On an almost daily basis we have been seeing blog articles, journals and all sorts of reports reporting the death of performance management.
But read into the articles and we see that the story is much, much different. The headlines are good one’s – designed to pull you in and get you reading the story. The fact is, the articles are all reporting the death throes of one time-consuming, administrative intensive element of performance management – the annual review.
The annual review has always been one of my personal hates. I have always felt it is done for the wrong reasons like:
- “Cause HR says we have to” or,
- “we must be giving people feedback” or
- “to tie into our remuneration strategy”.
Largely, annual reviews are seen as an inconvenience and, in many businesses, not taken seriously.
Performance management should be a process that sets company-wide goals and helps employees make individual contributions to those goals. Simply It is about tying each employee’s performance to the performance of the company.
Annual Performance reviews, as they are implemented miss this point most of this time. The definition, as I have described it here, automatically leads to questions of motivation, engagement and leadership – not a once a year process done because “we have to”.
So in most companies, the annual performance review is dead – but this isn’t a sudden phenomenon – it has never been a living, breathing thing!
When I first studied HR, academically at least, performance management was an ongoing process, something that was done every day as part of a manager’s role. Manager’s should set goals related to business performance and then work to assist their people in a positive manner to goal achievement. However, for several reasons (at least in my view), this “morphed” into this yearly process which was more about “doing” than “achieving”.
The HR profession has a lot to answer for in this respect (once again in my view). Complicated yearly processes were put in place that needed to be controlled centrally (by HR, of course). Over the years, processes put in place required pages and pages of reporting without any real purpose. It was a very rare organisation that tied in the process strategically.
Manager’s in turn, forced to participate in long, drawn out review processes, might set goals as part of the review. But in the end, because it was a yearly process, they would not follow these up until the time the next review came around. The result strategically was certainly debatable.
The last reason I believe is relevant, at least here in Australia, is the weighting we put on compliance over business performance in managing people. Often performance management processes are simply seen as tools to demonstrate compliance – “we regularly give feedback to our employees – see we have yearly reviews in place”. Simply, once you begin viewing performance management in this light, its purpose is not to improve performance, it is to demonstrate compliance – once again strategically not very useful.
Recently, I did a presentation to a group of Medical Centre Practice Managers. They had recently had a presentation on “Performance Management” from a Workplace Lawyer which concentrated solely on managing poor performance, structured conversations regarding performance resulting in warnings and termination. I believe it was a very good presentation – but it was about managing poor performance compliantly – not “Performance Management”.
So, yearly Performance Reviews are dead, they have never been really alive, but does that mean “Performance Management is Dead”?
No, it does not. It means that we are finally starting to get our thinking back to where it should be – how do we create a viable, productive workplace where everyone contributes towards the success of the business and every one benefits?
Well, one of the answers to that is, believe it or not, Performance Management. But not the “Performance Management” comprising of a once a year process and management of poor performers only. We are talking about a “Performance Management” that is tied to company and individual performance, where Manager’s need to offer leadership, motivation and mentoring where it is required and where problems are not left to be addressed once a year, or when something goes wrong.
We have been working with several companies recently where we have been assisting them to put in place systems like these. Team member’s are given a number of strategic and personal goals which they must report on monthly (more about this in a later blog article). At the start of each month, their Manager meets with them for a short period (no more than 15 minutes but it is up to the people involved) and discuss their progress.
At this point, I should note that if a problem is identified that requires the Manager, the Team Member or someone else to assist then they schedule a time in the diary to make this happen during the meeting – it is not left hanging.
In conjunction with this, we have been putting in place supporting tools such as survey’s, chat programs and online tracking of KPI etc – all designed to ensure that the process becomes part of the process within the business.
The aim is to improve engagement and accountability while providing support to the team members and providing tools for the Manager’s to monitor performance in an ongoing fashion.
The results have been impressive – a greater focus on strategic goals means a greater likelihood of achieving company targets, a greater focus on employee’s personal goals means a more engaged employee and finally managers are getting more time to concentrate on their own achievements while being able to see their team’s progression. On top of this, survey’s enable us to identify early trends in areas such as employee satisfaction, teamwork and personal achievement.
The more we work with companies implementing these systems, the more impressed I become, they are an impressive way to ensure that “People Drive Results” in businesses of all sizes.
So, in a way, Performance Management is coming back to where it is supposed to be – it is not dead, just becoming what it should be – a living breathing thing.
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