Painless Performance Management


Let’s face it: typical performance management systems are painful. No one enjoys the stilted, scripted, and awkward process of the yearly performance management review.

And the results? Not particularly inspired or useful, kind of uncomfortable, and the process itself can damage employee (and management!) morale. But nobody is perfect, and employees make mistakes, so doing away with the process altogether isn’t an option.

(Already dealing with an employee mistake? Click here.)

The performance evaluation process has the potential to be a positive, productive, and collaborative process that affirms an employee’s contributions to the organization and highlights opportunities for further growth. When employees are clear about performance standards and how to achieve them, everyone succeeds.

Convinced that the time is right to make some changes? We’ve got three strategies to help you revamp and rejuvenate your performance management process:

1. Set them up to succeed.

Maximize the chances that a new employee will succeed on the job by setting them up to do well. Make sure you provide a job description on an employee’s first day. Go through it with them, and provide examples of success so they can accurately visualize themselves succeeding. Put them in the driver’s seat when it comes to their job performance – employees should feel empowered to do well. Expecting employees to be responsible for their own performance encourages a culture of ownership and accountability.

2. Follow the 3 C’s of effective feedback.

Consistent: Have performance discussions frequently to identify progress and barriers within the performance plan and adjust where needed. Take note of teachable moments, and consistently take advantage of opportunities for coaching. Providing consistent and current feedback means there are no unpleasant surprises at performance review meetings.

Concrete: Disciplined or terminated employees should have received consistent (written and verbal) feedback specifying exactly how their performance was not meeting expectations and detailing the expected improvements. Keep feedback constructive by supplying concrete examples of what the problematic behaviour looks like, and include specific examples of improved behaviour.

Collaborative: Feedback should have a collaborative tone. Create an open dialogue and ask your employee to participate equally. Ask employees for suggestions and solicit their input during feedback conversations. Be curious, and make sure you’re not missing anything. An open approach ensures that the employee understands the feedback you’re providing, and helps ensure they’re on board with any necessary changes. During feedback conversations, keep in mind that your employee knows themselves better than you- they may have suggestions for supporting their development that you haven’t thought about!

Feedback should have a collaborative tone – ask employees for suggestions & solicit their input.

3. Document! Document! Document!

Just because coaching is ongoing and in-the-moment feedback happens organically doesn’t mean that documenting those conversations should fall through the cracks. Maintain clear written notes and details of any conversations that have occurred so that you have a complete picture of the employee’s performance.

Keeping clear records helps commit conversations to memory, can help with preparing any necessary reports, and also ensures that both employee and employer are held accountable for following up on any next steps agreed upon. Close the loop by providing any documentation to Human Resources for the employee file.

Need a hand coming up with specific questions to ask in your performance review meeting? We’ve got some ideas here on key areas to explore.

Your Engaged Assignment: Too often we are focused on what is going wrong with employees to notice and celebrate all that is going right! Commit to fostering a culture of appreciation in your organization by delivering two positive messages for every corrective message.

Not sure where to start? We’re always available to help out – and performance management is our thing!