Getting Better Results From Performance Management
We are often asked how organisations can help their leaders better manage their teams, how they can create more effective, more productive and more motivated teams.
In essence, organisations often need to make more of a commitment to the very important area of performance management.
For most organisations, results come through people and putting the simple building blocks of performance management in place often won’t be enough to improve performance.
And the one area that without fail frustrates managers is the appraisal or performance management system. They often see it as something that adds little value and they might be confused by what they are required to do.
Your managers play a pivotal role in this process but can we really say we have provided enough support for them to help them develop their team’s performance?
If you can address the performance management process in your organisation, you will be able to start addressing the issue of productivity, effectiveness and motivation.
Below we have included our top tips on how to do this.
Commit to it
Don’t expect to throw performance management into your organisation and see it happening without your direction and input.
You need an organisation wide plan for rolling out your performance management system.
- Clarity on what you should be measuring as an organisation. Plan out what every role in the organisation needs to be doing.
- Making this part of your business planning process. This will help you keep a focus on performance management while aligning your business strategy to performance management.
- Setting objectives from the top down and cascading these through the organisation.
Nobody Wants to be the Problem
Your managers want to do a good job and they certainly do not want to be part of the problem. However, we often meet managers who are nervous about dealing with difficult situations. They do not feel that they have the skills or tools to have difficult conversations or address problems. In this situation, it is only natural for us to employ avoidance tactics.
So make sure that your managers have the skills and knowledge to:
- Deal with problems as they arise
- Be comfortable to raise performance issues
- Be able to have difficult conversations and coach their team to find solutions
- Feel able to work with each team member to jointly find a way to address any issues
Sell the Process: What is in it for Me?
Like any business process, your managers need to understand what is involved and what is required. Just as importantly, they need to buy into the process.
Can I? Will I?
- Am I capable of following this process?
- Do I know what is required and what is expected?
- Am I clear on my role?
- Why should I do it? What are the benefits of me doing this? What are the issues?
A quick check is to think about whether all your managers appreciate that their teams will succeed and thrive if they have clear direction, clear goals and regular feedback. And if they do well, the whole team does well, including the manager.
Paint the Whole Picture
We often meet managers who see performance management as a HR process that unfortunately can be used in difficult situations such as redundancy or poor performance situations. They can feel guilty that they have contributed to that process and they can be reluctant to be in that same position again in the future.
We need to make sure that all our managers understand the full picture about performance management.
This is captured in the diagram below:
Importantly, managers need to know that in difficult situations, the organisation will need to refer back to the documentation around performance management. They have no choice.
Getting the Balance Right: Review, Feedback, Planning and Goals
It is easy to focus on one area and forget other areas. But you need the whole process to be covered to get the results that you need.
- Do they know how to review progress? Do they understand the role of evidence?
- Have you covered the importance of feedback and how to give feedback?
- Is your organisation good at goal setting?
- Do your managers understand the importance of goal setting, how to set goals and how to measure progress against goals?
Keep it Sharp
Do not make the performance management process or paperwork too big and complicated.
Focus on your key measures, focus on evidence and feedback and keep it manageable.
It is tempting to pack everything in but you do this at the risk of nothing actually happening, nobody able to remember what is required and most managers feeling they do not have the time to make this work.
If we achieve nothing else, getting our managers to set better goals and to provide better feedback based on evidence are the key things that need to happen for performance to improve.
Evidence Not Opinion: Make Sure That the Evidence Underpins Your Performance Management System
By requiring evidence to be provided by the manager and by the employee, you are encouraging your organisation to focus on facts. This removes the subjectivity and the issues that that can create.
Ensure Your Managers Understand What Their Teams Need From Them
For people to perform their work properly, they will need good information from their manager about the job in hand:
- Clarify my job and the results I’m expected to achieve
- Give me the resources and opportunity to perform
- Let me know how I’m getting on
- Give me guidance and training when I need it
- Reward me according to my contribution
Your teams need regular feedback in order to succeed.
This works for technical and leadership competencies and objectives.
Where does the evidence come from? Look at the job role and go back to the facts. What feedback are they receiving from customers? What were the results of the employee survey for their area of responsibility? Are production targets being met? Are maintenance issues at the level required? What are the results from inspection logs or audit reports?
Performance management is not just about what happens in the appraisal meeting once or twice a year.
It is also about the day to day management of teams. Your managers need to be looking at their team’s performance, feeding back where necessary and readjusting the work where needed. This is a daily job and core to the manager role.
Make Sure Your Managers Understand What is Expected of Them in Relation to Performance Management
Are your managers clear on what their responsibilities are? Have you told them what they need to do on a daily basis to get the most from their team? Do they know what is to happen in the annual or bi-annual appraisal review?
Often we forget to tell employees what is expected and why. Performance management is one area where this can often be the case.
Review Your Appraisal Training. Have You Covered the Soft Skills Such as Having Difficult Conversations and How to Coach Your Team for Performance?
Including the soft skills required to make an appraisal a useful experience in your appraisal training can make a big difference to helping managers carry out effective appraisals.
Equally, if the training can include your own appraisal process and paperwork then the managers are going to be much more comfortable carrying out an appraisal in the workplace.
If you can include a post training practical assignment based around the appraisal process, then you are giving your managers a much better chance to apply what they have learnt.
Consider providing a practical guide to appraisals for your managers. Include your key advice and your requirements but make it easy to use as a quick reference.
Prepare for the Appraisal. No Surprises at an Appraisal?
It is obvious and it is often said but not preparing for an appraisal reduces the effectiveness and of course it will be obvious to the employee. The focus in preparing for the appraisal should however be on the evidence to support your view on how well objectives have or have not been achieved.
We often hear that there should be no surprises at appraisals. The sentiment is correct, managers should address issues as they arise and they should provide positive feedback as opportunity allows. We should not put off a difficult conversation until the appraisal review.
However, the reality is that in preparing for the appraisal, that is the time where a particular trend may become more apparent. If that is the case, encourage your managers to explain that they are raising it now because they have just realised that there is a trend.
Manage the Appraisal Process: Verify and Standardise
As with any business process, it is important to have a standard approach to the appraisal process, to monitor and measure how well the process is being implemented and to address any recurring themes. Having an individual (or a small team) in place to oversee and champion the process can help with this. They can also be the central point of contact for ongoing advice and guidance.
Performance Management is…
…a tool to ensure that managers manage effectively – as part of which they ensure that the people or teams they manage:
- Know and understand what is expected of them
- Have the skills and ability to deliver on these expectations
- Are supported by the organisation in developing the capacity to meet these expectations
- Are given feedback on their performance
- Have the opportunity to discuss and contribute to individual and team aims and objectives
We would emphasise that performance management is a daily task not only something that happens once or twice a year in a formal appraisal review.
A Continuous Approach to Managing Performance
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