Most leaders would be quick to say that having high performing teams are near the top of their wish list for things they want to have in their business, but in my experience most also dread getting their head around performance management as a strategic way to achieving this, for fear of being overwhelmed, not getting it ‘right’ and/or not finding the time.
And I absolutely understand all of those things. But the truth is that the longer you put off addressing performance any more than holding the occasional 1-2-1 meeting, the more overwhelming it will seem. There is no ‘perfect’ system, no ‘wrong’ way to do it and you will be able to find the time once you realise how beneficial it can be for you personally, as well as for achieving your overall goals.
Have no fear though. See below and work your way through this checklist to start the process of taking your performance practices to the next level.
- Create a business process that actually, well, supports the business….. Performance management appears to have found it’s home with HR over the years, but the reality is that any performance process is a business one which should support the overall goals of the team and be culturally right. So if you’re not a formal kind of place, don’t overegg the forms and language. If you’re an agile kind of business, make sure your conversations are little and often too. If you haven’t recently reviewed your own process to see if it’s supporting your team, then take this as a reminder to do so.
- Design a framework to manage conversations There needs to be a degree of flexibility in your conversations, and each and every member of staff will be different. Still though, having a framework that allows you to structure the meetings and cover key points is essential. For the record those mostly include setting expectations (via goals/ objectives/ OKRS etc), developing to meet those, reviewing performance and rewarding said performance. Exactly what you decide to include at each stage will depend on the nature of your business however as a hint – for most people, annual objectives are a tad too long to be relevant. Ditto for checking in.
- Try focussing on strengths: As with writing any contract, policy or process, assume that you are creating it for the 99% of employees who are competent and want to do a great job and spend time focussing on what people have done well, rather than ‘fixing’ what you think needs correcting in an employee’s behaviour or performance. Evidence from the CIPD (Strengths-based performance conversations 2017) found that focussing on an individual’s strengths during these conversations improved personal conversations between the manager and employees as well as the frequency.
- Be future focussed: Likewise to the point above, don’t spend the valuable time you have dwelling on the past. If you’ve been having reasonably regular 1-2-1’s, you shouldn’t need to re-hash events which have gone before – a summary should be enough. The rest of the time should be focused on what the individual has learned from the past and how that’s going to help them in the future in terms of their career objectives.
- Upskill your managers who are taking part: As your business grows, it’s unlikely that you will be able to manage all the performance discussions. The responsibility will be passed over to your other managers, and this of course makes sense if they are the ones who staff report to on a daily basis. What you need to think about here is how you’re ensuring that these managers have the appropriate skills and training. Are they confident with the task? Do they understand its importance? And are they operating within the policies and frameworks that you have created? One-off interventions can be useful but for more sustained change and impact on
- Involve others: Some people think that a performance discussion simply involves the member of staff being ‘talked at’, for half an hour. This should never be the case and research shows that an individual is more likely to feel invested in the outcomes and actions of any performance conversations or ratings (if you go down that road) if they have also given the chance to have their say. Always ask individuals to share their thoughts on how they’ve performed over the past quarter, and what they think they need to focus on in the near future. You might unearth important information that you hadn’t previously thought about, and making it a two-way conversation shows your staff that you respect and value their contribution.
- Ask the individual to share their views and opinions: Some people think that a performance discussion simply involves the member of staff being ‘talked at’, for half an hour. This should never be the case. Always ask individuals to share their thoughts on how they’ve performed over the past quarter, and what they think they need to focus on in the near future. You might unearth important information that you hadn’t previously thought about, and making it a two-way conversation shows your staff that you respect and value their contribution.
- Welcome feedback on your own performance : You no doubt spend a decent amount of time thinking about how you can get the most out of your team. But have you stopped to think about how you’re performing as a boss? If you’re not already doing so, think about how you might be able to collect meaningful and honest feedback from your members of staff. Being a good leader is an ongoing process, and you need to have continuous development on your list of priorities, always.
Need a little help getting started?
If you’ve recognised that your performance management processes have some room for improvement, then get in touch. We can help you to assess where you are right now, and where you need to make changes. Get in contact via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 627 7048 for your no-obligation chat.