By Claudine Kapel
The federal government’s plan to launch a new performance management process offers everyone a front row seat to the challenges and opportunities of tackling organizational performance.
Ottawa recently announced it will introduce a “new mandatory system for tracking employee performance” in April 2014, suggesting the new system will also help it contend with poor performers.
“Performance management is about ensuring good workers have an opportunity to become great workers and dealing effectively with poor performers,” Treasury Board President Tony Clement noted in a release. “Either poor performers improve and become productive employees or we will let them go.”
Added Clement: “Complacency and the status quo are not an option. Excellence must be the benchmark. Canadians deserve no less.”
Of course, there’s nothing really new about the need to address employee and organizational performance. And given the federal dominion of Canada was formed in 1867, one may wonder what has taken the government so long to articulate this as an area of focus.
Nevertheless, the federal government is far from being the only Canadian establishment grappling with how to get performance management to work or how to deal with poor performers.
With an eye to some of the elements Ottawa is putting in place to support its process, here are some key success factors that can enhance performance management in any type of enterprise.
Pay attention to the process. Organizations need to be clear about all the component parts in the performance management process as well as the roles that managers and employees are expected to play to contribute to the success of the enterprise.
The federal government seems to have given this a fair amount of thought. Its new website devoted to its new performance management system includes detailed schematics of all the steps in the process, including the steps associated with addressing unsatisfactory performance.
Emphasize training and communication. A solid performance management process has a lot of moving parts. And some elements – such as setting objectives, delivering constructive feedback or contending with performance issues can be challenging for even seasoned managers. That’s why training and communication are so vital for effective performance management. Managers especially need to understand what is expected of them – as well as how to handle the types of issues or interactions that commonly arise as part of the process.
Here again, the federal government seems to be making strides. Its performance management website provides information on a variety of subjects, from managing probationary employees through to dealing with discipline or unsatisfactory performance. It also has a website for managers called the National Managers’ Community that includes an assortment of tools for managers, including tips on coaching and storytelling and a tool kit for building a learning organization.
Recognize tools won’t add value without action. This is where many organizations get stuck, and where performance management processes tend to falter. All the tools and rhetoric in the world won’t deliver better results unless performance management – in its broadest sense – becomes part of the organization’s fabric and culture.
That means tools and processes need to be applied, so they become an ingrained part of how the enterprise operates – including the process for dealing with poor performers. The tools and processes also need to be seen as dynamic and evolving. Tools and training need to be periodically refined, either to tweak something that’s not working or to incorporate new thinking that better aligns with how the organization itself is changing and growing.
It takes time and co-ordinated effort to build and maintain a high-performing organization. And for organizations that haven’t made this a point of focus, there’s no time like the present to get started.
Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit www.kapelandassociates.com.