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What's your number one tip for better performance management?

Tip 1 - Effective and timely follow-up with employees will catch early signs of poor performance
By Brett Morris, chief executive, The Fortune Group

With performance management being so critical to a team's success, it's tempting to analyse it every which way and devise an holistic approach to perfecting it. While that may have merit, in our view there's a powerful and simple underpinning to performance management: Effective managers and leaders always inspect what they expect...because people respect what managers and leaders pay attention to and follow up on!

Why do you take your car in for regular service checkups, usually when nothing's wrong with it? Because you know that you can't just expect it to perform well for years on end; you must inspect it to ensure it's equipped to continue operating. Just as importantly, you inspect your car on a frequent basis to detect any signs of larger problems.

The same goes for effective performance management, whether it's system or a leadership imperative. When delegating tasks or projects to employees, it's usual to agree what outcomes you expect and then leave them to get on with it. But it's vital to follow up on their progress so you know if they're on track to complete the tasks as expected because people don't respect what you expect, they respect what you inspect.

Just as you have your car inspected to catch any signs of larger problems, so too does effective and timely follow-up with your people allow you to catch early signs of poor performance. This is critical because if you don't catch and confront poor performance early, employees instinctively take your lack of action as a signal that you condone whatever it is they are doing, in effect saying "it's okay".

With so many obligations throughout the workday, how can you remain vigilant in 'inspecting' what you delegate and expect? The key is recognising that you also have a responsibility for ensuring successful completion of the task, because in the eyes of the organization, the buck stops with you. Managers who fail to accept this psychological ownership, of being accountable, neglect to follow up and inspect their people's work. Using the car analogy again, if you don't take it in for a checkup for 10 years, it's not the car who's responsible for breaking down - you are.

So retain that ownership, and even with a heavy workload, you'll find you instinctively inspect what you expect. Improved personal and team performance will follow.

Visit the Fortune Group website to learn more about performance management and how to manage poor performance

Tip 2 - Don't be complacent; take the time to know your employees
By Andrea Boyle, HR leader, GE Energy Australia & NZ

Get to know your employees - really know them. Understand what their real capability is. Understand what their passion is and use that information to engage them. Stay in touch, read the signs, act early. Don't think that things will improve themselves in time. You need to get involved and help employees work through the issues.

It starts with the recruitment process. Selecting employees with the right cultural fit and behaviours is key. Understanding the dynamics of the existing team and how the new employee will fit with the rest of the team really helps. So, you really need to know your team well. We ensure that managers take ownership of the selection process to help drive this.

Setting goals, expectations and ongoing feedback are also important in driving a culture of high performance. We have a formal process that supports this but it needs to happen every day. Employees need to know how they are contributing and know that what they are doing is valued. When they are off track or performing under par, they need help to understand why and how to improve. Tying it all together is GE's process for aligning compensation with performance. GE has a rigorous assessment process that sends a message to its people that they will be rewarded for high performance.

We really value leaders and senior team members with strong coaching skills and try to develop this skill in our organization, as they should be the enablers of the above.

Tip 3 - Create a well designed performance management system based around regular discussions about three specific conditions: clarity, climate and competence (the 3Cs)
By Pia Lee, CEO leadership consultancy LIW

Managers dread them and employees resent them, so why go through the pain of performance appraisals? Simply because well-executed performance management can unlock a lot more than employee performance; it can create all the conditions for their success and for the organization as a whole.

Top performing organizations realise that employee engagement is central to driving results and, therefore, develop an aligned system which supports it. It's not a 'soft factor' but built on hard facts: organizations with optimal engagement have 2.6 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in the same industry (Gallup 2010).

A performance management system is the corner stone of Organizational Leadership Architecture in that it is core to sustainable business success. Put simply, this is the process by which an organization engages with its workforce to achieve its goals.

So it had better be right and it had better truly engage employees rather than be an annual conversation that often is spoiled by paperwork.

In many cases, performance management is the opposite of the way it should, and could be. The solution? Turn everything on its head to see the real value that can be added to both individual and organization. Performance management is not an appraisal, it's about success. The responsibility needs to be shared between the organization, its leaders and the team members to create the optimal conditions in which people become self-motivated.

A well-designed performance management system will provide a framework for regular discussions about three specific conditions: clarity, climate and competence (the 3Cs) which determine success.

These are firstly the Clarity of key accountabilities, goals, objectives, standards and how they align to the strategic direction. Second, the Climate required to do the job which includes the environment, resources and culture. And finally, the Competence including the behaviours, knowledge, skills and attitude required in this job for individual to fulfil their longer term potential.

Your people will not care how much you know until they know how much you care rings true in a performance management conversation. If a leader can project that their intent is positive, then a more genuine conversation where self-disclosure, two-way feedback and problem solving are the norm.

Leaders no longer have the time to supervise or provide all the solutions. Furthermore, if they do, they miss the essential role of leadership which is to unlock others' potential. It is imperative that people in the front line and elsewhere show initiative if stakeholder needs are to be met in a way that is effective and efficient enough to warrant repeat business.

A telling, directive style of leadership is less likely to develop this self-awareness, engagement or build capacity. The vital ingredient, therefore, lies in the leadership style that supports the performance management system: the leader should be positioned as a super coach rather than a micro manager. In this way they can address difficult issues, build understanding and enable learning the lessons of past performance.

Asking three fundamental questions forms the basis of any coaching conversation: What are you trying to achieve and why? Where are you now? What do you need to do next?

Most companies invest a lot of resources in the 'systems and process' side of performance management. While this is valuable, it's only one piece of the puzzle. The key is to ensure that there is a quality conversation, which strives to create the conditions for future shared success.

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