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I frequently get data from my reports which I can't use. For example, a first check shows that it's not consistent or not coherent. Frequently I need to send the data back to them several times telling them what to correct.

I'm on the fence about whether this is completely normal and it's simply my role to review their output and correct it or I should require them to work more accurately from the very beginning. If the latter is possible, it would save me plenty of time and stress.

Are there tactics to make people work more accurately apart from reviewing and correcting the output?

P.S. It's not about standardised reports. As much as I love the idea of just automating the process, it can't be automated.

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    What have you tried so far to make them realize their work needs to be done more carefully? – DarkCygnus Feb 15 at 19:16
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    @DarkCygnus: stressing the importance of working accurately at every possible occasion and in every possible conversation; sending the work back to them and asking for corrections since the data is usable – BigMadAndy Feb 15 at 19:18
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    If I had an answer to this question I'd be a rich and famous author ;( – Affe Feb 15 at 19:19
  • @MisterPositive, I'm their line manager. – BigMadAndy Feb 15 at 19:19
  • To achieve this, move to Germany! :) – Fattie Feb 15 at 19:27
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They report to you.

These people work for you. It is up to you to set a clear and measurable standard of acceptance. The standard being measurable is key here.

When your employees fall short, and they will at some point because they are human beings, you need to work with them so they clearly understand the short falls, and the pain it causes you.

After you work with them one on one a few times, you may be force to penalize them in some way. Whether that is a lower raise, a worse review, or smaller/no bonus is beyond the scope of this question -- but some people only learn with the stick.

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It seems like your process could use revision considering

Process

  • Is information in a consistent format for them?
  • Are there tangible requirements for them (sort of a checklist)?
  • Does the information come from a reliable source? If not, do you have any power to change that?
  • Is their data input adequate for their functions? Are they spending too much time organizing information, making them lose focus on the reports generation?

Training

You can consider a training session in which you explain the process to generate the documents and specify the criteria for validation. Perhaps even make one of them responsible for the integration and final revision before they deliver them to you. In these cases, a checklist can be very helpful.

Ownership

Perhaps they are not well motivated because they don't understand the importance of the reports. Perhaps they don't feel like they belong to the process. If they do not care for their job, most probably will try to delegate the responsibility (you have been willing to do that part and maybe they are too comfortable because they don't have to make an effort, you will correct the reports anyway). I would try to find the root cause for their disinterest.

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If you are getting inconsistent results from the same reports due to different people pulling the data. Look into better documentation on how to do the process or perhaps find someone to automate part or all of the process.

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You should start by investigating why you are getting inconsistent data from your reports.

  1. Is it lack of care due to poor employee motivation?
  2. Is it lack of knowledge/ capability?
  3. Is it a lack of clear(ly communicated) requirements? (i.e. your fault)

Lack of care

If your employees are unmotivated, you will need to motivate them. This can be done through rewarding them when they do well or punishing them when they do poorly. Any usual method of achieving these such as bonuses, disciplinary's etc could be considered here.

Lack of capability

If your reports lack the ability to carry out the tasks you are setting them, you have two options - up-skilling or replacing them. For up-skilling you could try pair working or external training instead of the direct feedback you are providing already.

It's a clarity issue

Be clearer when assigning tasks. How to improve here would depend on how you are currently communicating what you want but you could consider giving tasks in writing, suggesting some simple tests they can use to verify there results or providing more background to your reports.

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Accuracy is one of those words that's easy to understand in a semantic sense (we all know what you mean when you say it) but harder to define across an array of discrete reports. The best thing you can do is to give some guidance on how your colleagues can check their work themselves.

In practice that might include something like a validation checklist, which can be as general or specific as suits the types of products they are creating. Something that helps me check my own work is to define, in advance, what a valid report will look like, and then check to make sure those elements are in place as I work. Depending on the specifics of your issue, this might be something you can help your direct reports put into place before they tackle a new project.

So, for a simple example, if I'm summarizing data by some grouping category A, at the start of my work I'll pull a basic count of elements that are in category A. Once I've actually done the summarizing, I'll count the number of entries to make sure that it matches the count from that first step.

In cases where the work is very complex I'll randomly pull entries from my report and then manually check them over, typically both re-compiling the output manually (to make sure my intermediate steps were executed correctly) and also applying smell-test checks (like making sure all values are valid).

The combination of thinking through what an accurate product would be, doing basic validity checks on output, and randomly spot-checking output has been very useful for me in helping save my boss from your situation.

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Off the wall thought, but might it be best to see how to move on more easily with what you are getting. If you can stomach it, hear me out.

No idea what work you do, but let's say you manage software engineers. "Attention to detail" can be very broad. A developer considering every possible contingency of data his code might receive is very different from a developer meticulously keying every 10 minutes he worked into the right bucket. The former is problem solving, the latter is bookkeeping.

If the nature of the reports is far from the nature of the work they do, this may never fully work itself out. At which point you're stuck with determining whether it's worth holding them back and driving them away (bad reviews/low raises) for not excelling at ancillary qualities. Conversely, you could hire some accountants who'd be great at filling in the reports but constantly need to be ridden for their poor coding.

Outside of the box might be to work with your manager to explain that the reports you're compiling are not what your team was hired to do. You understand the need for them, but can you get any help in how to assist them.

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