In a time when social media and internet is everywhere, many companies fear that employees can easily get distracted. How to manage the performance of your employees without being on their tail all the time?

A graphic design company in the Netherlands recently sued one of its sales managers, because he was chatting in office hours. The judge ruled that the employer could deduct 1500 euros of the employee’s salary, because of all the hours he had spent writing and reading more than 12 thousand WhatsApp messages during worktime.

The case taps into one of the biggest fears of employers. Namely, that the constant distraction of internet and social media will lead to unproductive employees. How to find the right balance between giving your employees the freedom to organise their own tasks and making sure they meet their deadlines? This is what top employers do:

1. Create a healthy working environment

The fact that employees waste time on other things than their work is usually a sign of a bigger problem. For instance, in the case of this specific sales manager it was not just him who didn´t meet expectations. The whole department wasn´t performing well.  If the atmosphere in the workplace is bad, performance will go down.

“That´s why we create an environment where we give a lot of freedom to our people, but at same time a lot of responsibility”, explains Thibaud Adès, managing director of PageGroup in Belgium. “We tell them upfront what´s expected of them. How they meet those goals, is up to them. If you give employees the freedom to organise their own time, they will pay you back by performing better.”

2. Set specific goals

Set specific goals and timelines that both can agree to.  If you decide on the goals collaboratively, employees feel more engaged and will perform better. “It´s important that you let your people set their own objectives”, says Thibaud Adès. “At PageGroup the managers sit together with every team member twice per year to talk about how it´s going. They talk about the goals for the future and about how they see their career developing. Which skills need to be developed further and what can the company do to support them. This approach works very well.”

3. Use technology wisely

Depending on how much verification you think you need, you can find software that monitors computer-activity, such as emailing and web surfing. The downside is the distrust that these tools show in your employees. “The focus should not be on monitoring whether someone is working or not. What’s important is the end result and its impact on the business,” explains Thibaud Adès.

4. Show your appreciation

One of the biggest frustrations of employees is not feeling appreciated for the work they´ve done. “One of the ways we show our appreciation to the hard work of our consultants is by rewarding them with all kinds of incentives, like trips or cars for the best performers. But that´s not the most important part. For me, what´s more important than any reward, is simply show interest in your people. Some kind words go a long way.”

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