Make Performance Management Meaningful

by HR Coach on March 27, 2009

Performance Management: The aspect of your job as a manager that determines your success with individual employees, the morale of your entire company or department, and ultimately the bottom line performance of your company.

Distinction: Performance management is the day-to-day encouragement and corrections you engage in with your employees on an individual basis. Performance reviews are the formal assessments you perform with employees, to acknowledge their successes and set goals for future performance.

Performance Management

I like to think of a manager’s role as being similar to that of a symphony conductor. The directions you give, the pace you set, your attention to details, your enthusiasm, the way you treat your direct reports — all contribute to the overall tone and workplace environment of your company or department.

We all need to matter, to be valued, and to feel we contribute to the success of the company. “No news” kills good behavior and encourages bad behavior. Your job as manager is to encourage productive behaviors and discourage unproductive ones. Your reactions can significantly affect which behaviors are multiplied and which will gradually die out.

Think about the effect your attention has:

  • When you ignore good behavior, it decreases. (Why should I bother when no one notices?)
  • When you ignore bad behavior, you get more of it and the habits formed will be hard to break. (Nobody noticed that shortcut I took, so I’ll continue doing it that way)
  • When you recognize good behavior, you also get more of it. (People like to hear praise and usually like to please others)
  • When you recognize (and correct, or redirect) bad behavior, you get less of it (most people want to do a good job.)

Notice good performance and reward it immediately, or notice poor performance and correct it immediately. The value of feedback drops when neither you or your employee can remember the details of the incident during the performance review several months later. Oh, and just a reminder, correct in private and reward publicly.

Performance Reviews

I think we all dread performance reviews because they take so much energy, thought and time. We hate to give up that kind of time, especially if what we’re doing seems pointless.

The whole process makes much more sense when we check progress frequently. Two scenarios, which make reviews more productive:

  1. Do a formal performance review on the employee’s anniversary date, with short follow-up meetings quarterly.
  2. Do short performance reviews quarterly, looking at what has been accomplished over the past three months and what will be focused on in the next three months.

When they are relevant, reviews have a positive outcome for both the employer and the employee. The employee has short-term goals, which lead to long-term outcomes. Productive reviews are followed up regularly to ensure goals are being met and blocks to success are being anticipated and eliminated.

Ideally, performance reviews are a negotiation between the employer and employee. Needs, expectations and goals are met on both sides. What employee needs must be met to ensure success? What employer needs must be met to ensure success?

There are no set rules for performance reviews that work for every company in every situation. Make performance reviews work for you and your employees, with whatever format fits your needs and expectations.

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