Effective performance management is more than just measuring the KPI outputs of the team. It also focuses on the behaviour of individuals and whether or not they reflect the values of the whole organisation. Here John Raftery discusses performance within a core competencies framework while Tricia Cunningham outlines key elements in the performance management process that all managers need to be aware of.
Performance Management Systems
There are a number of issues with performance management. A lot of the larger companies have performance management systems and some of the complaints that are made about them is that they become tick box exercises and people don’t particularly enjoy doing them. They are often reluctant to use them to their full potential, but really good performance management systems cover two things.
One is the hard metrics i.e. your outputs, your KPIs and other deliverables that can be measured. The other side of it is the side that I think people find more difficult and challenging and relates to behaviours and attitudes. Effective performance management systems will examine those through a competency framework. At the very top level of the organisation the senior management team will work with us to identify what are the core values or competencies that the organisation requires.
The organisation may require three or four core competencies that can be turned into behaviours.
We then identify what those behaviours are so we can begin to rate people in terms of what level they are at in relation to the core behaviours. To use time keeping as a simple example; if people turn up for work two minutes to nine and they leave at two minutes to five, this causes a lot of frustration for managers because they feel they can’t challenge the employee as they are arriving on time and leaving on time. But there are three levels of time keeping.
1. You arrive on time and you leave on time. That’s the basic entry level time keeping requirement.
2. At the next level the employee is ready to start work at 9am with all of their documents ready for a team meeting for example. And if meetings or tasks go past 5pm people are willing to stay on. They will show the same flexibility regarding lunch breaks.
3. The third level concerns flexibility, particularly when there is an emergency or if issues arise at the weekend. Are you available?
You can then develop a template or framework for behaviours that you measure employees against in terms of their time keeping.
But performance management means getting people to work smarter as opposed to working longer hours.
You are trying to help people focus on achieving what you want them to achieve and make sure they are moving in the right direction. People at every level of the organisation should have some way to measure performance in terms of the hard metrics but also for attitudes and behaviours and to get constructive feedback from a supervisor at least once a year.
Performance Management Process
A challenge for many managers with the performance management process is managing the conversation. Many worry about how the conversation will go and how they will raise “difficult” points with an employee.
All examples of an employee’s performance should be discussed with the employee close to the time it occurred so that the details are fresh and can therefore be explored properly. The performance management conversation is reinforcing the comments made previously in addition to discussing important issues like future objectives or goals.
Managers should regularly discuss an employee’s performance so that there are no “surprises” in the meeting regarding behaviours the employee demonstrated.
Managers and Communication Skills
Communication involves words, tone and body language. A manager needs to make sure all three elements are aligned.
For example, if the message is positive then the tone needs to be upbeat and the body language engaging. If on the other hand the message is reminding the employee of the need to change behaviours then the tone and body language needs to reflect this requirement. Managers can’t confuse employees because they are uncomfortable with conveying a particular message. Practice makes perfect so managers need to practice how they will convey a difficult message.
Managers Need to Anticipate Difficulties
Anticipate possible difficulties the conversation might raise and consider your responses ahead of time. By anticipating your response you will be more relaxed and confident and you know how you will respond. Remain calm and focused.
Isolate the issue and address that issue before moving to the next point.
An employee values this conversation. This is an opportunity for an employee to really understand how the organisation is assessing their contribution. The majority of employees, and especially your top performers, are eager to discuss what they need to do to continue being valuable to the organisation.
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