Most organizations find that their performance review process is broken and faulty process in their organization. Nobody enjoys it, everyone struggles to do it well, it's inefficient, and it often fails to do what it ultimately intends to: improve, enhance, and recognize performance.
A traditional performance management system seems to no longer work for organizations. In fact, a recent WorldatWork study showed that over half of HR leaders graded their performance management process with a "C." All too often, the process is bureaucratic, time-consuming, and a negative experience.
So how do you go about fixing your broken performance management process to better engage your employees and managers? Here are 5 tips...
1. Look beyond the form.
To improve performance management, you need to extend the process beyond the review form. Unfortunately, the review form is the "crux" of the performance process for most organizations, and shouldn't be.
Performance management is so much more than a review form. It involves many different facets including performance planning, goal setting, day to day/weekly coaching and feedback, periodic performance check-ins (quarterly or bi-annually) training and professional development, and recognition and rewards.
All of these facets form a performance management system. They complement and support one another, help manage performance more effectively, and create an engaging and positive process for everyone involved.
2. Put down the gavel.
Or at least lighten it. Traditional performance management has been heavy on the gavel - that is judging, evaluating, and documenting performance by keeping track of where employees fell short. But in reality, no employee likes the gavel and no manager likes using it. The gavel is uncomfortable and unproductive for everyone involved.
In fact, research shows that excessive criticism and judgment are often counterproductive because employees are more likely to get defensive than actually change their behavior. Effective performance management focuses less on criticizing employees, judging them, writing them up, and rating them with a number, and more on…
- Enabling exceptional results through effective goal setting, planning, and follow-up
- Recognizing and rewarding "wins" and successes
- Supporting and helping employees in weak areas of performance
- Inspiring change in behavior
- Developing skills and capabilities through training and development to enhance performance and take it to the next level
Without all of these components and using just a traditional “gavel approach,” performance management doesn’t work well. In order to achieve the performance you want from employees, the system must support, enable, develop, and reinforce the behaviors required to produce the desired results.
3. Measure the right things.
Speaking of results…how do you measure them?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no standard way of measuring employee performance, nor is there a magic form or solution. Your organization cannot duplicate the performance review of another organization. It needs to create a customized performance management system that achieves the outcomes it needs in its organization.
Often, this is very specific to the organization and/or to each department. For example, measuring the presence or absence of certain behaviors and competencies or achievement of goals may work well in a services organization, while measuring specific metrics may work in a manufacturing/production environment.
Performance measures vary based on the job, the department, and the organization. Companies that excel at performance management customize their measures to a significant degree to ensure that they are extremely relevant and measure the right things.
4. Give the gift of feedback.
Feedback is a gift, and it's a crucial part (if not the most crucial part) of performance management. It gives employees the opportunity to improve their behavior and perform at higher levels. Unfortunately, most managers shy away from giving regular feedback, to the detriment of the performance management process.
Reviews occur too infrequently to provide employees with meaningful feedback about their progress. Make feedback an ongoing conversation by having regular discussions and feedback sessions with employees about their performance and coaching them for improved performance. Here are some tips for feedback:
- Focus on the positive and lead the employee to greater self-awareness
- Offer suggestions and ideas
- Praise the employee for doing a great job
- Guide employees to the right answers by asking questions
- Provide examples of how the employee performed well or where they could improve
- After project or assignment completion, review what was supposed to happen, what happened, and what was learned
5. Put your process online.
Another chief problem of many performance management systems is the paper trail. Performance management can be extremely administratively burdensome and require lots of paperwork and follow-up with supervisors and managers. The process is often incredibly inefficient.
Many organizations have more success with online performance management systems. Typically, these systems remove administrative tasks from the process, allow organizations to broaden and streamline their approach to performance management, provide the ability to track and extract performance data, and create an interactive experience for employees and managers that is designed to be used more than once a year.
Performance management doesn’t have to be a broken process in your organization. Many organizations are beginning to move beyond traditional performance management, embrace these approaches, and find that employees and managers alike derive a lot more value and satisfaction from them.