Staffing managers all know what they look for when it comes to employees. In the case of choosing which employees to retain and which to let go, one important factor is a desire and drive to keep improving their performance. Here are the top 3 ways to improve work performance.
It’s all about people skills
Before we talk about the top 3 ways to improve work performance, it’s important to understand what kinds of jobs are in high demand. Virtually any position that involves some kind of technical skill can be automated, so it has become extremely important to work on skills that machines don’t have. The keywords staffing managers and human resources personnel often keep in mind when looking for employees are social skills and cognitive skills.
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The New York Times published an article about this very topic a few years ago. One part of the job market that's grown the most in recent years has been occupations which require social skills. The only jobs which have seen consistent growth in wages over the last two decades are those which require both social and cognitive skills. On the other hand, jobs that require manual labor without math or social skills are disappearing as workers are being replaced by machines that don't draw a paycheck.
Top 3 ways to improve work performance
To determine the top 3 ways to improve work performance, staff at SkillSurvey (via ERE) analyzed feedback on more than 3,000 candidates who had received feedback from at least four references. When they asked the references about the top three areas in which the prospective employee could improve the most, the majority of the responses had something to do with people skills. Thus, it's safe to say that for anyone, the top 3 ways to improve work performance have some relation to their people skills.
The eight areas most references talked about when it came to what employees should work on the most included simply being more sociable, improving team orientation, being patient with co-workers, asking for help, being a better listener, sharing information with co-workers, being open to hearing others' opinions and ideas, and building relationships with co-workers.
SkillSurvey's results line up perfectly with what The New York Times found regarding the importance of people skills at work.
How to improve your people skills
If you're looking for ways to improve your performance, then you should probably focus on people skills, no matter what industry you work in. Here are several ways to improve your people skills:
- Work on your emotional intelligence, which is being aware of your emotions and taking charge of them. Sometimes this merely requires that you listen to yourself and your feelings, especially before you say anything or take any kind of action. It's also important to keep your emotions in check with any reactions you have to a given situation. You should also learn to recognize when people around you are stressed out because you can take steps to help them or at least to avoid aggravating the situation even further.
- Resolve conflict in positive ways. There will always be some level of conflict in the workplace, although healthy workplaces don't have a great deal of it. To resolve conflict more positively, it's important to focus on what's happening at the present time instead of holding on to grudges over things that happened in the past. It's also important to think about respecting the other person instead of controlling them. Compromise is also important whenever there is a conflict of any kind. Usually some sort of compromise can be reached between the two parties.
- Be a better listener. Listening is a skill that can be learned and honed. However, listening doesn't always come naturally to everyone. Sometimes taking a deep breath can help you take a step back and listen to what other people are saying instead of just focusing on what you plan to say next. Being a good listener is an essential skill in every position, whether you're dealing with co-workers or customers. It's important not to interrupt and to listen carefully to how the other person is speaking in addition to what they are actually saying.
- Respect others' differences. One of the reasons conflict does pop up in the workplace is because of differences among co-workers. Sometimes others may have habits that get on your nerves, or there may be a common practice that just doesn't sit well with you. The best solution is a compromise everyone can agree on when these situations do appear.
- Ask for feedback from others. If you're making a conscious effort to work on your people skills, then it will help to know how you are doing. If you have a manager you can trust, ask them for feedback on the steps you have been taking to improve your people skills. This will also alert them to your effort to work on potential areas of importance.
- Pay attention to body language. Everyone displays body language of some sort when they are speaking with others. Sometimes their body language gives away how they really feel more than the words coming out of their mouth. You should also pay attention to your own body language, lest you accidentally give someone a false impression or make it seem as if you don't care about what's going on.
When it comes to figuring out the top 3 ways to improve work performance, it's pretty safe to say that people skills are likely to be among them. If you aren't sure which of your people skills need the most work, ask a co-worker you trust or even a friend. Your friends know you better than most other people do, so they usually have the clearest idea on what you need to brush up on. Your manager is sure to take notice when you take the time to work on how you present yourself to others.