Top tips for effective performance management

I know I bang on about this all the time, but why why why is there such a disconnect between the performance expectations of the business (or individual manager) and the perception that the employee has of how they’re performing; which all seems to come to a resounding crescendo in that dreaded of all processes – the annual performance review?

Some time ago, I wrote this article, where I described my view on what good performance management looks like:

“..True performance management surely is about communicating on a regular basis how an employee is performing in their role – providing opportunities to highlight their strengths and having genuine conversations about weaknesses and areas for improvement. It’s about determining whether the role is a good fit for the employee, and what development they need to learn and grow. It’s about ‘checking in’ with the employee as to how they’re finding the role, and ensuring a clear line of sight between their role and the broader organisational strategy..”

I wrote that article over two and a half years ago. And there was a degree of frustration when I wrote it, because I couldn’t believe that for all the time and money that organisations pour into the performance management process, there were still such obvious “fails” and that the process was still not doing what it was designed to do.

No wonder so many people dread the process – managers dread the bureaucracy and the time it takes. Employees dread what might emerge.

This year is no different – already example after example is emerging – examples that make me shake my head… It could all be so different.

My article went on to say: that “.. the examples reveal situations where real time feedback and coaching would have improved performance and maintained the relationships and engagement of the affected employees rather than producing disillusioned employees.

Performance management systems tend to focus on the work of the employee rather than also looking at the manner in which their manager has contributed to their success or otherwise through good coaching, feedback and developmental opportunities.

Wise organisations will look beyond the appraisal ratings and see what opportunities there are to learn about the way the system is working or not…”

So, today’s top tips for organisataions:

  • Provide real time feedback to employees throughout the year (good and bad) and keep a record. If your managers can’t give feedback, teach them how to do it and model it organizationally.
  • Look for real developmental opportunities – not just training courses to address perceived weaknesses, but opportunities to play to strengths and have some real wins.
  • Don’t ignore team conflicts, process and structural problems that exist – help employees succeed because of the organization not in spite of it.
  • Help managers and employees see how performance management done right will help improve business performance and the employee experience of work- this is less about HR’s need to have perfectly completed forms, and more about genuine conversations that make a difference.
  • And lastly, be crystal clear – how does the role (generally and specifically) contribute to the wider organisational purpose. Employees need to be able to draw the trajectory between what they’re doing in their day-to-day role, what their team does and what the organizational strategy and purpose is.

A small story to illustrate the last point: for years, hospitals have been trying to get doctors and nurses to wash their hands. Pretty self evidently, this reduces infection, which is increasingly the biggest risk for patients in hospitals.

After years of KPIs that measured how little staff were complying, one hospital made its strongest, most powerful and sustainable change when it linked the act of handwashing not to hospital policy, nor to good hygiene, but to the fact that not washing hands made patients sick.

There was a clear link between actions and the ultimate purpose of a hospital (get patients well or stop them from becoming sicker)! Nothing else changed but the message.

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