There is widespread agreement as more and more companies realize that our traditional performance management processes are archaic. Worse yet, I’d argue most performance management processes have nothing to do with performance at all.
Where to Start and Why the Time Is Now
Unfortunately, fixing this today isn’t as simple as taking an antiquated system and “going digital” with it. In order for truly meaningful outcomes to emerge from performance reviews, we need processes that are:
- Designed for the team leader, and not for the organization. Because performance happens in a team, it should be managed at the team level by the team leader. Today, many performance management systems seem to be designed to check boxes at HR and corporate level instead.
- Forward-looking instead of past focused. We need a way to document performance, but we need to do this on a more frequent basis than once a year. At that point, managers can’t remember what their team members did 6 or 12 months before. Instead, we should be giving team leaders a way to frequently answer questions about each team member, allowing us to establish metrics and collect meaningful data that can be used for promotions, raises and bonuses.
- Done frequently instead of once per year. I call this the “measure of now.” As a team leader, I need information on how my team is performing and feeling now – not three months ago, not last year. Why? Because, in order to have an impact, I should take action based on how my team is feeling and performing now. Not doing so is akin to going to the doctor for a cold I had six months ago. When done more frequently, they can also be light-touch, quick activities – thus saving our performance processes from becoming heavy and burdensome.
- Based on reliable information. The academic research is clear: most of a rater’s rating of an employee has more to do with the rater than the ratee. It’s no wonder so many of us dread the process! Dubbed the “idiosyncratic rater effect,” it details how human nature makes us unreliable raters of other people. We can’t train this trait out of team leaders either. The only solution is to change what we’re asking and how we ask it.
- Strengths-based and not weakness-focused. Most employees are used to reviews that focused on their weaknesses, or “areas of opportunity.” A strengths-based approach enables team leaders to get the best from their teams. It’s only by building a strengths-based culture that individuals are able to make their greatest contribution at work.
The ability to impact this process was a big driver of my decision to join TMBC. Its StandOut technology delivers a research-backed approach to fueling both engagement and performance in organizations of all sizes to address this very issue.
Overhauling performance management indeed requires a shift. This is especially true because in order to reinvent how we look at performance management, we need to rejigger how we think about employee engagement. Why? It’s been shown time and again that engagement drives performance (more information on this can be found in Harvard Business Review’s cover story this past April). Any sensible performance management system therefore has to focus on engagement in order to deliver intelligent insights into how to fuel performance.