Out with the old, in with the new – Is performance management process obsolete?

In any company, ensuring that goals are captured, measured and periodically evaluated is a critical exercise to manage performance and outcomes. Most companies have some sort of Performance Management system, be it online or in paper form. However, most Managers describe it as painful and time consuming, whilst employees feel like the process is contrived and often have the impression that it is ‘just a tick-in-the-box’ exercise for their Manager.

So, is Performance Management becoming redundant? According to a 2014 Global Human Capital trends report, led by Deloitte Consulting LLP and Bersin by Deloitte, which surveyed over 2,500 business and HR leaders across 90 countries, 2 conclusions stand out:

  • Only 8 percent of companies report that their performance management process drives high levels of value, while 58 percent said it is not an effective use of time.
  • Today’s widespread ranking- and ratings-based performance management is damaging employee engagement, alienating high performers, and costing managers valuable time.

Well, maybe you don’t want to throw away your process just yet. The same survey showed that 70 percent of the survey respondents are either “currently evaluating” or have recently “reviewed and updated” their performance management systems. Also, it reveals that some of these organizations are scrapping the annual evaluation cycle and replacing it with ongoing feedback and coaching designed to promote continuous employee development.

This means that the more traditional management style focusing on planning and evaluating once a year can no longer be applied and that Managers will have to adopt more of a coaching management style if they aspire to build high- performing teams and retain their best people on board.

So, what are those skills that are becoming an absolute must for all managers in order to drive motivation, results and eventually increase performance and retention?

Listening to understand

People want to be listened to, that’s a fact. But more than that, they want to be understood. In order to become an effective listener, ensure you don’t only listen to what the person says but also pay attention what the person doesn’t! Observe nonverbal messages, and feelings, which are usually ignored. Give your full attention to your employee without necessarily have the intent to answer…but just to listen, understand and be present!

Communication

This seems like a given, however, having great communication skills doesn’t mean just ‘talking’ for the sake of passing on a message to someone. Judgment, attacks and emotional outbursts have no place here. When you are conveying a message, keep in mind that what others perceive is also important. Your body language, facial expressions and tone of voice will convey your attitude!

Motivation

The words ‘Thank you’ go a long way and Managers tend to forget about it. Appreciating someone’s hard work and lend a hand or a compassionate ear will make your employees feel valued! Giving them new challenges and ensuring they have clear goals and responsibilities are other simple yet powerful ways to gain engagement and motivation! And remember, when looking at development, focus on your employees’ strengths and ensure their “areas of improvement” are critical to the responsibilities of the job, and not just peripheral to it. You can’t be motivating someone by reminding them how ‘bad’ they are at something, especially if it doesn’t weigh too much on their jobs.

Establish Trust: Create a blame-free environment where employees are challenged, supported and not afraid to make mistakes. Walk the walk and dare to ask feedback from your subordinates! You want to create openness with your team so that they feel supported and free to come to you in times of need.

Give Feedback

Do this on a regular basis and not once a year! It always has to be done in a timely manner and not a week after the fact. Remember to do this in a constructive manner, (no blaming!), and instead of asking: ‘Why did you do this?’ ask instead: ‘What’s gone wrong?’ ‘How can “we” do it better next time’? And don’t forget to give positive feedback also when the job has been well done! It doesn’t stop here. Feedback is essential, and it also has to be partnered up with regular “check-ins” on accountabilities and progress especially if development areas were established.

The Performance Management process, as we know it is becoming obsolete and whether you need to review it or scrap it altogether will depend on a number of factors. However, what is becoming obvious is that companies have to embed a new way of managing people. The truth of the matter is that employees don’t merely want to be given a rating at the end of the year, but crave for regular feedback, understanding, guidance and recognition.

Sounds simple enough right? Well, ‘simple’ is not always easy. However, when an ownership driven performance management process is paired with Managers applying coaching skills, not only will you accelerate change and growth but boost employees’ morale and engagement which will ultimately result in higher performance.

The way performance is managed has to be redefined and Managers have to be stretched beyond their current skills so that they don’t just remain evaluators, but they become success enablers!

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