Performance Management Doesn't Have to Be a Bad Word

It's near the end of the year and many companies have begun their performance management cycle.  Unfortunately, this process is still being mismanaged and mishandled by many well-meaning employers, thereby causing employees to view the process in a negative perspective.

In fact, according to research released in 2015 by Saba and, only half of employers surveyed actually conduct annual reviews at a minimum.  Although, according to a SHRM March 2018 article by Dave Zielinski, there is hope as employers attempt to improve their performance management processes using technology.  Performance management does not have to be seen as a necessary evil.  With intentionality, employees and employers can have meaningful dialogues about performance and what adjustments can be made to reach organizational and professional goals.

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When you think of performance management what comes to mind?  Do you view it as an exciting opportunity to showcase your talents with your supervisor?  If you are a manager, do you view it as a wonderful time to highlight your employee's accomplishments?  Many are facing this time of year as simply a checkbox.  And if there are not merit increases associated with the dialogue, employees are hard pressed to view the benefits of the review.

What exactly is Performance Management?  

Performance Management can be defined as an integrated approach to ensuring that an employee’s performance supports and contributes to the organization’s strategic aims.  Whereas Performance Appraisal is defined as setting work standards, assessing performance, and providing feedback to employees to motivate, correct and continue their performance.

Nearly 6 decades ago, performance management and appraisals were typically used to identify pay associated with what an employee does.  Fast forward to today and you will see companies are attempting to redefine the performance management process.

Follow the Cycle 

There is a natural cycle associated with performance management.  Many models exist and The Peak Performance Center offers an easy to follow model with four stages: Planning, Monitoring, Reviewing, Rewarding.  Each portion of the cycle has tasks associated to help the employee succeed.

Planning - The first stage in the performance management cycle is planning.  Goals are established and expectations are discussed.  The goals identified should support the strategy of the organization.

One way to effectively plan for the year ahead is to first understand how your employees are motived.

Motivation is the psychological quality that leads people to achieve a goal.  Employers need to know if their employees are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated.  This is key during the planning stage as it will help direct the goals that are established.  Keeping Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of basic needs in mind will help with ensuring employees are being viewed as wholistic beings.

Intrinsic - because of the interest and enjoyment in the task itself.

Extrinsic - because of the outcome that will result by doing the task.

Do you know how your team members are motivated?  If not, now is a good time to ask them!

Use SMART Goals to Establish Clear Expectations.

Once motivation has been understood, SMART goals can help teams clearly define what needs to be done, who needs to be involved to accomplish the goal and identify a specific timeframe for completing the goal.  Asking questions such as, "What do you want to accomplish?"  "How do you know when you have reached it?" and "Is this a realistic and relevant goal?" will ensure the goals established are focused and meaningful.

Monitoring - Once an employee's motivation is understood, and goals are established, it is time to shift to the monitoring stage.  During this stage, performance is measured and feedback is offered to the employee.  Periodic feedback is critical as it allows for corrective action prior to a significant amount of time passing.  Effective communication is essential at this stage.  Correcting, and encouraging behaviors are needed to reinforce previously established expectations.

Reviewing - During the reviewing stage, managers have the opportunity to assess efforts employees have made towards their goals.  This is when the appraisal occurs.  The appraisal should not be a surprise.  Employees should receive a copy prior to the scheduled meeting, a conversation about their performance should occur, and any corrective steps should be outlined.  Feedback should be specific and focus on the behavior and not the employee.  What should they STOP, START and CONTINUE should be discussed at this stage.

Rewarding - Acknowledging and confirming desired behavior is important and occurs during the rewarding stage.  Being creative in lean times is essential, especially for those employees who are extrinsically motivated.  There are a number of great ideas out there.  Check out this list of 121 Creative Ways to Reward Employees by SnackNation.

By following this cycle, employers and employees are well on their way to engaging in meaningful conversations about what is working, what's not and what needs to be done to make changes.  Performance management does not have to be a bad word or a checkbox or a necessary evil.  It can be an opportunity for growth.


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