What makes a performance management program successful? You can’t improve employee performance without these three elements.
Communication is the most important factor in a successful performance management program. Trust and connection are critical for helping employees feel like they can talk to their managers about performance concerns.
Start fostering trust from the get-go by aligning managers and employees on shared performance expectations. Team members will underperform when they don’t know what their manager expects from them. But when managers clearly define their expectations, people have a better sense of what they’re working toward and how performance will be evaluated.
Defining performance expectations from the start also helps team members clarify misunderstandings and raise concerns before they get far along in the work. Two-way communication about performance expectations grounds the working relationship in transparency and mutual trust – and if you ask us, that’s the only way to start a relationship.
Meaningful Changes in Behavior
The thing about behaviors is that once they take hold, they’re hard to change. One of the greatest advantages of performance management in real time is that it gives managers and employees the chance to discuss behaviors before they become habits.
For example, team members will become attached to how they think about and perform their work, even if that approach is incorrect. Correcting misaligned behaviors is much more challenging when they don’t receive feedback until months later during the annual review. Daily interactions, however, empower team members to adjust their behavior quickly without putting efficiency and productivity at risk. When a manager can address incorrect actions or misaligned behaviors in the near term, employees are better positioned to shift gears.
This applies to values-based behaviors, too. For example, employer brands that emphasize inclusion should create performance management processes that hold employees accountable for behaviors that aren’t inclusive.
Performance improvement plans are an important part of your performance management program. Most people react negatively to performance improvement plans, also called PIPs, but it’s really just a targeted approach that focuses on changing behaviors. These plans generally rely on more frequent formal performance evaluations to help team members become more aware of and deliberate about their behaviors.
Opportunities for Growth
Performance management isn’t meant to look backward — although that’s what we’ve come to expect from traditional performance reviews. Performance management is supposed to boost employee performance and guide future development.
In this function, managers serve as coaches who encourage employees to find their long-term roles within the organization. Train your managers to help employees discover their strengths and interests. These may come out conversationally during regular performance check-ins, or you might use resources like assessments to help team members discover more about themselves. Assessment results offer a starting point for deeper conversations about an employee’s long-term career goals.
Once managers have collaborated with employees to identify where they want to go, the next step is to connect them with training and development opportunities. Making those connections helps people take the next steps toward their career goals.