Performance Management Should Focus on Developing Employees, Not Reviewing Them, Says Dr. Mark Allen in New Blog Post
In a recent blog post, Dr. Mark Allen, Practitioner Faculty of Organizational Theory and Management, argues that performance management gets it wrong when prioritizing employee assessment over employee improvement. “In order for Performance Management to truly be about developing and enhancing performance, we need to view it as a forward-looking process instead of examining the past.” Read more below:
The First Step Toward Fixing Performance Management
Sep 9, 2016
Last week in this blog we discussed one of the major problems in Performance Management: goal setting that isn’t SMART but DUMB (Demotivating, Unclear, Misaligned, and Bewildering). This week, I’m going to share one simple mindset tweak that can help get your organization moving toward a Performance Management process that is actually helpful and productive.
There have been ample studies that show that the majority of employees dislike their organization’s Performance Management process. Further, the managers who are entrusted with this process feel that it isn’t productive and is a waste of time. They do it because they have to. And now HR has become the department that forces people to engage in a process that employees dread and managers hate. It’s more fuel for the “Why we hate HR” argument. The Performance Management problem has become such an epidemic that numerous organizations are abandoning the process altogether.
So how did we get here? I think part of the problem derives from a misunderstanding about what Performance Management truly is and is supposed to accomplish.
According to the Human Capital Institute, Performance Management is, “a continuous system of processes, methodologies, and tools that identify, measure and develop employee performance by aligning individual and team objectives with the strategic goals of the organization.”
The key word here is develop. The unfortunate truth is that in most of the organizations I have spoken to, the Performance Management process primarily consists of the annual (or in some cases semi-annual) review. Outside of the folly of trying to sum up an employee’s performance over a full year in a single conversation, most of the conversation in the annual review is looking backward at the previous year. As Peter Capelli and Anna Tavis write in the October 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review, “…the biggest limitation of annual reviews—and, we have observed, the main reason more and more companies are dropping them—is this: With their heavy emphasis on financial rewards and punishments and their end-of-year structure, they hold people accountable for past behavior at the expense of improving current performance and grooming talent for the future, both of which are critical for organizations’ long-term survival.”
In order for Performance Management to truly be about developing and enhancing performance, we need to view it as a forward-looking process instead of examining the past. By making this one tweak in our mindset, we can not only make the process more productive, we can make it more palatable for both employee and manager.
By looking forward, we can actually start using the Performance Management process to improve performance (which is what it was always supposed to be about and should be the desired goal of an organization). Also, I believe employees genuinely want to improve their performance. Instead of looking back at the previous year (“let’s discuss your three biggest accomplishments of the past 12 months”) and then ending with the establishment of a perfunctory check-the-box development plan for the next 12 months (which usually involves the demotivating fool’s errand of trying to fix the one part of your job that is perceived as a weakness), we can truly focus on looking forward at ways to improve performance (which should involve building upon your strengths). And, as the definition states, Performance Management should be a “continuous process,” not a once a year event.
If we shift our mindset to think about Performance Management as a continuous process designed to develop and improve performance, we can transform the process into one that actually adds value instead of one that is dreaded and universally despised.