Performance Pain Points – The diagnosis

11588728936_b627b5ec7a_cAlthough not recognized by any medical association, I’ll play the part of the PM-Dr… Performance Management Doctor.

A sampling of “patients” at Impact99 HR Summit 2013 Toronto described several symptoms of an ailing performance management process. There appears to be a deficiency of several important elements for a healthy process, such as results, expectations, meaning and consistency.

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Agreed…this is frustrating. When people put time and effort into a process like performance management, and then don’t see any results, they’ll eventually become disengaged. It becomes an exercise in futility. This is true for both employees and the managers. Set achievable and actionable objectives aligned with business and personal goals during your review meetings. Otherwise, it’s all for nothing. It’s kind of like sending something to the lab and it returns “inconclusive”…arrrgh!

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This can make anyone’s blood pressure rise! It’s a chronic symptom of a poor performance management process: failure to manage expectations and not owning the process. Do your employees think of your PM process as a tool to determine next year’s salary increase? Do they anticipate the review meeting to be focused on the negatives? It is paramount that managers communicate clearly the true purpose of the process. It is equally important that the employees own the process. Then the performance process becomes something that people want to do, rather than something they have to do.

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How do you measure the outcomes of your PM process? Do your managers track the goals and objectives of their teams? Do employees track their own? This goes hand in hand with expectations. Measuring outcomes can be as easy as looking at how many objectives have been achieved, and to what degree. If an employee has not achieved their objectives, do you know why? Perhaps they were not achievable in the first place. Do managers set objectives for their team, or are objectives created by the employees themselves? Remember I just spoke of ownership.

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Making the performance process and review meeting “meaningful” could be a miracle cure! The true purpose of performance management is to help people develop and grow and make small corrections along the way. If someone needs to make adjustments to how they perform, isn’t it much easier to do it in the moment rather trying to make corrections at the end of the year? I think so, and I’m sure you agree. During the review check-in, there should be no surprises if feedback has been continuous. The meeting then becomes focused on the future; setting goals and objectives for continuous improvement. With accumulated feedback available prior to the review meeting, a better picture of the performance life cycle is apparent.

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What’s a great performance management process without consistency? Communication about the what, why and how of the process must be clear and concise to everyone. Although the experience will be slightly different for every individual, the bigger picture should be consistent. Managers should be on the same page with each other about how they are applying the performance process in order to consistently interpret outcomes.

Observing the symptoms of an unhealthy performance management process is one thing. Taking action to improve the overall well-being is another. Why not try playing “doctor” in your organization. Take out your stethoscope and have a listen. Ask your people about their pain points. Gather the responses and then formulate your own diagnosis. Don’t just put a bandage on it and hope it gets better. Start by treating the pain points and soon you’ll find your cure.

PM-Dr. Tim Baker 😉

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