For nearly a century, performance management was shaped to “manage” performance. Often the subject of performance reviews brought dread to managers and employees alike. It is, in fact, the process whereby managers are asked to review an individual’s contribution against stated goals and objectives. Often, this undertaking is delayed in business and has been used historically to rank individuals within a department or begin the process of documenting performance improvement or failure, rather than performance achievement. In fact, if managers were leaders, they would know that they should not manage people. Instead, they should manage the process. People work within a process. So, if managers define the process and then manage their employees to work within that process, the people should be motivated to self-manage to that same process. Managers then provide feedback on performance against the process not the people. This also avoids the issue of any evaluation being taken “personally” rather than “professionally.” Clarity and conversation around the process is what is critical and often missing in separating performance management from performance achievement. Yes, the standard approach should account for performance achievement, but many systems are subjective in nature and lack honest assessment and feedback by which an individual can feel motivated.
For most organizations, performance reviews are used to support decisions related to training, career development, compensation, transfers, promotions, and reductions-in-force or employment termination. Despite the long tradition of performance management in business, many are doing away with formal performance reviews. Fewer employers conducted formal performance reviews in recent years and newer startups are even moving to flatter organizational designs and team-based performance goals. This is a trend that is new and is continuing to grow among many employers of choice today.
One way employers do this in practice is to implement check-ins, essentially opting for more frequent feedback exchanges. These can be face to face meetings, which are more casual in nature, to engage the individual and the manager in meaningful conversation with respect to how things are going. It is not a formal written review but rather a leader success exchange and cross check. Truly, business priorities are shifting and talent will need to adapt to be considered a valuable contributor.
More employers are also building core values into their performance achievement framework in addition to competency development. To be clear, performance excellence can’t be achieved without a framework for performance achievement against individual development plans and strategic outcomes. Building capacity from within should be the goal of both employee and employer. The outcomes must be clear and speak to what the results will be from this employee. Not just what the individual will be expected to do but how they must behave in doing it and what the outcome of their work result will be; the specific measurable result. The intent is to create a framework that is lived and is, in fact, a true reflection of how an employee is performing against not only the essential functions of their job, but also the ways in which they live the company values (the norms of your culture and what is tolerated). In addition, the company should be supporting their personal growth and development against defined strategic goals whereby every employee can see how they support the strategy from wherever they stand within the organization.
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