Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why is Poor performance not on the HR agenda?

It's time for HR and Senior Management/Leadership to begin investing in the most important resource they have, people.

People are the most invaluable asset in the business, however, in most of organizations, people management are dysfunctional, silo, quantity driven and short-term focused, lack of holistic approach to manage performance, culture, talent, and leadership development more effectively. Some even concern why is poor performance not on the HR agenda? What are the factors that decide on the culture of a company? And How can business executives and HR professionals work hand-in-hand to build a high-performance digital workplace?

Performance management is the responsibility of HR as well as the manager/supervisor. HR is responsible to establish the guidelines and process that the manager needs to follow. The manager is accountable for the execution of the process. The proper utilization of performance management requires consistent and frequent feedback from the manager to the employee. During these feedback sessions, the manager should review the performance targets outlined at the beginning of the year against actual performance. This will allow the manager to grasp the opportunity to determine the causes of the performance issue and support the employee needs to correct it.


HR advisers often discourage the addressing of poor performance rather than encouraging it! Too many performance systems focus on periodic evaluations, rather than ongoing performance "management" in the truest sense of the word. The other problem is the lack of consistent performance documentation by managers.The reason why poor performance is not on the HR agenda is because it is outside many HR professional’s comfort zone. Advising effectively on gross misconduct issues is reasonably safe as there are normally clear facts to work on and a clear process to follow. Poor performance, however, is not so clear cut, issues can be complicated, opinions rather than facts are involved, there are few processes to follow and judgement calls need to be made. Many HR professionals are not comfortable when being asked for advice on a poor performance issue because it’s grey area stuff and the risk of giving the wrong advice is high, potentially opening up them to criticism. Many believe that lack of management training is the issue and managers do not know what to do when dealing with a poor performer. The plain fact is that many HR practitioners do not know what to do either. HR certainly have a good understanding of what ‘not to do,’’ but not a great deal of knowledge of ‘what to do.’ In a lot of occasions, managers know the process that need to be followed and select not to address the performance issue. It requires skills, time and effort to address performance issues, and managers may not have the time or it is not on their list of priorities. Sometimes, the manager is not comfortable in confronting the issue. However, at the end of the day, we are all accountable for the performance.

"Deliberate Leadership Development" is what is needed. It's time for HR and Senior Management/Leadership to begin investing in the most important resource they have, people. Increasingly, it seems that companies are doing less and less to engender company loyalty, respect and faithfulness. If more attention is paid to developing leadership at the lower echelon of the company hierarchy, companies would see a reduction in employee turnover, an increase in productivity and overall more success, whatever the business. Effective leaders know how to engage employees who are performing poorly and find positive ways to turn that employee around, or when necessary, hold that employee accountable. They also have to work at "culture and values" issue. It requires waiting for senior leadership to lead more appropriately for leadership to effectively rise from somewhere else, including from HR people who see what's going on. Sometimes, senior leadership's inability to deal forthrightly with poor performance issues is brought even more to light by someone lower on the organization chart saying (metaphorically and non-anxiously), "the emperor has no clothes." Leadership is far less a function of one's position, and more the "result" of a person who can step outside the emotional climate of the workplace, stay in relationship with those still in it, and non-anxiously observe and question what he or she sees.


For performance to improve, ongoing feedback should take place: Poor performance is not on the HR radar because when performance reviews are conducted, there is too much emphasis on the evaluation, and not on the prescribed performance interventions needed to improve performance. Managers at all levels should be giving frequent, honest, specific behavioral feedback about all aspects of performance and with managers an important performance criterion is how well they are coaching. There seem to be few organizations that pay much attention to this aspect. Organizations hammer managers and supervisors on completing these instruments, but have not trained them on how to prescribe, how to improve it. Managers at all levels need to tailor performance agreements with each of their direct reports. The agreement specifies the goals to be achieved for a set period and how the results will be measured. This agreement establishes the criteria to be used for performance evaluation with each person. It takes a little time and some communication/negotiation between the manager and each employee, but the payoff is very clearly defined expectations and an evaluation based on expected results and how well they are achieved. For performance to improve, ongoing feedback should take place. Motivators such as achievement, progress, growth, and recognition should be incorporated in day-to-day interactions. Management is still responsible as they are the closest to the performance, but HR should lead the conversation to more effective practices. A once-a-year performance review and one time goal setting doesn't drive performance. Ongoing feedback, highlights motivational aspects (progress) and approaches performance from a growth & development perspective compared to the current fix-what's-broken perspective. HR should guide where possible, but you cannot allow the HR team to manage poor performance for you, each manager should and does deal with things differently that makes them unique. It is also important to integrate talent management, performance management and culture management into a holistic people management discipline in order to build a people-centric culture and focus on businesses’ long term prosperity.


It is in the best interest of both HR and Management to improve employee performance. After all, good performance affects positively the bottom line of any organization. Managers know what they need to do; they know it is all about giving feedback and setting objectives, they know the procedures and they know the damage an unprofessional mindset or under-performer can have to team morale and business performance. The end result is managers feel supported and want to invest the time and effort in dealing with poor performance, mediocre mindset and culture, and they create synergy to make talent management as top business priority.

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