Performance management, done correctly, can improve not just the person, but the whole workplace culture.
The problem with performance appraisals is that often they are used to give feedback in one big slab – all saved up over time. And when the business is changing it becomes even more problematic, because change needs to be managed and at the same time getting the performance to the standard you need.
Often staff get upset that managers are unreasonably shifting the goal posts for what is expected of them. But with so many changes in business today, it is critical to create performance plans.
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Managing performance is a process involving planning and appraising performance.
Managing change means identifying and working with a revised plan for the performance. This means sitting down with the staff member and ensuring they are always up-to-date with what is expected. There needs to be on-going communication about any changes that take place and what resulting changes in performance standards and KPIs are expected. Performance plans are a work in progress when there are changes happening in the business.
Performance plans can also be used to develop performance by assessing training and development needs.
There may be skills needed, some training, some development, something that the person can do to improve their performance, that wasn’t originally envisaged.
Having a clear performance plan gives a good starting point for assessing development needs, and this is
best done collaboratively. By involving the person in this process the person is:
- More empowered.
- Takes responsibility.
- More committed.
The person will take more responsibility for their own development and be more committed to their development plan if you work with them and involve them in their performance plan and expectations.
So managing change and developing performance can occur at the planning phase. But these are also key outcomes of the appraisal phase. When you review actual job performance, this is an opportunity to identify what is being done well, not so well, and what needs to be changed or developed. Actual performance should be regularly and frequently reviewed, not just on an annual basis but maybe week-to-week or day-to-day, or as required.
Sometimes, though, reviewing performance is not so easy, especially when you have to give some constructive feedback. Remember, it is important to give very specific feedback, and explain the consequences of the person’s behaviour, and then ask the person for a commitment to change.
- Explain the consequences.
- Ask for a commitment to change.
What if there is a delay in giving feedback?
There may be several possible reasons. However, when there is a delay in giving feedback, the staff member can be justifiably angry. That’s why ongoing review and feedback is so important.
What if there are different perceptions of what is expected?
Sometimes conflict is caused by different perceptions of what is expected and that is the result of unclear performance plans.
What if feedback is given harshly? Harshly given feedback that attacks the other person and puts them down will cause people to lose commitment and confidence.
What if there is a development aim and a reward aim of the appraisal?
The main focus should be on improving performance, but in many businesses there is a need to assess whether the person gets a pay rise or bonus. So there’s a development aim and a reward delivery aim.
The problem is that these two aims just don’t mix well together, and they often cause conflict and damage to the relationship. When you try to mix development and reward delivery it just doesn’t work.
Why? Well, if a pay increase or a reward is a possibility, the staff member will want to appear to be doing well. They will be less likely to acknowledge any problem areas in their performance. They’ll be more likely to blame others rather than accept responsibility. These are the very behaviours you don’t want if you’re trying to have a developmental discussion. Ideally try and separate the development discussion from reward delivery discussion.
You can use the performance management cycle to effectively meet these challenges head on and create more productive, adaptable and motivating people and workplaces.
By Eve Ash, psychologist and Managing Director, Seven Dimensions, and co-producer with Peter Quarry (Ash.Quarry Productions) of Managing Change and Developing Performance form the REINVENTING APPRAISAL SERIES www.7dimensions.com.au
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