Performance Management As an Ongoing Employee & Leadership Process

Performance management is a big piece of what we do in HR. Whether it is keeping track of annual reviews, coaching managers on employee issues or ensuring consistency in corrective action, we are often engaged in activities related to performance management. The problem is that we sometimes get stuck seeing performance management as being just about paperwork, namely the dreaded annual review. Rather than focusing on the paperwork, we need to see performance management as an ongoing process.

More than an annual review

The global consulting company Accenture recently made headlines by getting rid of annual reviews. Does anyone like the annual review? Managers struggle to write them, employees stress about receiving them and HR gets tired of having to follow up with managers to get them in on time. The review requires a manager to distill a whole year of work down to a few pages, and we choose a 1-year period when the flow of our jobs does not necessarily flow in 12-month increments.

I have written before about how we should reimagine performance reviews and go beyond the annual review. Some argue that the annual review is a good way to document employee performance and can be used to justify corrective action or promotion; however, if you are documenting performance on a regular basis, it becomes unnecessary to do so on an annual basis.

Even if you have an annual review as part of your process, make sure that it does not become the main piece in your company’s approach to performance management. Train managers on all the pieces of performance management to ensure that they are taking it beyond the annual review.

Regular meetings with employees

The key to making performance management an ongoing process is to schedule regular meetings with employees. Depending on the size of your team and how independently they work, this could be weekly, every other week or monthly. Keep the meeting distraction free by turning off your cell phone, putting your desk phone on do not disturb and closing your door.

Use the meeting to go over what the employee is working on and your expectations for the next few weeks and any upcoming projects. In the traditional performance review, we usually set annual goals. This can also be achieved in the regular meeting with employees. Give the employee a goal and a timeline for competition. Then follow up at the end of that period to ensure the goal was met or to readjust if it was not.

Provide the employee with an opportunity to talk about where they need support and any projects or skills they want to work on. This is a good time to assess if an employee has areas they would like to receive more training on and to set a course for advancement within the company. Take the time to review any areas where the employee needs improvement, and do not forget to include some positive feedback on things the employee is doing well.

Documentation & performance management

Document conversations about performance management. Make a note of what was discussed in your regular meetings with employees, any goals that were set, areas you coached the employee on and things you commended the employee for. Your notes need not be elaborate and can be a few bullet points to help you track an employee’s progress. This will be useful when making any employment decisions regarding the employee.

Choose a documentation method that works best for you. Use a Word document to jot down a few notes about an employee’s performance or use the traditional pen and paper. If you choose to handwrite your notes, make sure they are a legible so they can be passed on to another supervisor if someone is promoted to a different department. If you take time to provide ongoing feedback and to document on employee’s performance, improvement is a continuos process rather than a once-a-year activity.

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Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, is the founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a Southern California nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find and maintain employment. She also blogs on a variety of HR topics as the HR Hammer. When not volunteering for her nonprofit, Stephanie has a day job in HR at a tech startup in Irvine, CA.

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