Performance management is an important human resources initiative that helps organizations manage their people, reward top performers and identify those employees who are struggling to meet organizational expectations. Having formalized performance management processes in place helps organizations become more efficient and effective by ensuring that their employees are meeting and exceeding performance goals. When your organization has a relevant performance management program, it will contribute to stronger workforce retention and engagement and help employees to see the value that they are bringing to the table.
Traditional performance programs of the past were very rigid and process driven, but nowadays, programs are driven by organizational strategy and are much more dynamic and flexible. Performance management is not a cookie cutter initiative and should be looked at uniquely from organization to organization because what works for one company may not work for another. In order to design the most effective performance management program that is a best fit for your organization and your culture, there are a number of important things to consider:
- Performance is not just a once a year conversation. Managers and supervisors should be engaging their employees in ad hoc, “in the moment” feedback all year round. Employees should have a very clear understanding where they stand with respect to meeting performance expectations. When employees walk into their formal annual performance review, there should never be any surprises. In the past, performance conversations have carried a very heavy and ominous dark cloud above them. This was mostly because it was the only time in the year that performance was being addressed. These discussions were stressful and employees were apprehensive going into the meetings. When dialogue around performance is happening year round, everyone knows where they stand and the process will be much more organic and authentic.
- Performance reviews are as much about employee development as they are about evaluating performance. Every performance review should include a look back at the previous year so employees can see how closely they delivered on the goals that they set. This is an opportunity to reflect on accomplishments and learnings in the year prior and to see how far they have come. Annual reviews should also include a forward looking section to allow for realistic and important development conversations to take place between employee and supervisor. Where do employees want to go? What areas would they like to further develop their skill set? Is there an opportunity to target some of the skills that they will need in order to advance and focus on them with the work that they are currently doing?
- Performance goals need to be relevant and personal to every employee. It can be difficult for a front line employee to come up with a goal that is directly related to organizational strategy. Sometimes employees may need a little guidance and support in setting goals that are tied to business objectives, yet still personally significant to them. At the end of the day, it is important for your employees to have outlined a set of goals that they are excited about and meaningful to their professional growth. This will allow them to see the direct connection between their role and the overarching goals/performance of the organization. When that connection is made, employees are much more likely to feel valued in their contributions to their organization.
- Goals are not set in stone, they are flexible and evolving. We all know that the workplace changes quickly and companies are fluid and dynamic. Priorities are constantly being shifted and responsibilities are juggled on a daily basis. Goals should be revisited at least a couple times throughout each year in order to check in on progress and to re-evaluate the relevancy of each goal. If a goal no longer applies due to a change in position or a new project, it can be readjusted or replaced with a new priority.
Performance management isn’t just a “one size fits all” initiative that can be dropped into an organization without any thought. Culture is the pulse of your organization and such an important consideration when implementing a performance management process. The frequency, formality and weight of each review needs to work for your employees, otherwise you will struggle to get the buy in of your workforce and therefore lose the intended effect of the process. Your employees will benefit from a customized performance management program because they will have a clear idea of whether or not they are meeting expectations and also see the direct link between their personal contributions and the success of the organization.