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Ten Ways to Improve Performance Management

Wednesday, September 2, 2015   (0 Comments)
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Ten Ways to Improve Performance Management

Submitted by: Nancy Ahlrichs

Many organizations completed their employees’ annual performance reviews at the end of last year, and for many the process was once again ineffective. Why aren’t more managers and employees pleased with the outcomes? Why is there such disconnect between performance management and strategic goals? To get at the heart this, consider these 10 ways to improve your performance management process for 2015.

  1. Link performance management to projects and goals that support the strategic plan and/or to competencies (skills and behaviors) deemed critical to the success of the organization. Too often, mundane issues such as timeliness, attendance, and attire appear on reviews. Instead, the reviews should focus on outcomes (actual project results) or competencies (skills and behaviors such as internal and external customer service, strategic thinking, resilience in the face of change, etc.). Anything less truly is a waste of time.
  2. Define the rating scale or scoring system. If performance is rated on a scale (e.g., 1 to 5) without a specific definition of each level, disagreements will never end. On the other hand, if the review form defines level 3 as “Meets Expectations,” where the “employee displays solid performance that consistently meets expectations and position requirements,” it offers more clarity.
  3. Develop a performance evaluation form that makes sense for the position reviewed. An administrative professional has completely different requirements on the job than a sales representative or an executive. Most organizations have separate evaluation forms for administrative staff, non-management staff, management staff, sales staff, and executive staff. For these organizations, the outcome is an easier, more targeted review process.
  4. Make self-review part of the process for everyone. Employees may provide vital project or competency achievement examples unknown to the manager, and this insight can be helpful as the manager prepares for the review. A self-review also provides discussion content for new expectations and definitions of quality, timeliness, etc.
  5. Require both employees and managers to provide examples that support their ratings. When employees self-rate, they need to provide metrics or reasoning to support the rating. Similarly, the manager needs to offer examples of the behaviors and achievements that warrant a specific rating.
  6. Consider a multi-rater process. Sometimes the manager providing the reviews has the least amount of contact with, and is the least affected by, the employee’s day-to-day performance. In these cases, the manager should solicit input from customers (internal and external), peers, and any direct reports that the employee has.
  7. Provide training for managers and employees. Both employees and managers need to understand the performance management process (e.g., the schedule, scoring system, technology used, and connection to compensation and career advancement). Managers also need to be trained on how to conduct effective reviews (e.g., how to give meaningful feedback and have difficult conversations).
  8. Include a development plan. Every employee needs continual learning, and the performance review is a good place to spell out the details. Managers should focus on a few skills (no more than three) that the employee needs to develop and then discuss and document these during the review meeting.
  9. Have draft reviews approved by the next level of management and/or human resources. Some managers are easy graders (often with “favorites” who inconsistently deliver results but consistently get a raise every year). Other managers are hard graders (believing that they hired superstars who should provide superhuman performance in order to get a “Meets Expectations” rating). These differences in approach can contribute to low engagement and high turnover. To level things out, another party should review the managers’ work and ensure consistency across the board.
  10. Set review dates in advance. No manager or employee wants to find out December 1 that reviews are due December 24. HR should provide the performance review process schedule early in the year (and send regular reminders for key steps) so that both employees and managers can prepare and keep performance management top of mind.

A well-designed and executed performance management process can be a positive motivator for employees. Building it takes some work, but the outcome is a more engaged, productive staff and a better bottom line.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.