Is performance management dead?

Kairen Harris
October 25, 2017

There has been a bit of press excitement of late announcing that performance management is no longer in fashion with cutting edge organisations. I must say that surprised me somewhat, since it is difficult to imagine how any organisation that wants to stay in business could not be interested in the performance of its staff.

Further investigation however suggests that what some workplaces have fallen out of love with, is spending inordinate amounts of time generating performance ranking scores. Hallelujah I say, especially where time spent on this task swamps the time that could more helpfully be spent on improving staff capability. The time lost in performance ranking is especially acute where the system requires managers to force rank staff into an abnormal distribution curve. A normal distribution curve has big differences at either end of the scale, but not in the middle. The worst version of forced performance ranking requires managers to split the majority ‘perfectly good’ performers in the middle of the curve into two lots, one designated ‘below expectations’.

In thinking about this topic, it seemed to me worth going back to basics around performance management. Despite the view of cynics, this was never intended as a work creation scheme for under employed HR staff! Any written appraisal document is intended to capture insightful and helpful analysis about how well an employee is contributing (or not) and what they can (or must) do to further develop their skills or output going forward. If it doesn’t do that, then it is not worth the paper it is written on.

10 tips for good performance appraisal

1) Connect the outcomes required from the individual staff member, to the overall goal of the enterprise. People like their work to have context, meaning and impact. Sharing your own performance contract can be helpful.

2) Assist staff to be able to make wise decisions about priorities. Everyone has more valid work to do than time to do it, so how should your people determine what task is more critical than the next one? If people are unsure, they will, of course, choose to do what they like doing most.

3) Take time to articulate what factors will impact your evaluation of their performance. Delivery on time and on budget may be obvious, but you may also care about how they interact with or assist colleagues, whether they stand up for governance standards when under pressure, whether they initiate process improvements, and other measures that focus on ‘how’ they achieve their quantitative targets. Often these unspoken criteria are not clear to staff, and sometimes not even consciously acknowledged by the appraiser.

4) Check whether staff have the resources necessary to do what is required. If you can’t adjust the resources, you may have to adjust the task or timeframe.

5) Get feedback about whether the way you are managing, is helping or hindering your subordinates. It is intuitive to manage others in the way we like to be managed ourselves. However that might miss the mark for subordinated who just aren’t like you. Different individuals may want different levels and types of engagement with you. Can you make adjustments that would lead to better outcomes?

6) Don’t assume that performance appraisal only applies to weaker performers. Your best performers also want to know how they can develop and improve.

7) Make discussing things that go wrong a standard part of team learning. You can help remove stigma by being prepared to acknowledge things that haven’t gone well for you. If people realise that they will not be chastised for honest errors, they are less likely to hide them.

8) Keep notes from the discussions you have during the year and preferably share them. Otherwise any ‘end of year’ written appraisal becomes an assessment of the last month (especially if your recollection is as good as mine).

9) Err on the side of giving generous credit to your staff rather than taking it for yourself.

10) Inspire your people to want to contribute their best. Saying a genuine thank you, whenever an appropriate opportunity presents itself, is a great place to start.

Free Webinar

If you would like to learn more about performance management, then register now to attend Worklogic’s upcoming free webinar “How to have Effective Performance Management Conversations” on Thursday November 2, 2017 at 12.30pm.

About Kairen Harris

Kairen HarrisKairen Harris is an Associate Director at Worklogic, She brings an impressive set of HR skills and experience to Worklogic, obtained from an extensive, international HR career.  Prior to joining Worklogic, Kairen was HR General Manager for Shell in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands, responsible for delivering the workplace policies, processes and culture that would best promote values of gender equity, inclusion and respect for people.

For a free, confidential discussion on creating a culture that doesn’t tolerate bad behaviour at your workplace, please contact Kairen via email or give her a call on (03) 9981 6500.

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