How to Make Performance Management Perform

How to make performance management Perform

By Gerry Lynch - Managing Director, The Real Leadership Company. This article can also be found in the Supermarket News magazine HERE.

A number of years ago while I was at Mars I would get to the annual performance reviews and be dreading it. It would take up a lot of time preparing and filling in forms and then you would have the conversation and many times the person would walk away feeling devalued as they thought they were ‘above expectations’ and you said they were ‘meets expectations.’ You could argue all you like that ‘meets expectations’ is actually meets most areas and exceeds in some, the person still walked away feeling ‘average’.

“What’s the point of performance management? To help your employees improve
their performance so that the organisation improves its performance and drives towards its vision – That’s it. So, let’s look at it through the employees’ lens, what do they want that will help them improve their performance?

  1. I’d like to know some cares about me. If it is all about metrics and profit, then I am just a number, and you don’t care about me. If it is about me then there will be more focus on showing that you care and helping and supporting me.
  2. I’d like to know that the things I am working on matter and how these fits into the vision of the company.
  3. I’d like to know how I am doing on an ongoing basis (not once a year) so I have a chance to be successful
  4. I want to know that the process and compensation is fair. Which means that
    if someone is not pulling their weight then there should be consequences and if someone is a star performer, I would expect them to be paid a bit more.

So, organisations need to focus less on the process and more on the leadership as that is what makes the difference. Some key areas a leader needs to work on are:

Role clarity – Does the person know what is expected of them. This does not mean giving them a 4-page job description, that is a waste of time. This should translate to ‘I know what is expected of me, by when, with whom and what I can decide on my own’. The person’s objectives should reflect the above and if they are clear on the company’s strategy and vision then much of the time, they will be able to craft them. Try asking them ‘Out of 5, where 5 is 100 percent clear, how clear are you on what is expected of you?’ If they are not a ‘5’ you can explore why not and help to clarify.

Performance and development conversations. There then is an ongoing conversation about how the person is tracking, both from a goals and tasks perspective and a behaviours and competencies. The leader’s role is to give
regular positive feedback to reinforce the behaviours and practices that you want to see more of and recognise good work and to identify areas where performance could improve.

How often? Definitely in your regular monthly or two weekly meeting but also in the moment when you see great behaviours or a learning opportunity. Why don’t leaders do this? Having a conversation about something someone could do better is fraught with perceived danger (what if they take it badly? What if they disagree? What if I don’t put it across persuasively?). They might brush it off as a one off. They might not talk about the positives as they think that that is just doing their job.”