The Changing Performance Management Process

Susan-Page_393550Many companies are changing their approach to performance management. While the immediate change employees see is the elimination of an annual review and/or appraisal rating, the change to the process is the longer term impact. This means managers and employees regularly talking about the business and the employee’s contributions.

You can see companies introducing new vocabulary – commitments vs. objectives, connections vs. partners, continued focus vs. strengths, contributions vs. accomplishments, or things to consider changing vs. opportunities or weaknesses. Let me share a few examples from my life:

Commitments: Years ago, a boss told me to minimize my commitments, but meet each one. This advice stuck with me over the years. This word just seems more powerful than setting objectives. How many objectives have you set in your annual performance plan and not met for one reason or another? On the other hand, commitments appear stronger and more personal.

Contributions: Think about listing your accomplishments at the end of the year for your performance summary. Now, think what would happen if you had to translate that list to contributions. Honestly, I believe some years I could have cut my list of accomplishments, which contributed to my company’s bottom line, in half.

Things to Consider Changing: A sales manager once told me that I should consider changing my approach to developing new customers. She never said I wasn’t good at generating leads (a “weakness” term), but I understood what she meant and I started looking at successful colleagues and learned a lot from them. Two years later, I led my department in new customer accounts. This manager was ahead of her time.

As competition increases in the marketplace, smart companies look for ways to engage employees, develop those employees, and ultimately retain employees. Changing the performance management process can help achieve all three goals.

Engage: When managers talk to employees about performance on a regular basis (instead of a few times a year), it demonstrates an interest in the employee because of the manager’s personal time investment. As managers spend time with employees, they learn what motivates employees and prove more effective in keeping employees engaged.

Develop: Telling employees where they should “continue to focus” helps him or her know what a company values; and identifying areas where employees should “consider trying to do something differently” shows him or her where they can improve without demoralizing the employee.

Retain: The cost of turnover is high and on-boarding new employees takes time and money – why not invest in your current employees by sharing ongoing feedback and encourage them to stay?

In summary, as a manager, spending time with employees matter and the words you use matter. Talk to your employees on a day-to-day basis, making it part of your company’s culture. As everyone knows, an engaged workforce results in higher retention. Become part of the process shift and begin moving away from an annual feedback cycle even if your company has not yet taken the leap.

Susan Page is a manager, HRIS for a major entertainment company in Orlando, FL. She has written The Power of Business Process Improvement, a practical, solution-oriented book published by the American Management Association, now in its SECOND Edition.

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