Building Blocks of Modern Performance Management
At PerformYard, we believe that your performance management process should be as unique as your organization. We also know that building and implementing a custom, flexible performance management strategy can be challenging, especially one that works with your company.
That’s why we’ve collected all the pieces of modern performance management and laid them out below.
Creating the right strategy is about bringing together these elements in a way that will best serve your employees and your organization.
The core of performance management lies in employee appraisals. These could be called check-ins or calibrations or something else entirely, but despite the backlash most all organizations still use structured meetings and review forms as part of their process.
There are many different ways to customize your appraisals, from frequency to the questions asked. Although the objectives of performance appraisals vary from company to company, there are a few key elements to be aware of as you construct your reviews to be as effective as possible for your company.
Who Reviews Who?
Traditionally, performance appraisals have been conducted in a top-down approach where the manager is the sole evaluator of the employee.
In a contemporary setting, however, reviews can take on a 360-degree approach that allows employee evaluation from all directions, including management, colleagues, customers, and partners, as well as self-reviews.
Another important element to consider in your performance evaluation is the kind of questions you ask. Between two fundamental types of questions, open-ended and closed-ended questions, your appraisal form should consist of a variety of pointed questions that give managers a comprehensive understanding of an employee’s performance and give employees the sense that they were heard and evaluated fairly.
Open-ended questions have no predetermined answers, which can be great for performance reviews. In the meantime, closed-ended questions (yes/no, strongly agree/strongly disagree) can collect actionable data.
One of the most important components of a performance management process is determining when and how often reviews should occur. The classic model of performance reviews holds appraisals annually, at the end of the year. This allows management to draw data from at least 12 months of an employee’s performance, which can help to inform raises and promotions.
However, reviews can be done at any increment of time—quarterly, semiannually, and even project-based. Whether you choose to conduct them every three, six, or twelve months, a variety of surveys have shown that the majority of employees prefer more frequent conversations with managers.
In the past, traditional performance appraisals took on a format that had a more rating-oriented approach in evaluating work results, with methods including appraisal templates, grading scales, ranking, checklists, critical incidents, essay evaluations, and more. Modern performance reviews tend to focus more on an employee’s development in order to not just review the year, but plan for the future.
Format can include giving employees a score based on numerous areas of job performance, as well as qualitative input and comments directed to employees that communicate how they can best succeed.
The best way to initiate an effective performance management process is to set forth clear goals and expectations. Involving your employees in the planning process allows them to envision how their personal goals will fit into the overall goals of the company and gives them a clear understanding of what is expected of them and what to work towards.
Setting goals also helps managers to develop an understanding of the ongoing training needed for employees and ensures that both are on the same page as progress is made. Goals that are given meaning and are challenging (but attainable) can drive performance more than any other element in your performance management strategy.
Types of Goals
Personal goals are the goals set forth by each individual employee. These goals are 100% about the employee, and are usually great for engaging employees with their work and determining where an employee shines in an organization.
Corporate goals have more to do with the success of the organization, and therefore the success of individual employees. These goals seek to align each team member’s individual goals with the overall goals of the company, bringing about a sense of unity between company and team priorities.
In traditional performance management methods, companies communicated top-down goals that were paired with annual performance reviews. Originating from senior management, these goals are identified and communicated to team members, cascading from the top of the company to lower-level employees.
Collaborative goals (or bottom-up goals) are created by team members that understand the company’s strategy for achieving goals, as well as the individual role they play in the company. A manager will compile a set of company goals based on each team member’s individual goals, ensuring that each employee is a key player in executing the company’s strategy and objectives.
While effective performance management has a great deal to do with documentation and meetings, it has even more to do with continuous dialogue. Ongoing feedback between managers and employees helps to more quickly recognize achievement, document individual performance, and ultimately help employees succeed.
Sources of Feedback
Customers can be considered the most important source of feedback, as they can provide input for individuals, teams, groups, and management performance. Using surveys, customer visits, complaint systems, and focus groups, customers can provide a unique perspective in the feedback process.
Supervisors, managers, and team leaders are generally the most experienced in giving feedback and tend to have specialized knowledge of their employees and team members. When given adequate training, these sources can be an integral part of acquiring data for feedback purposes.
Feedback can also be provided by an employee’s peers. This feedback tends to be the most actionable, as an employee’s coworkers deal most directly in examining their performance in the workplace. Subordinates can also provide upward feedback that can improve a manager’s style and performance, and can also motivate low- to moderate-performing employees.
Types of Feedback
Constructive feedback, praise, and criticism all fall under the category of feedback in the workplace. While praise and criticism are fairly self-explanatory, constructive feedback is generally the most potent in providing specific information that is based on observation, and is issue-focused.
Constructive feedback is helpful because it contains both positive and negative feedback. Positive feedback affirms past behavior and focuses on actions that were successful and should be continued. Adversely, negative feedback critiques past behavior and emphasizes the actions that should not be repeated.
Both of these types of feedback can also inform future performance, as employees can get an understanding of what behavior to avoid or improve in the future.