Performance Pain Points – The Prescription

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Previously, I played the part of PM-D…Performance Management Doctor (The Diagnosis). I talked about the symptoms of an unhealthy performance management process based on feedback from the Impact99 HR Summit Toronto. I had a closer look at the pain points that people described and realized that they, and the remedies, followed a path from start to finish.

Traditionally, most organizations fail to communicate the true purpose and expectations of the performance review process. Therefore, most employees consider it to be a negative experience; waiting to hear about how they have not achieved the expected level of performance. By default, most people see the process as merely a means to an end…that end being salary increases or promotions. What do you consider to be the purpose of the process? What are your expectations? Have you clearly communicated those expectations to your entire organization? If your people expect one thing but receive another, there is a disconnect that undermines the process.

So, let’s ask ourselves what connects people to the process? Is your process one that is typically pushed from the top down?  Even if it isn’t, is there a perception that it is?  For example, what  would your employees say if you asked them “who owns the performance process, who benefits from it and how?”  Would they see themselves in the process?  Would they see themselves as the owners, the drivers, the ultimate beneficiaries? If everyone takes ownership of the process – exec’s, HR, managers & employees – then it will cease to be a process that people “have to do” and will become something that people are motivated to do because it’s their own! It becomes part of the culture.

Transparency, reciprocal trust, collaboration and alignment result from ongoing discussions and will also draw people into the process. Discussions about the organizational vision results in productivity and pride in one’s work.  Communicating expectations assists in setting reasonable objectives. Someone who is enrolled in the business, who has clear objectives, and understands their contribution is someone who is eager to set their goals and measure their results in a performance review.  If the performance process relies on open discussions so that nobody is left in the dark, and there are no surprises at review meetings.

As I mentioned in Feedback: The Guidance System for Performancemore frequent performance check-ins are a much better use of time and effort than the traditional “year-end review” meeting. People perform on a daily basis, so why wait until the end of the year to discuss accomplishments and challenges. There’s no better time for improvement than the present. Organizations and individuals can become more agile by making small adjustments in their performance as they go along…not 10 months from now!

OK…you’ve just had your performance check-in with your manager. You’ve discussed your accomplishments, areas for improvement and set your objectives going forward. Now what? You have to keep them connected to the process; you need to follow-up. This shows integrity – aligning one’s actions with their words – and reinforces the trust you created through ongoing dialogue. If a need for more training was requested by the employee or manager, it would be a colossal fail if nothing was provided. If an employee has set an objective and doesn’t formalize it and provide updates…#fail again.

Expectations, ownership, discussions, check-ins and follow-up. Combine all these things and you have a process that is productive and meaningful. People within an organization want to know that their performance process actually means something, individually and for the bigger picture. Especially the younger generation. Organizations need to realize that this generation will expect meaningful work, which includes ongoing feedback and discussions. They will want to know how they are performing and how they can continue to perform at their highest level.

Wrap all this up in a simple process where individuals and teams are aligned with organizational goals, and people will be confident that they are part of something bigger. Best of all, you can elevate the level of overall engagement. A great performance process shows that the organization’s leaders actually care about their people. Recent studies (like the 2013 Spring report from Globoforce) have shown that leaders recognize engagement as one of the top challenges within their organization.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve the way we manage our performance. We look for new and innovative tools and methods to increase engagement and productivity. Sometimes the best thing for our organization is right under our noses. Try writing your own prescription.

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