In talking to managers and employees alike, the signals are clear. It’s time to do something to change the way the performance management process works in most organizations. One of the common themes we hear is that the process needs to be more real-time, or at least just in time, rather than the once a year or twice a year approach that most companies use.
Like all things that eventually change, the easiest path to success is to capitalize when the timing is right. That’s why there is no better time than now to start thinking about rebooting performance management. Think about your own patterns of behavior. Nobody waits for the evening news or the morning paper to arrive to find out what’s happing in the world around them. Facebook, Twitter, and other sources of real-time information has changed the way we receive and process news and announcements.
Fortunately, we already have at our disposal the tools required to change the way we handle our performance systems. They are tried an true, they just don’t get used as often as they should. They are explained briefly below.
- Performance expectations – When ever a project or task is started, the manager and employee have the opportunity to sit down and discuss exactly what needs to happen for the project to be a success. The manager has the responsibility to clearly articulate the performance standards. The employee gets to give input on how they think the task will be accomplished. Both reach agreement and the project starts.
- Progress tracking – Unlike the old system of performance management, you aren’t required to wait until the project ends or the completion of a review cycle to learn that something has slipped off track. There are great tools available for workplace collaboration and task management. We use Asana in our office. It combines the richness of a project management tool with the functionality of a social media site. Followers of tasks can comment on and “like” activities as they progress and everyone stays in the loop.
- Feedback – During and immediately after a project or task is complete, the manager, as well as other members of the team, should be giving feedback. This feedback can be either positive or developmental in nature. This feedback is the fuel your employees need to remain motivated, or to change course before finishing the project.
- Learning audits – On a regular basis, instead of once a year, it’s important to stop figure out what did or is working and what isn’t. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A simple sheet of flip-chart paper divided in to columns will work. Label the top of one column “what worked well” and the top of the other column “what would we change”. Begin to brainstorm a list and complete the chart.
If your organization got really good at doing just these four things, it’s possible you could even throw away that form you need to turn in to human resources at the end of every year.