Wednesday, June 10, 2015

How to Get Performance Management "Unstuck"?

The purpose of reviews is about improvement for the future. Performance Management is more like planning than tools.

In the hugely interconnected and volatile digital world today, Performance Management is a complex management discipline out there with so many variables that determine performance - including inter-dependencies within teams or organizations, quantity vs. quality; performance vs. potential, etc. Performance is also very much visible in spaces that are outside the corporate world because the digital footprint becomes part of “WHO WE ARE!” All of them have one common thread - a group dialoguing and performing together where each individual contributes and counts. So is traditional Performance Management out-of-date, and how to get Performance Management unstuck?

The myth Of objectivity: No evaluations or employee reviews are objective. Subjectivity abounds so you need to stop pretending that your ways of evaluating employee performance are objective. What is important is setting agreed-upon goals and objectives, establishing key indicators, and then working with the employee so there is a common understanding of goals and agreement on how to measure them. It means a negotiated approach. Traditional Performance management does not work - simply because, for most employees, their results or outcomes are dependent on other people and other factors. In particular - well-designed work processes and systems, collaborative colleagues, insightful leadership, and great communication.

Systematic Approach: How do you get performance management unstuck?
(1) Leadership is the key. If executive leadership isn't behind appraisals, then the company will copy that modeled behavior.
(2) Business justification: HR needs to make the case to executive leadership why appraisals are important with facts and data.
(3) Prioritization: Executive leadership then needs to prioritize its own involvement in the execution to support the process.
(4) WIIFM (What's In It For Me?) is the overriding principle - management as a whole isn't seeing any benefits from doing appraisals, nor any overt negative effects from not doing them
(5) Documenting: The necessity of doing appraisals needs to be built into all management position descriptions.
(6) Simplification: Appraisals need to be simplified.
(7) Culture: the company culture needs to embrace frequent, simplified appraisals. Leadership is responsible for creating that culture.

The purpose of reviews is about improvement for the future. The past is over. Move the purpose of performance reviews away from "evaluating" the past, and to improving success in the future. When you lead a business or an organization, you really need to be passionate about what you are trying to achieve for the customer and the long-term prosperity of your organization. You then need to be able to convey this passion to your people and show passion for both the customer and your people - this is the 'heart part.' The ' mind' part is then all about: objectives, goals, talking to people, empathy, appreciation, and encouragement. Relationships become stuck when the passion fades away. Digital Performance Management needs to move the "elephant" firmly to the space of group evaluations of itself and each other by applying the Agile principle. Such transparency and brainstorming is a good experiment to build a shared understanding of common goals as well as understanding the own role in the larger picture. It also then becomes a space of confronting the invariable thorny issues that either impact performance directly or shape perceptions that hinder future performance.

Performance Management is more as planning than tools: A manager is involved with his/her people and is there to teach, advise, listen, correct, reward, motivate, and discipline, things change for the better. This is Performance Management. Managers are leaders/trainers/teachers, and it is their job to prepare their people, not only for their current job but for their next job as well. Performance Management is not a bunch of paperwork, but a combination of actions leading to a constantly improving product.

Performance Management gets "stuck" when the people in charge get "stuck." Performance Management uses performance evaluation as the main tool, it will not be of much value. But when it is more on work or performance planning, then better results will follow. Evaluation is water down the bridge even if this is supposed to be used for development or as a lesson for future work unless the work will be exactly the same. But if performance management is done at the initial stage where managers review work approaches to accomplish goals and sustained throughout the work as it is being done, then there will be better chances for success. This is why regular discussions during the course of accomplishing a goal are helpful.

Until and unless there is a mutual agreement between both management and staff as to a vested and balanced approach to the goals and vision of the organization, the performance management process will most likely remain an adversarial relationship. Simply input, buy-in, and ownership are the keys to advancing the mutual goals of the organization. To really make a difference within HR departments and improving the performance of company employees, it starts with culture and organic change, also leveraging the latest digital trend and technology such as social media or talent analytics. Often employees are blown left and right by HR initiatives and new forms, but really what they want is for their manager to understand their inspiration and motivation with empathy, what they're doing well, not so well and what areas they need to work on to get to the next level. And the most important thing is to unify hearts, minds, and hands to achieve collective high performance by the deep understanding of process capability, capacity or variation, and a driven culture of autocracy, innovation, and mastery.


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