Performance management is an act of leadership, not a system.
Performance management has become one of the most pivotal features of organisational development in their pursuit of growth – and also one of the most controversial. A system, or not depending on your viewpoint, it is a strategic agenda where organisations often struggle between the balance of process versus engagement, and the end result is often a less than empowering experience for all parties involved. Whether it be a two-way dialogue, 360-degree feedback, online performance management or outsourced systems, chances are that as leaders’ we have all considered new ways of ‘doing’ performance management, often time and time again. So much of the true value of performance management gets lost in this analytical aspect and the opportunity for organisations to actually drive results plays second fiddle.
The Disadvantage of Systemising Performance Management
Unfortunately, the systematisation of performance management has evolved in tandem with the increase in employment legislation in the workplace. We manage performance formally, at least in part, in order to ensure we can tick the boxes if something goes wrong. In fact, we tend to evolve the ‘system’ because we need to ensure compliance and effectively manage risk, in as much as we like to ensure that our core products and services are up-to-date with current trends. The paradox is that performance management is often the one big statement towards proactive, structured people development in an HR strategy, but at the cost of absorbing these compliance issues and creating cumbersome workloads, leading to confusion. As a result, we have lost the art of what improving performance is meant to be about as a result of an overly systematised approach.
Role of Leaders in Developing Performance
Performance excellence through people will drive success and build the cultural DNA of an organisation. These are real differentiators and it absolutely starts with an engaged, focused and motivated workforce. Developing performance is an act of leadership that needs to be imparted from everyone responsible for a team; the word management is misleading. The real need in performance discussions is to provide ensuring clarity of vision and purpose and to deliver constructive, ongoing feedback.
Tips for getting the most value out of the discussion include:
- A discussion! It is not a ‘tick and flick’ process
- Develop leaders as coaches and equip them with skills of delivering constructive feedback in multiple scenarios;
- Engage with employees about performance management to encourage buy-in and personal ownership of their role in the process – it is a two-way dialogue;
- Remember that performance management is really about reflection and discussion, so keep this at the centre of the process, rather than the latest ‘trend’;
- And last, but by no means least, keep the procedural aspects to a minimum and ensure they are simple and clear for all concerned.
Build a culture where regular conversations around performance are the norm rather than the exception.