Getting Real with Performance Management

Years ago I worked as an organizational development consultant in the human resources department of a large company when my boss pulled up a chair in my office and handed me a one-page sheet of paper with the words PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL written across the top.

“We need to revamp our entire performance management system,” he told me.

“Great!” I said with genuine enthusiasm. “Can you describe the outcomes of the new system?” I asked.

“Well, I’d like to change from our current 3-point evaluation form to a 4-point scale,” he said with utter seriousness.

Don’t confuse performance evaluation forms –or even a performance-tracking processes –with practices that improve and manage performance.

Relevant, meaningful performance management doesn’t require the efforts of a human resources department. If you’re goal is to create real performance improvement, start by applying these 3 simple tricks of the trade:

1. Make sure every employee knows what you expect.

Too often, managers clarify their expectations for employees at performance review time, at which time they say,

“Here’s what you did you well, here’s what you need to work on, and here are your additional goals for the next period.”

Instead holding performance discussions as one-time, formal events, see them as regular, ongoing conversations that happen from the pre-employment interview until retirement. Spell out clearly what outcomes you expect, and, for roles that mandate adherence to very specific protocols and processes, exactly how you expect the work to be done, too.

2. Tap into peer coaches.

Years ago, I learned that one of my managers had instituted a peer coaching system for new hires in her department. She let it be known that anyone on the team could serve as a peer coach as long as they met the criteria. Coaches had to…

  • Perform at an overall above average level;
  • Practice a positive, can-do attitude;
  • Serve as ambassadors for the team / department / company;
  • Demonstrate expertise in at least one discipline essential to the department; and
  • Model loyalty in word and deed.

When peer coaching became the norm across the department, we shortened learning-curves for essential roles, promoted cross-training and development, and put individuals with management skill and ambition in the spotlight — and the pipeline — more quickly.

3. Encourage each employee to find a mentor.

While you can’t manage the careers of others, you can be a career resource for your employees. On your team, you will find individuals with the ambition to be a subject-matter experts (SMEs), and you’ll find others who wish to pursue roles in management. Serve as a match-maker by suggesting SME mentors to your SME-minded employees; likewise, suggest leadership mentors to your employees who wish to pursue a role in leadership. Not only does this cost you nothing, but your efforts create a 4-WIN outcome:

  • WIN #1–Your employees gets mentoring and development opportunities;
  • WIN #2–Mentors feel good just by being asked to share and develop others. And good mentors LOVE mentoring. The activity itself becomes the reward.
  • WIN #3–You reap the benefits of having engaged, developed employees on your team; and
  • WIN#4–Your organization adds members to the SME or leadership reserves.

In conclusion, your human resource departments can suggest reading material, templates, and discussion guides to extend your formal performance management education. But if you want to be known as a performance management leader, it’s within your grasp to create performance results the old fashion way: one employee at a time.


0 Comments Add yours

  1. Ken Grant says:

    Scott, as usual, great message. I have rebelliously fought against annual performance appraisals in every job I had since I retired from the Army. The Army requires all raters to spend time with soldiers at the beginning of a 6 month review cycle and they agree in writing and signed what the performance goals will be for the next 6 months, not the next year. Of course most performance objectives are vital enough that continued mentoring occurs throughout the process, but formal appraisals are twice a year. I always instituted that in post Army jobs by having an informal review at the 6 month point to give employees a look in writing that they could hang onto for reference. Never any surprises at appraisal time.

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