Mark Craemer No Comments

[Guest Columnist: Today’s post is written by Sean Conrad, a senior product analyst at Halogen Software.]

As managers, we sometimes get caught up in the formality of our performance management process. We focus on the questions in the forms, the ratings, the meetings, the approvals. We forget that performance management is really just about good employee management.

If you peel back all the trappings, you realize that performance management is really about communicating expectations, giving clear direction and context for work, and supporting employee development. Ideally, these are things a manager should be doing every day, not just at performance appraisal time. They are the basics of good employee management, and the performance management process should really just be a way to periodically formalize and document these activities.

Communicating Expectations
To succeed, our employees need to know what we expect of them. This should also include how we expect them to do it. Assessing performance of competencies as part of your performance appraisal process is one way to do this.

You should also have an ongoing discussion with each employee about the competencies that are important to the company and those that are important to their specific role. You should talk about how each competency applies to the employee’s role and talk about when, where, and how they can practice the specific behaviors. Instead of leaving it to annual performance appraisal time, weave discussions about competencies into your day to day dialogue about performance.

Coach your employees to further develop key competencies. Where warranted, assign employees development activities to help cultivate specific competencies. And don’t forget the importance of modeling. Lead by example.

Giving Clear Direction and Context for Work
Performance management processes typically focus on the evaluation of performance on past goals, and the establishment of new goals. As a manager, you should also clearly link each of your employees’ goals to the organization’s high level goals. This helps them understand how their daily work contributes to the organization’s success, and gives them a sense of their value and importance.

But a once a year “set and forget” approach rarely works to direct employees and encourage high performance. As a manager, you should check in with employees on a regular basis to see how they’re progressing.

  • Make sure their goals are still relevant and adjust them if necessary.
  • Discuss challenges and offer help.
  • Review priorities.
  • Answer questions.
  • Explain how their work is contributing to larger organizational initiatives or priorities and update them on organizational progress.

This regular dialogue communicates the importance and value of goals to your employees. It also communicates your commitment to your employees and to their success.

Support Employee Development
As you work with your employees and dialogue about competencies and goals, stay alert to “teachable moments” and “learning opportunities”. Your ultimate goal should be to help your employees improve and succeed.

While your annual performance appraisal meeting is a great time to discuss learning needs and put formal development plans in place, you should really keep the focus on learning all year long.

Look for opportunities to coach your employees or teach them more about the larger organization, its mission, purpose, challenges, industry, etc. Model the skills or behaviors they need to further develop and give them tangible — in the moment feedback — on their performance. Offer a variety of learning opportunities, including books, articles, seminars/webinars, job shadowing, workplace buddying, post-mortems, etc. Make it okay to make mistakes as long as they’re leveraged as learning opportunities. And coach, coach, coach…

Leverage the Power of Performance Management by Making it a Year-Round Activity
Performance management shouldn’t be a once a year formality. The activities it encompasses really form the foundation of good employee management, and should therefore be year-round activities. By communicating expectations, giving clear direction and context, and supporting development, you foster strong performance and ultimately organizational success.

Sean Conrad is a senior product analyst at Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of performance appraisal software.

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