Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to Balance Both ‘Ends” and ‘Means’ of Employee Performance

"Thinking performance" and "doing performance," behavior and outcome are all important elements in performance assessment.

People are the most invaluable asset in the business, however, in many organizations, talent management, and performance management are dysfunctional, silo, quantity-driven and short-term focused, lack of holistic approach to manage performance, culture, and talent more effectively. How can you resolve performance issues by identifying the root cause? Is training the solution when there are problems with performance, and how can senior management, HR and middle management have the common understanding and agree upon the expectation and the “right” outcome, and shall you well integrate talent management, performance management and culture management to build a people-centric, high-performing, and high mature organization?

First, ensure that expectations and outcomes are clearly understood by the incumbent. Look to close any loops first on such things as context and ambiguity in expected outcomes. Performance is related to expectations that management has when it comes to an employee's role. Roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined and mutually understood. In order to effectively and efficiently perform one's responsibilities, it is generally accepted that a system of continuous education is good practice.

Performance issues are far more likely to be a result of a lack of people being held to account and feeling accountable. First, build a culture of accountability and then develop the capabilities. Building capability takes time, what are they going to be accountable for? The risk is that you introduce the culture and you then recruit to accelerate capability, then you run a high risk diluting the culture for a period of time unless you are bringing in external capability for a short period to accelerate the capability development. And building capability does need to occur concurrently with building a culture of accountability.

Performance issues can be caused by “mismatch”: the role and expectations are not aligned with the person’s skills and ability, in which case training can help, or perhaps there is a more suitable role for the talent; or culture “misfit,” if businesses intend to innovate its culture, then they should hire the change agent to see things differently. If corporate managers and employees have different manifestation about the culture, then, more open communication is needed to clarify the expectation, with the ultimate goals to make the organization a better place to work, and the staff can contribute to the business growth proactively.

Both "ends" and "means" must be balanced. Performance assessment is a combination of many factors and shouldn't be quantified so easily. "Thinking performance" and "doing performance," behavior and outcome are all important elements in performance assessment. Should employee performance assessment be based on behavior or outcome? Behavior and outcome are not, or should not be mutually exclusive, you need both and they need to be aligned. In this economy, though, where staffing is constantly under pressure, results will win out over method and demeanor. It is the manager's challenge to hire the right person for the particular job and provide the guidance needed to fulfill goals and support organizational standards for execution. That's why a good manager is a very valuable asset. At today’s knowledge, technology, and innovation economy, thinking performance is as important, or, even more, important than just doing. The assumption is those key behaviors emphasized are the right ones to enable the right outcomes.

Defining and agreeing on what the "right" outcomes are in partnership with key executives and business leaders is essential. Very often, the senior leadership and middle management have different level of understanding about performance and outcome; senior managers more focus on innovation, culture, and long-term outcome; and middle management more emphasizes on tactical tasks to meet short-term delivery timeline, so it’s important to well define the right “outcome”: Look at both tangible - the quantitative result, but do not ignore the intangibles - the positive or negative culture influence the employee has brought to the company and a peer review always helps. If an individual can get results, but is disruptive to the team, the effect can be significantly lower productivity and loss of good staff. In the end, the individual's results may meet their objectives, but the overall organizational objectives will suffer. That's a recipe for disaster in the long term.

It is in the best interest of both HR and Management to improve employee 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 people management as top business priority, to well align employees’ career goals with corporate vision, and to build a high-performing culture, and a high mature organization.


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