Training Programs on performance management cannot be over-valued. Performance Management, typically a responsibility of the business and driven by Human Resources is the Achille’s Heel for a business manager. While business may build incredible capability and motivation to achieve the desired business results, diligence, process orientation and consistency required to manage performance on a day to day basis could prove to be a dauting task.
Employee development and appraisal system both are the pillars of any performance management system. These two also receive the wrath of many employees as being ineffective and inappropriately designed. Performance management requires having uncomfortable conversations and persistent effort to make it successful. It is this challenge that makes many performance management systems to collapse rather than just lack or ineffectiveness of tools or processes.
It is necessary for managers to attend training programs on performance management as they are the torch bearers of a company’s overall business performance and they need to make performance management system work for the business. Training for Performance Management is also crucial because people move across businesses, they need to experience similar methods, and similar ways of measuring performance across the organization.
Managers feel challenged to give direct and qualitative feedback, in a consistent way through the year, the manager may also be inexperienced or someone who abdicates the responsibility of handholding the team and or may be a misfit into the culture of the organization. Many managers treat their managerial positions as a reward for loyalty and past performance and may not understand the responsibility and accountability that comes loaded with the position. With the increasing complexity of business, and the “human” challenge of a performance management system, problems gets amplified if it is bureaucratic, cumbersome and invalid. This reduces the commitment of both the employee and the manager to follow through the performance management practices. Lack of training on performance management system, also makes managers divert their commitment to other pressing problems that they feel are easier to deal with. In the end, everyone treats performance management system as just a necessary evil. The outcome of such a system is of very low value for business.
Here are some of the outcomes that can achieved by training managers on the process, tools, skills and behaviours required to implement an effective performance management system.
- Articulate and clarify job roles and responsibilities
- Align individual goals with the organizational goals, personal aspirations and strengths of team members
- Provide an objective way for making compensation and benefits decisions
- Bring clarity of the behaviours that are rewarded and criticized in the organization
- Enhance productivity and efficiency of work processes
By attending training programs on the performance management system, managers can appreciate and understand the purpose and key outcomes of the performance management system. A complex and outdated system may die out with its own weight. Effective performance management systems must not be too complex and should be just appropriate to meet the most important objectives. Typically, these three outcomes are necessary – monitor and measure individual or team performance, help make salary decisions and provide inputs for employee development or training need analysis. It helps define the process, roles and responsibilities of both the managers and employees through the process of evaluation of business and development needs and provides guidelines and timelines for the same.
By reviewing the expectations employees have from themselves and the business, and by listing the behaviours organisation expects from them, performance management system could become objective. When reviewing the behavioural expectations at the performance planning stage, managers must discuss the behavioral standards expected from the employees and relate them to the job requirement. Defining these behaviours in the context of evaluation is important as many performance management systems land managers into a dilemma if they find high performing individuals with poor behavioural record.
In the end, while performance matters, promoting a toxic individual is bad for the business and for the motivation of other employees. By ascertaining how an individual supports other employee, exhibits organizational values and how they communicate with other employees, provides an insight into the thinking and work commitment of these individuals. In case we notice disruptive behaviours such as those ridden with anger, unhelpfulness and other maladaptive behaviours, a large part of the performance of such an individual can be discounted for being non-sustainable.
Similarly, the business results expected from each employee must tie into the overall strategic intent or goals of the organizations. This again needs to be clarified and articulated at the time of performance planning stage. Managers must be trained to articulate SMART objectives and can break down the organisational goals into smalls bits that are relevant for each employee. They also need to ensure that the employees see themselves contributing to the overall objectives of the organization. It is sometimes difficult to see a direct connection between the high-level goals of an organization and the specific achievable nuggets at the individual level. This requires the managers to engage in multiple meetings, conduct brainstorming sessions and build an understanding of the key drivers for the larger goals. Training programs for performance management must include a method for establishing this connection and in translating lofty intent into doable tasks. Ultimately, each level of the employee directly supports the goals of the next level by doing their job well.
The entire literature around Management by Objectives (MBO) provides a method for linking and cascading organizational goals. This linking and cascading is especially difficult in scenarios where the goal post is shifting frequently. This may be due to shifting priorities of the business or because the business itself may be very dynamic in nature. While it is important to set stretch goals, they should ultimately be attainable. Easy goals are demotivating and do not serve the purpose of the performance management system. Clear goals that link to the overall organizational goals, which are difficult but achievable and provide a constant sense of purpose are ultimately more effective.
At the heart of an effective management process, is the need for continuous, timely and consistent feedback conversations between the employee and the manager. It is known that feedback is most important when given immediately after an event or actual performance. Delayed feedback is usually ineffective and unactionable. Delay in giving feedback further results in disagreement, denials and bad feeling. Ongoing, on the spot feedback is usually more relevant and actionable. Also, feedback, during a performance conversation, must include both the behavioural and the results aspect. While the manager needs to be offer candid feedback, it is important for the employee to also receive such a feedback positively. Both the employee and the manager therefore require training on “feedback” conversations.
In such conversations, employees must have an opportunity to reflect on what they could have done differently, what challenges they face, and what support they require from the manager. Manager and the employee should then collaborate to define the corrective measures and next steps. Manager must also be able to articulate the development plan for the employee. When managers attend a well-designed training program on Performance Management, they learn the skills required to provide timely and actionable feedback that leaves the employee motivated to make a change.
Performance conversations are dialogues and not one-way communication. While it is important to ask the employee to reflect and rate themselves, and discuss issues with their manager, performance management process must also provide a method for the employee to escalate issues to the skip level. This increases the sense of belongingness an employee has. It can also bring out any gaps in the training or competencies of managers.
By seeking the inputs from the employee on a regular basis, managers are reminded of the employees’ performance, the challenges they face and help the managers identify any areas of difference in perception. Once the accomplishments are discussed and agreed, they can be easily documented for annual evaluation. By rewarding the performance and appreciating the context or situation in which an employee performs or under performs, reporting manger and other stakeholders (such as skip level) could show empathy and demonstrate an understanding of the ground reality in every task. The key aspect here is to link performance to situation and highlight the business impact of good performance in challenging situations. This requires constant connect with the employee and not just structured conversation on quarterly or yearly basis.
Ultimately, both behaviours and results are important and should tie into the overall results of the organization in short term and long term. By having well designed and structured training programs on performance management, organizations can drive appropriate behaviours and business results and ensure that organisational objectives become a part of the daily tasks and behaviours exhibited by every employee.