Whilst the everyday discussion of performance does not (to most I hope) harbour potential disasters of such epic proportions as the explosions common to any one of the Mission Impossible series of films, confidence and success in this area for many businesses can seem as unattainable as overcoming a threat against the annihilation of all humans or being able to recreate ‘that’ memorable heist scene which saw Mr. Cruise landing just a couple of inches from the floor. And be just as sweat inducing too…..
Over 60% of our clients here at TheHRhub in the last year have had concerns and challenges with their team in the area we’ll collectively call (for the purposes of this post) ‘performance management’, reflecting our experience as in-house practitioners that this is one of the most common areas of concern for business leaders and showing that despite its many evolutions or size of company, most have just not cracked it yet.
Most leaders instinctively understand that being able to share what they’re trying to achieve, what they see each person bringing to that party and that having a transparent way of checking progress against this is going to be key to keeping everyone’s performance on track, yet far from providing clarity over a way of doing this, somehow wrapping it all up in the term ‘performance management’ and creating a process around it serves only to confuse matters.
So before people lose the will to live over finding the perfect ‘process’ (there isn’t one btw) in what is too important an area not to take seriously in a business, we share what we feel are some fundamentals to bear in mind in this area.
Purpose matters when it comes to any new process, so be clear on why you’re you’re spending time having these conversations. Is your vision clear to all and will this help? Trying to give the team support? Are you you trying to get alignment? Trying to build communication? Drive accountability? Transparency? Or all of the above and more. You may not get it right initially but by being clear to the team over your expectations in any performance management process, you’re taking a very important first step.
Timing is also important (but don’t let it drag you down…). I’ve always been a fan of the little-and-often approach and you’ll have no doubt read countless articles in the last year or so on how the annual appraisal is ‘dead’, not applicable to today’s workforce and not a thing which millennials would dirty their hands with….. However if once a year is currently the only time that you meet with your team members, then for goodness sake make sure you keep that diary appointment!
There’s nothing wrong with starting with the basics. If you don’t feel you have the dedicated time, skills or energy to pull together a bells-and-whistles program, then start little (and often) with every manager having 1-2-1 conversations to build on. By talking to your team members regularly and agreeing what they’re going to be focussed on, how you’re going to both communicate progress and what you need to do to remove any blockers in doing so, you’re doing better than about 70% of businesses.
To ‘rate’ or ‘not to rate?’ is a much debated question. And to be honest, there’s no real right or wrong here. Personally speaking I find that when discussing how someone is developing in their role, understanding what motivates them and how they can deliver more of what they do well in a business, that then distilling said efforts and the results they’ve achieved into one single number doesn’t exactly elicit the spike in motivation for the majority of cases. True, being given a ‘high’ rating is probably likely to a smile inside many, but then the same can be said for some well thought out feedback which shows encouragement and recognition. And if you are going to go with ratings? Maybe stop shy of having the 15 (!) levels one particular business I know constructed in their process….
Online tools can help manage the consistency side of this for you too (nudging you when it’s time to chat just in case you forget, giving you tips on how to discuss issues) but I’m afraid that nothing is going to replace good old fashioned practice and regularity in this regard. Manage this and your teams will be flying. Because whilst many may complain about form filling or query what their objectives were, I’ve never ever heard an employee say that they didn’t appreciate spending time with their manager and discussing how they can do better.
Like many sound practices, it’s not impossible to achieve results in this area in a reasonably swift time, but it does take focus, persistence and regularity.
Think you’ve cracked it? Congratulations. And now might just be the time to answer that advert for MI6 you saw encrypted….
For others who want help in unlocking your team’s performance, give us a bell for a free chat to discuss how we can help you via firstname.lastname@example.org 0203 627 7048.