by Judy M McCutcheon
When we hear the term ‘performance review’ we think about an annual review where the employee gets beaten over the head for one year of misgivings or managers get all anxious about having to conduct the review.
Conducting performance reviews, is by far, in my experience one of the most feared tasks to be performed by managers or supervisors. In my earlier times as, supervisor and then as a manager, it was the only part of my job I did not enjoy, and I would put it off until I couldn’t put it off anymore. Sounds familiar? However, managing employee performance is more than just annual reviews; it’s a nonstop year-round process of keeping scores. It involves the manager/supervisor and the employee working together to improve both the individual as well as the company’s overall performance.
A good performance system combines a number of key elements – appraisal practices, performance rating matrix, reward and recognition systems, performance plans as well as coaching and mentoring programmes. Doing this is not rocket science, but it requires careful thought and the right people in place with the requisite training. Too often employers hire or promote individuals into positions who are not qualified, sometimes due to cost constraints or simply because they don’t give priority to their employees’ experience. Employers need to start paying attention to what this action is costing them.
Effectively managing employee performance is a critical management activity, and organisations that get it right are usually way ahead of the competition. In our Caribbean context, many companies are beginning to appreciate that performance management is not some kind of HR shenanigan. There has been progress, but our performance management systems are still weak and wobbly. Some might even still be completely broken. When this happens, it means that companies are not operating at their maximum thus, if there is a shift in competitive market conditions they cannot be nimble and responsive. Top performing companies understand that to be agile, they must have the people resources in place that gives the organisation the capacity and resilience it needs to achieve its strategic goals and objectives.
A well-structured performance management system must be well designed. What method are you using? What are your targets? Are you setting targets that are too hard to achieve thereby frustrating your employees or are you setting targets that are too easy, so there are no performance improvements? Your employees must feel that their contribution towards the achievement of the company’s overall goal is meaningful, therefore the link between individual effort and the larger organisation’s goals must be evident. Performance management systems work best with open, honest, two-way communication on a continuous basis. How often are you meeting with the staff in your department to talk about performance?
One company I worked for had a daily shift line-up, so we knew our department’s performance as well as the company’s overall performance daily. This helped to keep us focused on what mattered most – staying or getting on track to achieve the organisation’s strategic objectives. In the best of performance management systems, the entire organisation operates on a single principle, where each employee understands both the company’s overall performance and their contribution to that performance. Do your employees know your position or is it hidden from them? How can they tell what they are contributing to?
Good performance management rests on the premise that what gets measured gets done. An organisation, therefore, must create matrices and set targets that are effectively monitored to ensure that both the employee and the organisation’s needs are being met. This way you can help your employees reach their full potential by identifying training needs and exposing them to developmental programmes that build upon their existing skills and knowledge. To do this requires constant engagement, a good performance management system does not wait until the end of a cycle to give employees feedback but employs a constant feedback loop, designed to monitor progress.
A strong performance management system helps you to not only retain your best talent but aids in attracting top talent to your organisation. Robust performance management systems empower employees by allowing them to have better control over their progress, which contributes to greater employee satisfaction and engagement. When employees are supported in the achievement of their personal goals, they feel a strong sense of commitment and bond to the organisation, they feel part of something that is dynamic and bigger than themselves, so they work harder to help the organisation achieve its strategic imperatives.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net