Performance management systems are only as good as management lets them be

Performance management accomplishes exactly what executives want, HR just has to prove it

Merely uttering the words performance management is often enough to cause some HR professionals to roll their eyes, groan and reach for the Aspirin bottle.

A brief survey carried out at the Oct. 5 Best Practices in Performance Management Conference, jointly sponsored by Carswellbusiness and the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario’s Brockville, Durham, Kingston, Lakeshore, Peterborough and Quinte chapters, showed that about 60 per cent of participants were not willing to give a “meets expectations” rating to their own systems.

One of the problems that often frustrates performance management system objectives is a lack of buy-in from senior management. Sure, they go through the motions once a year, but the commitment needed to make performance management an integral part of operations is missing, and consequently an opportunity to align and development staff is missed.

Getting senior management engaged in performance management is a basic ingredient for success. Senior managers often take the approach that they can only plan for the short term because they can’t predict what the market is going to do. But this should not be viewed as a barrier to the planning required to make performance management relevant. Rather performance management can, and should, dovetail nicely with short-term objectives. (And take care of an organization’s long-term staff development needs to boot — another selling point for executive buy-in.)

The planning cycle of performance management is based on the annual business planning cycle. New or different business priorities are cascaded from senior managers down to individual contributors through the goal-setting process.

Where HR can help

HR can assist in defining business drivers and success factors. Organizations need to figure out what they need to do exceedingly well to thrive in the marketplace. Whether it’s revenue growth, customer relationships, developing new products or delivering superior services, HR can help translate objectives into departmental and then individual goals.

HR should provide training to ensure joint goal setting between managers and employees, and consider the range of options available to establish performance measures and metrics, including key performance indicators.

To equip employees to achieve goals, HR can develop competency programs (leadership, core and functional.) There are many different competency models and each one articulates the behaviours that are necessary to achieve success.

Knowledge can be used to transform a business and identify new opportunities. The discretionary effort put out by employees makes a difference in generating new ideas, new technology, new or improved products and strengthening customer relationships.

To manage human capital, HR needs to work with senior management to develop a system that defines expectations and measures and rewards performance.

The culture does not support performance

Many departments are operating in silos with little awareness of what’s going on around them. And some organizations don’t deal with bad performers, they simply hide them. Diagnostic tools can define tangibles associated with the culture. Best practice organizations make effective use of employee surveys to uncover barriers that are preventing effective performance and undertaking specific actions to eliminate them and turn the culture around.

Performance management and goal-setting linked to the business strategy benefit from improved communication at all levels. Town hall-style meetings, videos, group meetings and managers and employees working together are effective ways to communicate goals and set objectives. More open communication requires more dialogue and face time with senior managers.

Sandra Weeks is the author of Best Practices in Organizational Development and Best Practices in Performance Management, both published by Carswell. She is the managing director of HRP Human Resource Partners Inc., an HR consulting firm. She can be reached at (905) 852-1141 or [email protected].

Latest stories