboration or awkwardly crossed signals. With that in mind, here are four types of modern communication technology that businesses are using today and how they can best be used to convey a message:

1. Real-Time Interactions

It’s common for employees to ask each other quick questions in real-time throughout the work day using business communication tools such as text messaging or video conferencing through a unified communications platform. When doing so, it’s always a good idea to consider the communications medium with which the recipient is most comfortable. After all, as anyone who has worked in an office knows, some people are avid texters and others prefer to go old school with a reliable phone call. It’s important to factor in the urgency of the conversation — i.e., how rapidly a response is needed and how quickly the recipient is likely to reply using that channel — as well as whether it concerns a fairly typical subject or something that is more sensitive and prone to misunderstanding.

For more immediate and quick exchanges connoting a sense of immediacy with a casual atmosphere, texting and instant messaging are a great way to go. Although text conversations can sometimes appear terse or overly casual to some, they can be enhanced with emojis and images to lighten the mood — a well-timed smiley face or cute cat gif can do wonders for morale. However, nuanced conversations that involve a sensitive or complex message might be best suited to a video chat in which both participants have the benefit of visual cues and even physical objects they can use as props to better understand one another. This is especially valuable for check-ins involving teleworking staff.

2. Social Media

In the social sphere, sending and receiving a message is immediate and intimate. People typically experience these interactions on their smartphones, which they rarely part from and tend to view as an extension of themselves. And when people have a positive interaction on social media, they are delighted. Yet for all the intimacy and the opportunity to make a meaningful connection with a customer, social media is a very public place to have a conversation. It’s a venue in which reputation and authenticity matter, especially when giving a referral or serving as a brand advocate. Accordingly, people take close note not only of the message a brand sends, but how it is conveyed.

On the plus side, social media is versatile. Businesses can use text, photos, videos, and links to communicate their messages, which they can then amplify through the use of hashtags and paid advertising. However, tone and timing are everything in the social world, which moves at the speed of light. Examples abound in which businesses have been roasted for tweets that were either poorly timed, tone deaf, or viewed as overly opportunistic. As Mashable reported, Cinnabon faced considerable backlash after it tweeted a tribute to Carrie Fisher that many found to be in poor taste. Companies wanting to avoid such an embarrassing social media fail should have a good sense of the cultural norms on social media and know their audience well before getting too familiar online.

3. Cloud Communication Integrations

Customers expect an excellent customer service experience from the brands with which they do business — no matter which part of the business they may be engaging with at the moment or which communications channel they may be using. They also have little patience for waiting long periods to get the answer they seek. Any of us can relate. Who hasn’t rolled their eyes a little upon hearing yet another customer service representative complain that their computer is running slowly?

To circumvent problems like these, companies are finding great value in synchronizing their cloud business applications for greater operational efficiency so that all relevant information can be accessed within a single window. Most commonly, they are integrating their business applications with their business phone service. This lends employees greater confidence, since they have instant access to the data they need without having to clumsily switch between applications. That professionalism comes across positively in exchanges with customers.

4. Contextual Communications

Businesses can deepen their communications reach by further leveraging the power of the cloud. As Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) builds momentum, developers now have access to an array of efficient communication APIs. As a result, they’re building real-time communication features such as voice, video, and text messaging into their applications without the need for a complicated infrastructure to support them. For example, a retailer can now make it possible for a customer to call or message customer service directly from within the app rather than having to initiate that exchange separately. The transaction becomes more intuitive and convenient, ensuring a positive customer experience. And it can also provide contextual information about the customer, such as what is in their shopping cart or which tickets they’ve previously logged, to aid in the speedy resolution of their request.

There are many ways for businesses to have meaningful and impactful conversations, both among their employees and with customers. Companies may find it worthwhile to investigate how today’s business communication solutions can increase internal efficiency and enhance customer engagement.

Contact Vonage Business to learn more about how cloud-based communications can aid your company.

About Rose de Fremery

Rose de Fremery is a New York-based writer and technologist. She is the former Managing Editor of The Social Media Monthly, the world’s first and only print magazine devoted to the social media revolution. Rose currently blogs about business IT topics including VoIP, UC, CRM, business innovation, and telework for Ziff-Davis as well as HP’s Tektonika program, HP Innovation Journal, HP Channel, Intel, and Vonage’s content marketing program.

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