The Performance Management Needs of Today
It is a fact of life that everything is in a constant process of change. The way we used to live 30 years ago is different to the way we experience and live life today. The same goes for work and the way people experience and perceive work today as opposed to in the past.
The so-called Generation Y(aged under 30), which was to a large extent brought up with the Internet, is used to accessing and achieving everything easier and faster. They are more materially satisfied, they go to college longer and they have more opportunities than there were 30 years ago. No doubt the reality that they grew up in has moulded the way they look at various spheres of life including their job.
Generation Y are distinctly different from their parents. To them a job is a part of their life style, something that they want to identify with. A job is no longer just about making a living. Many of the Generation Y people don’t believe in a job for life but rather see their job as an opportunity to learn and grow until the next big thing comes along.
With that in mind, it is only logical that managers need to adapt their approach to hiring and retaining people if they want to leverage from employees’ potential. Since people are the engine of any business, whether multinational or small, managing staff well is absolutely essential.
Managing people is a tricky business however and especially today when keeping people happy is much more complex while the key to retaining them is keeping them content indeed. The good old quarterly or annual performance appraisals alone are no longer sufficient to ensure that people are achieving their full potential.
Performance management today should not merely seek to quantify the results of your staff but also to motivate them, encouraging them to achieve more by giving them more freedom and responsibility so that they are committed. Commitment and loyalty among staff are some of the greatest challenges of any business today and what HR specialists should strive to achieve.
Here are a few insights to quality performance management that will help you keep good people working for you rather than the competition.
Good performance management starts with hiring the right candidate which is challenging but also crucial as you can imagine. As you look for the right candidate, keep in mind that the job description posted for the position should be clear and concise, identifying the key competences, knowledge, abilities and skills for the job.
It will help candidates know at the first glance whether they are a match and consequently whether to apply at all or not. This will hopefully keep the number of applicants down to the most suitable ones.
You can hardly ever find a person so suitable to match all the requirements on your list but you should try and get as close as possible. CVs and other information from the selection process will help you identify which of the candidates get closest to ‘the perfect candidate’.
Brian Tracy, the Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, says that ‘Selecting the right people is the starting point of excellence in management. Probably 95% of your success as a manager resides in your ability to select the right people in the first place.’
Getting the right person is step number one to retaining people. If the person is right for the job it will be easier both for them to get what they want out of the job (and thus feel happy with it) and for you to benefit from their potential.
It is very important that the overall objectives of the business are clarified at the very beginning. People often get frustrated when they don’t fully understand the objectives of their job and these are normally rooted in the overall objectives of the business.
If your firm has a documented business plan in place setting out its measurable goals and objectives, this should also feed into department or team plans. By referring to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) rooted in your firm’s strategic plan, people at all levels of the firm can understand better what the objectives of the business mean for their job.
People should be able to see the purpose of what they do and how it fits into the big picture. Making sure that people understand what the goals of the business are and how their personal efforts are part of the picture is a must. When people gain that understanding and they know how they contribute, they will be much more committed to the job.
And while the objectives of a particular job are to a large extent set by the company and depend on the specific position, how they are achieved is something you could give people the freedom to decide upon. This will further reinforce their commitment as people feel that they’ve been given responsibility but also freedom to decide what the most effective way to approach their targets is.
As mentioned in the beginning, measuring performance is only part of performance management today. It is however very important for two reasons.
First of all, measuring performance helps measure progress. We’ve all heard the saying that ‘What gets measured gets done’. This is particularly true in a work or business sense. You need to know where you were headed and how far you’ve come along the way at any point. That is why, it is really valuable to sit down and revise your goals and your progress on a regular basis. And if the goals of your business are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic & time-related) measuring the results should be no problem.
Second, measuring performance also measures the effectiveness of the strategies utilised by the employee to achieve the goals and objectives set in the beginning. Thus, when measuring the results you also measure their approach. This means that you can reward people not only for their results but also for the initiative they’ve taken which will in turn increase their dedication.
For a firm providing a service, for example, employees who have a say in how the service is delivered will feel engaged in their work. Employees who feel they have satisfaction in their work will consequently translate this into greater customer satisfaction, and this tends to result in higher profits.
Employee Feedback and Ongoing Coaching
As workplaces become increasingly informal, the freedom of people to make suggestions, express ideas for improvement and opinions grows more and more important.
Having that freedom and seeing their ideas in action makes people feel that they are more a part of the success of a company and hence part of a company they want to identify with.
eBay uses a number of methods such as a pulse survey which enables employees to give candid, anonymous feedback to management on their day-to-day experiences in the workplace. It not only means that managers can strengthen their own skills and effectiveness, but also means employees’ concerns are addressed as well.
Google recognises the increasing trend to allow employees freedom in their jobs to be creative and entrepreneurial. This might mean the employee taking a risk to try out a new idea or approach in the course of their work. Managers might then need to suggest how to tailor this to ensure its success. In this way, they recognise their contribution to the firm’s growth and success.
Quarterly and Annual Performance Reviews
As well as ad hoc feedback, quarterly and annual performance reviews should be formally arranged regularly during the year. Both employees and managers should prepare for this meeting and use previous reviews or performance discussions as the framework for the meeting.
In many performance management systems, an employee fills in a pre-appraisal form that outlines their objectives for the following year. These should be discussed, expanded upon and agreed at the performance review. These should be measurable and trackable and tie in with the organisation’s own objectives.
Training and Development
For a large number of employees, the opportunity for training and development is one of the perks of a job. It means that they can gain new skills and learn something but also that you appreciate them enough to invest in their development. The realisation of this fact increases employees’ commitment.
Training and development programmes and personal development plans should be designed to address the gaps between the knowledge, skills and abilities required and those actually displayed by the employee.
In an interview for Forbes earlier this year, Virgin’s founder Richard Branson says: “If you take care of your employees they will take care of your business.” It is not secret that putting employees first has been the company’s strategy for a long time now.
Thus it is important to note that the effect of training and development is two –fold, firstly it helps your business because people will do their jobs better, and secondly they are likely to me more loyal and dedicated to your company because of the opportunities they’ve been given to learn.
Tackling Negative Issues
Nobody likes to be faced with problems. Yet, problems are a part of life and of business too. However negative a situation may seem, keep in mind that you can always learn from it and turn it into a positive one if you know how to address it so that it motivates people in the end of the day.
You should be prepared to deal with negative situations, as they inevitably arise, but also make the best out of them. Imagine an unpleasant incident has happened where an employee behaved in an inappropriate way. When talking to them be sure of your facts and avoid being emotive, personal and judgemental. Unless you have witnessed the behaviour yourself, avoid references to hearsay.
You should ask questions, rather than launching into criticism that will immediately put a person on the defensive. Corroborating and discussing the incident will show employees you’re being fair and allow them to explain their side of the story. Offer an alternative type of behaviour that should replace the employee’s undesirable conduct, having clearly described its effects. Remind the employee that their behaviour is the problem, not them as a person.
Negative feedback will be most effective when it is timely, so managers need address the issue as soon as possible. Ideally this would be immediately after the behaviour or incident takes place.
Keep in mind that your goal is not only to resolve the issue at hand but also motivate employees. That being said, when giving negative feedback always try to apply the so-called Sandwich strategy: first you make a positive comment, then you give negative feedback and you finish off on a positive note. By explaining how the employee is usually competent in other areas and thus valuable to the business for example, you can empower them to improve their performance after your meeting.
Recognising Positive Performance
Recognising the efforts of your employees is essential. One way of doing that is through different incentives such as bonuses, days off, awards such as ‘employee of the month’ etc.
Another is through supporting your employees’ career development aspirations by providing guidance and keeping them aware of the promotion prospects. Have an informal chat on a regular basis with your employees to discuss the opportunities and how you could help them in terms of trainings, funding for these, etc.
Be aware of the fact that monetary compensation is important as people expect it when they do well in their jobs. However and despite that, keep in mind that whatever you offer, whether in financial terms or not, failing to acknowledge their results out loud will inevitably decrease their motivation. Make sure to say ‘well done!’ and if possible acknowledge their achievement so that everybody in the company knows.
It goes without saying that an effective performance management system relies on good communication. Employees who receive regular advice and assistance in their work will be happy in their jobs. Happy employees increase client satisfaction as well as profits. With the right performance management system, a business of any size can achieve their goals in the same way as the largest multinationals.