Both management and employees often shudder at the thought of annual performance reviews. What are their purpose and do they really help the development of a business and its staff? Some larger companies have abandoned the formal management of performance altogether, as a weighty process that doesn’t always seem to deliver what it intends. Sometimes we aren’t so sure why we go through performance management reviews. What do we intend to deliver? Performance management has had its problems, but are they more to do with the way we approach assessing performance, rather than the concept itself? More and more, we are coming up with ways that don’t mean getting rid of measuring performance; we’re talking about rehabilitating performance management, rather than scrapping it.
Why do this and how do we go about it?
Feedback not Fear
One of the problems with performance management is that staff often see it as either as a box-ticking HR exercise or as a way to “catch staff out”. Every so often a manager will sit down with an employee and go through a range of questions and perceived goals. Some people’s eyes glaze over when asked about Key Performance Indicators or vague ideas of goal setting. Some companies refer to performance management when they really just mean old fashioned annual appraisal which can instil fear among employees. How do we change this?
Performance management should not be a one-way street dictated from the top. Feedback is the key. Staff should be involved in deciding how the values of the company are forwarded and how to manage their own performance. Both managers and employees need to give regular feedback to each other. Once you’ve decided that you’ve got a reason to evaluate, take the fear away. Involve your staff every step of the way.
Make it Personal, Regular and Relevant
If you want to re-invent performance management, start thinking about how you can get employees on board and how you can join together to make it work. There are ways to help do this:
- Focus on the person and the contribution they make. Understanding someone’s role can help in getting that person to buy into the process. Personal goals should be just that – specific to that person. Communicate with each other. Let people know that you can talk about personal development as well as results.
- No end of year surprises! Meet regularly, not annually. Sometimes this can simply be a catch-up where you do not fill in forms or fields, but just talk about how things are going. Listen and write down the key points. If feedback is regular, fear lessens. Performance improvement should contain a mix of formal reporting and informal discussion.
- Goals need to be clear, agreed and attainable. Do not set goals. Agree them. Of course you need to have standards, but you also need to develop a culture where your staff feel involved in adding to the values and standards of your company.
- Ask the right questions. Make sure your way of managing performance is relevant. If you have a formal review meeting, keep the language clear and understandable. Staff may have suggestions on areas that they think may help make the process more relevant.
- Step by step changes. If everyone makes even one small change to improve performance, you will have quite a lot of change.
- You need to get managers on board too. If they know that an ongoing performance cycle will help them in their role, they will have more enthusiasm in working with it.
- Review the review! Take time to observe and monitor how you review staff and what sort of performance improvement model is working best. This is an ongoing cycle. It will change and develop.
Performance Management – Plan for Results
Your performance improvement cycle is just that, a continuous process which has at its heart, ongoing improvement in sales or results, morale and performance. Performance management should help individuals, teams and output. It should be a company- wide ideal helping to increase the objectives of the company.
Make sure you:
- Plan and change the plan if you have to!
- Set clear goals. Make them personal
- Monitor progress on an ongoing basis
- Provide training and coaching to help in achieving goals.
- Give Feedback
- Learn from Reviews and make changes
Performance management isn’t dead. It’s just changing. Now it’s about getting people truly involved in a process that they feel is worthwhile. Gone are the days of annual appraisals, sitting in filing cabinets, never to be seen again. We are now viewing things in terms of performance review cycles which are ongoing processes, which can see real change in output, morale and creativity. Performance management has come a long way in its rehabilitation.