Performance management, if done well, does not only boost business output but helps staff grow professionally. No wonder the biggest and most-renowned corporations have used a selection of such tactics for long. Deploying the best approach to your company will help you nurture a corporate culture that your employees love, which helps with retention, as well as with recruitment. The time has come to ditch authoritative performance reviews and reinvent performance management.
While 70% of organisations are moving away from traditional annual performance reviews — according to a 2018 Harvard Business Review article — a staggering 74% of Millennials say they have felt “in the dark” about their performance, a TriNet survey found last year.
To further complicate the big picture, 58% of employees perceive performance reviews as a needless human resources requirement, according to a 2017 Deloitte publication. Nevertheless, performance management is a crucial set of tools for HR professionals.
The importance of performance management has changed considerably in the past few years, transforming alongside the economic context. While historically companies would focus on whom to let go of as human capital was sufficient, today the scenario is quite different.
Labour shortage hangs above companies like the sword of Damocles, and the worst news is when a highly-valued employee tells you that they are planning to leave.
Performance management is all about communication; it is all about the conversations that are taking place in any framework you establish. Having people know how they fit into the big puzzle of the company is of critical importance — they will have a sense of belonging and see a clear purpose. This can be achieved by killing off of silos, even at management levels.
What Performance Management is NOT
Before exploring the versatility of solutions that can help you reinvent your performance management, it is crucial to establish what performance management is NOT.
Performance management is not micromanagement. As soon as your staff feels that you are micromanaging them, they will feel that they are not doing their jobs well, they will feel belittled and unvalued. Most probably this will dent motivation and performance.
Additionally, performance management is not performance reviews. Performance management is a continuous dialogue between your staff and your management. It is a safe environment for your employees to make mistakes and to learn from them. It is a framework that identifies the weak points and offers support and education on those points for the professional development of individuals.
Be Brave: Innovate
If you want your company to change for the better, you will need to take the courage to reinvent how you manage the performance of all the staff, from the top down. Reshaping processes and educating all the stake-holders, are inevitable steps you will need to make. Dare to go beyond, and make some changes at the core of your corporate operations.
Drop annual reviews: the span is just too big, people forget quickly. At the same time, perceptions can distort in the long term and bad habits can fossilise by the time uncovered. You must regularly check-in with your employees.
Ensure flexibility: every team works differently, the deadlines they need to meet vary by specialisation. Be ready to customise periodical check-ins suiting the habits of each department to reach the maximum potential of your staff.
Money for nothing: utilising pay raises and promotions as motivators for better performance just increases stress and deteriorates focus, research has found. In light of such an approach, your team might also consider hiding weak points to get their promotions, which is counterproductive; it is the exact opposite of what performance management should be about.
Automate where possible: asking employees to keep a track record of their performance in spreadsheets is mundane and burns the most important resource — time. Apply automated solutions that are easy and fun to use. Follow up: regularly checking in with your staff member will show them that you care about their performance. Always make sure that you are not checking if they are meeting their goals, but if they need any help from your side.
Uncover and Face Challenges
You need to identify the challenges that drag your corporation back to come into a position where you can take time to explore possible ways to work around issues. Historically, challenges will occur in the following three areas: performance, development and culture. By clearing up the air in these fields, you can support your staff considerably.
Performance: employees have to know exactly what they are expected to deliver, they need support and coaching from their managers, and they need to know how their work contributes to the overall objectives of a company.
Development: staff have to understand how they perform throughout the year, they need to see how they progress and improve, and they need to feel comfortable to discuss their development with peers and supervisors.
Culture: corporate culture is probably the most important and the most underrated factor of all. Employees need their achievements to be recognised, they must feel comfortable to ask for feedback related to their progress, and they have to feel that the company lives by its values.
Open Doors for Dialogue
During the course of performance management, a company should pluck up the courage to ditch hierarchy. If managers have the right to offer feedback on the performance of staff using a top-down approach, staff must have the power to offer feedback on the performance of executives, along the lines of a bottom-up approach. Companies need to think of this process as a two-way street, hence establishing a safe environment for healthy and open dialogue.
On the one hand, nobody operates without mistakes. Without reality checks on what you are doing, you might easily get carried away, believing that whatever you are doing must be right. This is very basic human nature. On the other hand, by empowering your staff and by giving them the opportunity to make their voices heard, you hand over responsibility to them; you put them in charge of the situation.
If your supervisees are not yet confident enough, to offer feedback, you can accept anonymous submissions from them in the beginning. Once both the ends of the spectrum have gotten used to receiving feedback on one another, with time, you will be able to carry on more open and honest conversations. Keep in mind: these conversations are always about professional and individual improvement and should not lead to battles of egos.
Whatever approach or tools your company decides to use for reshaping performance management, you have to make sure that your staff is consulted prior to introduction. Your employees have to be part of recording the guidelines and setting best practices into motion.
Establishing a universal performance management approach has to be consensual and accepted by all over the corporate structure to make sure it works. If your staff is part of shaping up the vision of the company, it is much easier for them to align with the corporate culture.
Upon surfacing, gamification created a buzz that swept across corporate cultures globally. Gamification — the application of game elements for corporate errands — has proved to make work fun, and has increased staff performance in many segments. However, no solution is a one size fits all, and gamification has turned many employees sour down the road.
Set A Good Example
As a manager or executive, all responsibility is yours. You are responsible for everything that your supervisees do. And more often than not, your staff is a reflection of you. They will carry on with their work with your enthusiasm, your humbleness and your professionalism.
If you do not take your job tasks seriously, you cannot expect them to take their work seriously. Always aspire to be the best version of yourself, apply self-critique, and be vocal about your mistakes with a focus on how to solve them. Where there is a will, there is power.
Keep in mind that as you are working towards reshaping performance management, you and your staff should not focus on the change itself, but on the opportunities the new structure will give birth to.
Performance management is not about scapegoating, or sweeping mistakes under the rug. It is all about support, education and honest discussions.