The Secret to Managing Performance7th January 2019
It’s 1.30 pm on January 2nd 2019. I’m trundling my way through the motorway service station with a loaded buggy and a hungry baby. I find a table and we offload. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the table adjacent to ours has two women and a man clearly dressed for a business meeting.
I listen in to the meeting, taken with the English accents and the particularly polite and ‘proper’ approach to business matters; a contrast to the brasher US East Coast way. I work out that the two women work in HR, and that they are coaching or advising the businessman on appropriate performance management approaches.
One lady is leading the meeting while a heavily pregnant lady keeps her head down and smiles politely when the attention turns to her. I get the impression she doesn’t agree with his approach and, after listening to their conversation, I can understand why… Among other things, the man said:
“We’ll do a maximum of 5 times per year for feedback sessions or we’ll be talking to the far end of kingdom hell.”
I felt this sentence summed up his approach, and I didn’t get the impression that it would be a particularly successful one. In his world, the act of managing his employee’s performance is a necessity; a tick-box exercise. In my view, he has lost the essence of why we manage employee performance and the positive impact it can have on an employee’s experience, and their engagement when we get it right. Given this man’s approach, I would imagine he’s not a big fan of managing performance informally or improving the employee experience as a whole.
Getting it right
When performance management becomes structured and is being done for the sake of process, it loses its power. Having structured feedback sessions is important because it gives people the opportunity to have a scheduled time to discuss things that may be bothering them or to discuss their careers on a broader scale. However, performance management needs to be seen as an important time to connect with employees both in a structured way and with ongoing, fluid and ‘off the cuff’ sessions too.
Being present, by checking in with people and showing appreciation for their efforts, can help people to feel they are appreciated and can be the difference between someone doing a mediocre job and a good one. Regular check-ins give people extra confidence, and permission to carry on doing good things. Alternatively, they give an indication that things may not be going so well and give people the opportunity to get support as they need it.
Simple comments like:
“Congratulations on ‘x project’ — you did a great job there.” Or,
“Give me a shout if you need any help on ‘x project’,”
shows people that you’re aware of their work, you are available to support them should they need it, and that you’re working to create a positive and supportive workplace.
Know your people
If you have a big team, knowing everyone personally is impractical. However, you can make it your goal to concentrate on a different team each week and highlight those doing the best work. It only needs to take a few minutes of your time, but keeps you connected to what your teams are doing and helps them to feel you invested in their work.
I’m currently reading Gethin Nadin’s ‘World of Good’. His book looks at what makes for positive employee experiences around the world. These vary from spending time outside to putting family obligations above work demands to flexible working arrangements and collective responsibility.
The crux of this is that when managing employee performance, as Gethin says: “The Secret is Positivity.”
Thinking outside of the structure of managing performance to thinking more holistically makes a significant difference. Today’s HR professionals need to take on the role of leaders, coaches, and mentors to guide employees through their careers.
One way to determine what topics to focus on in coaching and guidance conversations is using unconscious approaches. These approaches can help to surface what people are really thinking and can help to shape the structured and one-off conversations getting to the things that really make employees tick.
Also, new to 2019, we’re now offering our ‘off the chest sessions‘ (scroll to the bottom of the page to read more) where employees have a safe space to discuss issues they may be having at work to help them to improve their employee experience and their performance.
Make 2019 the year your organisation is filled with positivity! Happy New Year, everyone!
Photo credit – Shutterstock.