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How Performance Management Helps You Keep the Right People

Keeping the Right People

Performance Management
Performance management is a process by which managers and employees work together to plan, monitor and review an employee’s work objectives and overall contribution to the organization. More than just an annual performance review, performance management is the continuous process of setting objectives, assessing progress and providing on-going coaching and feedback to ensure that employees are meeting their objectives and career goals.

An introduction to performance management
The fundamental goal of performance management is to promote and improve employee effectiveness. It is a continuous process where managers and employees work together to plan, monitor and review an employee's work objectives or goals and his or her overall contribution to the organization.

An effective performance management system will:
  • Be job specific, covering a broad range of jobs in the organization
  • Align with your organization’s strategic direction and culture
  • Be practical and easy to understand and use
  • Provide an accurate picture of each employee’s performance
  • nclude a collaborative process for setting goals and reviewing performance based on two-way communication between the employee and manager
  • Monitor and measure results (what) and behaviors (how)
  • Include both positive feedback for a job well done and constructive feedback when improvement is needed
  • Provide training and development opportunities for improving performance
  • Ensure that employee work plans support the strategic direction of the organization
  • Establish clear communication between managers and employees about what they are expected to accomplish
  • Provide constructive and continuous feedback on performance
  • Identify and recognize employee accomplishments
  • Identify areas of poor performance and establish plans for improving performance
  • Support staff in achieving their work and career goals by identifying training needs and development opportunities
  • Support administrative decision-making about promotions, terminations, compensation and rewards
  • Provide legal documentation to demonstrate due diligence for legal challenges related to dismissal or vicarious liability (an employer can be held liable for the acts or omissions by its employees during the course of employment)
The establishment of an effective performance management system requires time and resources and therefore, the support of the board, the executive director and other senior managers. When developing a new performance management process, an organization can strike up a committee made up of employees, managers and board members to increase buy-in, understanding and support for the process.

Management support to act upon the outcomes of the performance management process is also necessary to ensure that good performance is recognized, inadequate performance results in the necessary support and/or training to improve performance and consistently poor performance results in a change of responsibilities or termination, as appropriate.

Whether you are introducing a new performance management system or if you are modifying an existing process, it is critical that you communicate the purpose and the steps in the performance management process to employees before it is implemented. Also remember to review your new performance management system after the first year and make adjustments as necessary.

The performance management cycle
There is much more to performance management than the annual performance review meeting. As mentioned in the introduction, performance management is a continuous process of planning, monitoring and reviewing employee performance.

Phase 1 — Plan
The planning phase is a collaborative effort involving both managers and employees during which they will:
  • Review the employee’s job description to determine if it reflects the work that the employee is currently doing. If the employee has taken on new responsibilities or the job has changed significantly, the job description should be updated.
  • Identify and review the links between the employee’s job description, his or her work plan and the organization’s goals, objectives and strategic plan.
  • Develop a work plan that outlines the tasks or deliverables to be completed, expected results and measures or standards that will be used to evaluate performance.
  • Identify three to five areas that will be key performance objectives for the year. The choice of areas may be determined by the organization's strategic plan, by the employee's desire to improve outcomes in a certain part of their job, or by a need to emphasize a particular aspect of the job at this time. These are objectives that are critical to the overall success of the position. If the employee does not meet his/her critical objectives then overall performance will be evaluated as unsatisfactory.
  • Identify training objectives that will help the employee grow his or her skills, knowledge, and competencies related to their work.
  • Identify career development objectives that can be part of longer-term career planning.
Both the employee and manager need to sign off on the proposed work assessment plan. A copy of the plan should be given to the employee and another should be kept in his or her confidential personnel folder.

Setting objectives and measurements

Often the most difficult part of the planning phase is finding appropriate and clear language to describe the performance objectives and measures or indicators of success. Managers need to ensure that the objectives are a good representation of the full range of duties carried out by the employee, especially those everyday tasks that can take time but are often overlooked as significant accomplishments.

Objectives and indicators need to be SMART

Specify clearly what is to be done, when it is to be done, who is to accomplish it and how much is to be accomplished.

Ask questions such as: How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished? Multiple measures should be used if possible, for example, quantity, quality, time frame and cost.

Assure there is reasonable path to achievement and feasible odds that you will get there.

The objective needs should match the level of complexity with the employee's experience and capability and no insurmountable forces outside the control of the employee should hinder its accomplishment.

Be clear about the time frame in which performance objectives are to be achieved. In most cases, objectives are to be completed by the end of the performance review period.

Phase 2 — Monitor
For a performance management system to be effective, employee progress and performance must be continuously monitored. Monitoring day-to-day performance does not mean watching over every aspect of how employees carry out assigned activities and tasks. Managers should not micro-manage employees, but rather focus their attention on results achieved, as well as individual behaviors and team dynamics affecting the work environment. During this phase, the employee and manager should meet regularly to:
  • Assess progress towards meeting performance objectives
  • Identify any barriers that may prevent the employee from accomplishing performance objectives and what needs to be done to overcome them
  • Share feedback on progress relative to the goals
  • Identify any changes that may be required to the work plan as a result of a shift in organization priorities or if the employee is required to take on new responsibilities
  • Determine if any extra support is required from the manager or others to assist the employee in achieving his or her objectives
Continuous coaching
Performance management includes coaching employees to address concerns and issues related to performance so that there is a positive contribution to the organization. Coaching means providing direction, guidance, and support as required on assigned activities and tasks. As a coach, managers need to recognize strengths and weaknesses of employees and work with employees to identify opportunities and methods to maximize strengths and improve weak areas. The role of the coach is to demonstrate skills and to give the employee feed back, and reassurance while he or she practices new skills. Good listening skills on the part of the coach, together with the ability to deliver honest feedback, are crucial. In a coaching role, you are not expected to have all the answers. The strategic power of any coaching dialogue lies primarily in the coach's ability to ask the right questions.

Providing feedback
Positive feedback involves telling someone about good performance. Make this feedback timely, specific and frequent. Recognition for effective performance is a powerful motivator.

Constructive feedback alerts an individual to an area in which performance could improve. It is descriptive and should always be directed to the action, not the person. The main purpose of constructive feedback is to help people understand where they stand in relation to expected and/or productive job and workplace behavior.

Often, it is the positive and supportive feedback that is most readily and easily shared, while finding the right way to provide constructive feedback to address a particular performance issue can be more daunting. If an employee is not meeting performance expectations, managers need to provide constructive and honest feedback. It's important to do this when an issue first arises - before it escalates into a significant problem. Here are a few points to consider when giving constructive feedback:
  • Think through what you want to address in the meeting, confirm the facts of the performance issue and make sure you know and can describe what happened or is happening
  • Be clear about what the issue is and about the consequences if the employee's performance does not improve
  • Plan to meet in a location where there will be privacy and minimal interruptions (note that in a unionized environment, you may have to invite a union representative to be with the employee during the discussion)
  • Be calm, so that you can approach the discussion objectively and with clarity
State the facts
  • Using a non-threatening tone, describe the performance issue in an objective, factual, nonjudgmental way, providing specific examples
  • Identify the negative impact on people in the workplace or on the organization
  • Have the employee describe the situation from their perspective and provide an explanation. Be open to any new insights that may arise.
  • Respond to denial, blaming of others, etc. by restating factual information and reviewing the negative impacts of the performance issue.
Although we may sympathize with an employee’s unique personal circumstances and their reasons for why they are not performing, it is important to remain focused on the performance issue. If you alter what is required of one employee (i.e. “bend the rules”) you will have to be prepared to do so for all employees. As a performance manager, try to avoid putting yourself in the position to have to judge which circumstances warrant “special treatment” and those that do not.

Agree on an action plan
  • Ask the employee for their suggestions for addressing the issue and offer your suggestions if necessary
  • Agree on a specific plan of action: including what the employee will do, how they plan to do it and within what time period
  • Document the action plan and attach to employees performance management file
  • Specify the consequences for the employee if the performance issue is not resolved
Follow up
  • Monitor results and meet periodically to discuss progress
  • Provide positive reinforcement for improvement and continue to offer support
  • If the issue has not improved or been resolved over the specified time period, enact the consequences as discussed in the action plan
Phase 3 — Review
The performance assessment or appraisal meeting is an opportunity to review, summarize and highlight the employee’s performance over the course of the review period.

Self-assessment is a standard part of most performance appraisals. By using the performance plan and assessment form as a guide, employees can assess their performance in preparation for the appraisal meeting. This process can identify gaps between the employees self-perceptions and the views of the manager and can allow for more in depth discussion of these performance points during the meeting.

Managers should review their performance management notes and documentation generated throughout the year in order to more effectively assess the employee’s performance. Only issues that have already been discussed with the employee should be part of the assessment documentation and meeting. This will ensure that managers deal with performance problems when they arise and that there are no surprises during the performance assessment meeting.

In the performance assessment meeting, employees and managers will:
  • Summarize the work accomplished during the previous year relative to the goals that were set at the beginning of the performance period. This includes capturing the key results, accomplishments and shortfalls for each of the objectives
  • Document challenges encountered during the year and identify areas for training and/or development
  • Identify and discuss any unforeseen barriers to the achievement of the objectives
The employee and the supervisor should sign off on the form. This acknowledges involvement in the process, but not necessarily agreement by employee with the content of the evaluation. If an employee disagrees with any part of the performance assessment, provide them with the opportunity to attach their comments and file with their performance assessment form.

Managers must ensure that the employee receives a copy of the assessment form and the signed document is put in the employee's file.

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