Performance Management (it doesn’t have to be awful)
This month we are putting our focus on Performance Management. Those of you who are managers probably just heaved a collective sigh over the thought. Those of you (managers or not) who get your performance managed probably rolled your eyes. Performance management and reviews tend to be the thorn in the side of all managers – they take a lot of time and they can be cumbersome. So why do we keep up the premise of doing them?
Because they are important when they are done correctly. And when they are done correctly, they can change your organizational relationships.
So, let’s look at how we define Performance Management:
An ongoing, continuous process of communicating and clarifying job responsibilities, priorities, performance expectations, and development planning that optimize an individual’s performance and aligns with organizational strategic goals.
- Ongoing and continuous – it’s not a once-a-year meeting for feedback. Managers need to provide continuous feedback to their team and provide opportunities for their team to provide feedback to them.
- Communicating – that’s the main goal. Period.
- Clarifying job responsibilities – people can’t do what you want them to do if you don’t tell them that you want them to do
- Priorities – employees have a lot on their plates. What is most important to them may not align with what is most important to you. See 2).
- Performance Expectations – poor behaviors you allow become habits; good behaviors you reward get repeated; and good behaviors you don’t acknowledge might go away.
- Development Planning – great initiatives rarely happen by accident.
- Optimize an Individual’s Performance – who doesn’t want that?
- Aligns with Organizational Strategic Goals – that’s how high performing teams work.
Performance Management is a critical part of the employee experience. Why do managers and employees alike dread them so much? Typically, because they are:
- Time consuming (not efficient)
- Hard to do (the process is clunky)
- Don’t address what needs to be addressed (try to be one size fit all)
- Too little too late (they don’t give employees or managers what they need when they need it)
How do you make it better so that it can be the incredible development and measurement tool it’s meant to be? Here’s what we suggest you focus on in 2023:
- Keep your performance management agile and flexible. You likely can’t have one form and process and expect them to meet the needs of everyone in your organization. As our workplaces have changed with employees working on and offsite, you must figure out how to meet the needs of all these individuals and schedules. You also need to be agile to allow goals to shift as priorities in the organization change.
a. Encourage a focus on empathy: Employers across the country are being encouraged to take a greater focus on employee mental health and work life harmony. Part of this includes incorporating the practice of empathy within the workplace. Simply put, circumstances matter. If an employee has experienced a personal tragedy, has trouble communicating with a colleague or manager, or has suddenly had a significant change in their responsibilities, their performance is going to suffer. Managers who can take a more holistic view of their employees and the workplace will encourage communication among their staff and will likely be able to treat any problems before they begin.
b. Make it easier: We are a big fan of converting anything from paper to digital. Fill in forms that can be exchanged via email or shared servers (think Google Docs or Teams), or templates for one on ones that can quickly be completed with notes from the chats. These do not have to be epic essays of praise or criticism – just keep it to the facts. There are several great platforms that automate performance management feedback, but you can also get creative with the offerings from Microsoft Teams or even Survey Monkey.
2. Focus on continuous performance management and not just a once-a-year process. Continuous performance management helps you create an environment in which all managers and employees are encouraged to give and receive feedback, and thus feel that they can do their best work. This time of on the spot and timely feedback is about encouraging growth and fostering an environment in which everyone is comfortable sharing the good and the bad. Typically, employees are more comfortable receiving and giving feedback where there is a process in place encouraging them to do so and same with managers. It’s important that your culture fosters a collaborative environment with ongoing scheduled check-ins, so your employees never feel uncertain about their performance standards and how they are meeting them.
a. Beware of Rater Bias: One thing we have noticed in organizations that encourage one on ones: some employees get one on ones more regularly than others. Why? Could be that they need more guidance. However, it could also be that their communication aligns more with the manager, and these meetings are just simply more enjoyable. This kind of rater bias can prevent other employees from getting the attention they need and deserve.
3. Take time once a year (at least) to formalize the feedback. It is important to capture all communication formally at least once a year. Consider these your charted milestones. It gives you the chance to document what was accomplished and set goals for the coming year.
a. Compensation Planning: If your compensation is tied to performance, this is your much needed opportunity to document and validate pay decisions. About this – make sure you have clearly defined terms for compensation. It can be incredibly discouraging for employees if they feel their contributions don’t align with their compensation. Positive feedback is incredibly important – however, no amount of “great job” meetings will make up for an employee feeling that are unfairly paid. (We are going to tackle the topic of Compensation in next month’s blog – stay tuned!)
b. Goal Setting: It’s important for managers and employees to work together to set goals and establish performance expectations – this allows the manager to set the stage and get the employee’s buy in on their own responsibilities. Mutually discussing and setting goals makes it optimal for employees to perform at their best, and it simplifies the feedback process for managers when everything has already been agreed upon.
c. Use Data: All too often performance reviews are submitted in terms of “this employee is a rock star!” or “this employee is just lazy,” but there is nothing provided to quantify or qualify these comments. While we all like being rock stars, we also want to know exactly what we did to earn that title. The formal feedback is dependent upon putting data at the center of performance management. When providing feedback on formal appraisals, it’s important to use metrics and your key performance indicators to give employees a true idea of how they are succeeding and meeting expectation. This type of data driven feedback gives pragmatic areas for an employee to use for development, which ultimately supports their performance, motivation, and overall well-being.
As you go in to 2023 and look at updating your performance management program for your current workforce and goals, HR Affiliates is here to help. There is no “one size fits all,” and we are experts at helping you customize the program and platform that fits for your team. What you really need to know is SIMPLE:
- Set Expectations
- Invite Commitment
- Measure Progress
- Provide Feedback
- Link to Consequences
- Evaluate Effectively