Getting Real about Performance Management

Written on:February 17, 2015
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Performance Review A good performance management system lays the foundation for all kinds of employment decisions, motivates employees by recognizing success and corrects issues before they get out of control.Sounds great in theory, right? Unfortunately, we are often so busy that we do not always think to formalize performance management beyond the annual review.

Let’s take a look at some ways to improve the way you approach performance management at your business.

What is Performance Management?

Performance management is much more than the annual review form. It also includes observing employee performance, ongoing feedback, corrective action and documentation. When done right, the annual review form becomes a summary of all the other pieces of performance management.

Performance management is a year-round thing. Observe employee performance on a regular basis. This does not mean that you should stand over your employees’ shoulders, watching their every move. Simply pay attention to what they do on a regular basis, how they interact with customers and clients and how they work with coworkers.

The key is addressing issues as they come up and recognizing successes when they happen. When addressing issues, give the employee a specific example of the problem, what your expectation for improvement is and the consequences for not improving. Then follow up to ensure that change is happening. If it is not, follow through with additional coaching or disciplinary action.

Provide Ongoing Feedback

If you use annual reviews, the content of that review should not be a surprise to the employee when you sit down to go over it with them. This can be achieved through ongoing feedback, which is the heart of performance management. Schedule one-on-one meetings with employees to help ensure you are giving employees the feedback they need to succeed. This is especially important if you manage employees who spend much of their time working independently.

Use check-in meetings to review what the employee is working on, talk about areas they may need support and for them to give you feedback on your management. Do not hold back on telling an employee what they are doing right. Sometimes we become so focused on correcting problems that we forget to point out what is going well. Jot down a few notes after each meeting to keep track of what you talked about. Your future self will thank you when writing that employee’s annual review.

Rethinking the Annual Performance Review

HR has traditionally put a lot of emphasis on the performance review. It’s a good snapshot of what an employee has done all year and is a good way to justify employment decisions; however, a poorly written or inaccurate performance review can actually end up hurting you.

I once had a manager call me to say, “That’s it! I’ve had it with this employee. I want to fire him today.” The manager described ongoing rudeness toward customers and coworkers and refusal to complete certain tasks. I, of course, pulled the employee’s file and found glowing performance reviews and not a single warning. This employee fell into two protected classes, and without proper documentation of the problems and excellent reviews, the story put before a jury in a wrongful termination case could easily read as one of discrimination rather than work performance.

Managers shy away from addressing problems in performance reviews, so the review becomes an inaccurate representation of employee performance, which does little good in an HR file. Training managers on performance management and writing reviews is a good step toward changing this; however, for some businesses, it may be time to do away with the annual review. In a performance management system that emphasizes ongoing feedback and good documentation of performance, distilling a whole year’s worth of work down to one form may become unnecessary.

Guest Author Bio: 

Black Close upStephanie Hammerwold, PHR, is the owner of Hammerwold & Pershing Consulting and specializes in small business HR support. Stephanie is a regular contributor at Blogging4Jobs and The HR Gazette, and she gives presentations on a variety of job search and workplace topics. She specializes in training, employee relations, women’s issues and writing employment policy.

Thank you Stephanie for being a contributor at The HR Writer blogazine! 

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