Performance Management is evolving, moving to the continuous conversation model versus reviewing and rating last year’s performance. Here are eight tips for modernizing your organization’s process.
– Jamie Resker

Making superficial adjustments to performance management (PM) perpetuates a 20th-century system that continues to disappoint employees, managers, organizational leadership, and HR. If you’re like me, you’ve learned that the continual tweaking of ratings, forms, and competencies falls short of producing an effective system. As you contemplate your next fix, I encourage you to step back from altering the existing process and re-orient your thinking.

We have all heard that PM is evolving, moving to the continuous conversation model versus reviewing and rating last year’s performance. Here are eight tips for modernizing your organization’s process:

1. Build around the goal of creating a favorable employee experience: When designing, announcing and communicating about your initiative use an employee-lens. Use “what’s in it for me” design and messaging, such as:

We are setting managers and employees up for success with a system for ongoing, two-way, actionable conversations to:

  • Let your manager know what is going well.
  • Voice your interest in gaining new skills, experiences, and sharing ideas for how you want to grow and develop in your career.
  • Discover what is working now (your good work and positive impact).
  • Reconfirm your priorities, expectations, and progress.
  • Communicate to your manager what you appreciate about his/her support and to share how your manager can support you more.

2. Don’t leave “conversations” up to interpretation: Set the stage for what the conversation should cover by providing a flexible template to ensure continuity across the organization. Avoid a loose system of un-targeted inconsistent conversations, such as, “meet with your direct reports every month”; these exchanges are too general or focused on task-only topics.

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Jamie Resker, HRExaminer.com Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

3. Provide flexibility to set the meeting agenda: Let employees shape and direct the conversation, so it feels personalized not prescribed. Allow employees and managers to choose from topics and questions asked and answered during the discussion. Canned questions and agendas won’t feel relevant and will, at best, lead to reluctant compliance.

4. Reshape manager and employee communication: Re-orient the manager role of evaluator of last year’s performance to a growth and coach-forward mindset. Create an experience that promotes activate listening, curiosity, and asking clarifying questions.

5. Current and relevant timing: Get buy-in for a just-right cadence of conversations that are regular enough to focus the discussion of what is working now and how to be more effective moving forward. A significant lapse in time between discussions leads to a focus on the past (remember, you are trying to break free from the mentality of reviewing historical performance).

6. Don’t rely on technology-only solutions: Technology can help with reminders and serve as a place to house meeting notes, but make sure that managers and employees are meeting in-person, by phone, or with remote conferencing tools. Provide training and tools to help build the skills of managers and employees to engage in productive conversations.

7. Continue tasking managers with assessing performance: Use a system (other than annual reviews with single rating categories) that allow managers to more accurately evaluate and track the performance of their team. HR should work with managers via calibration-style meetings to identify the five-performance level-types : The number one use for assessing performance effectiveness should be to inform targeted conversations that drive and align performance. HR should work with managers to identify off-target performance (people at risk), coach managers to have the right conversations, escalate issues as needed, and inform employment decisions. This information can help with talent development planning and as one factor to inform compensation decisions. Tracking and measuring progress should happen at least twice per year. So, do not discontinue measuring and monitoring performance; be more rigorous and act on the information.

8. Leverage and involve the HR team: While the movement away from annual performance reviews and ratings is no longer a new concept, it requires that HR professionals evolve their thinking and gain new skills to support the organization’s transition. Your program’s success will hinge on establishing HR’s supporting role. The modern-day approach is more strategic and dynamic than the administration process that many of us in HR have grown up using. HR’s part is anything but diminished, so establish roles and responsibilities and provide training and support for your HR team as part of your program launch.

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