It’s that time of the year again. I am reminded of American economist Milton Friedman’s famous quote - “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” Most high performing organizations are now re-evaluating their existing performance management philosophies. As a practitioner, I fear that even the most world-class organizations overinvest both time and effort in “the appraisal process” and still dramatically underinvest in “actual training and skill development.”
There is enough anecdotal evidence that HR leaders in the industry typically prize knowledge over skills. An interesting corporate cultural nuance is that leaders and managers get knowledge and education while training and skill development is concentrated on those who actually do the work. This professional bias is both dangerous and counterproductive. HR leaders need to work very closely with stakeholders at the executive level to clearly establish the purpose of performance management and the demonstrated success that it is meant to deliver as a good starting point.
Here I would like to emphasize five focus areas that are neither obvious nor cliché:
Identify the key areas that need improvement and give constructive feedback
Managers should take onus to provide constructive feedback which is motivational, open and encourages transformational improvement —not just incremental improvement. It is also every manager’s job to be open to 360-degree feedback from their supervisors, peers and team members. High-performers must be encouraged with restricted rewards that are fairly distributed, whereas underperformers must be checked. It is also important for managers to realize that long-term value should take precedence over immediate sales targets and the next quarter’s result. Often times most employees are not vocal or expressive about their dissonance and it might help if the manager is intuitive and nimble to be able to draw it out.
Focus on excellence, not competence
Skill shortage is a key concern, not just to hire, motivate and retain high-performing talent but more so to fuel business growth. The underlying guideline, therefore, is that –training programs should not be designed to deliver competence; instead they must be dedicated to producing excellence. In other words, training detached from excellence is mere compliance. It is more “box ticking” rather than a learning and development investment. Will your employees benefit from “above average” training and is it really worth the time, energy and expense?
Employees should be open-minded to feedback and prepare for their future goals
Often employee participation in performance appraisal meetings with their managers is defensive or rather bracing themselves for negative feedback, criticism, or lobbying/positioning for better ratings. As employees, they should not play a passive role as mere recipients of feedback and course corrections from their managers. By properly preparing for performance appraisal meetings with their managers, they should present a broader picture of their performance and career goals for positive dialogue, and take charge of their own career progression. If there are huge gaps between self-perception and others' perception, there will be no room for change.
Increase the efficacy of goal setting
Organizations follow the practice of goal setting at the beginning of the year and performance review and rating is driven hand-out at the end of the year with no room for ongoing feedback and evaluation. By providing a clear overview of employee goals that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely can increase employee productivity and experience can be enhanced by putting systems in place (performance management, and learning and development, etc.). By spotting areas that are not working, highlighting opportunities for better enhancement and supporting decision-making to identify the suitable options can go a long way – for e.g. shifting focus from growth targets to better profitability, individual sales targets to lesser cost of acquisition may be a good reflection for the contribution of better value to the business.
Digitization to evaluate performance management
Digital technology implementation will not only help organizations efficiently manage the end to end performance management process, but also ensure better success in aligning employee and organizational goals. By adopting digital solutions reviewers can providreal-timeme feedback which counters the flaws of a recency impact in spaced out periodic appraisal and feedback process. Organizations can leverage maximum impact with tailored solutions and intuitive customization tools that can help in making error-free and informed decisions on skilling assessment, training needs and highlight competency gaps.
In conclusion, a result oriented approach, the right attitude with the right skills, a high degree of social intelligence and cognitive abilities such as complex problem solving, creative thinking and communication coupled with fostering a culture of continuous learning is the X-factor for employees to do well in their career.