Is Positive Performance Management Possible?

September 8, 2016

It may not be possible to make your PMP into a truly “joyful” experience, but we do think it is possible to make the performance management process a positive experience. This must be done in order to have engaged employees. Engaged employees will stay with you longer and be more productive. What company doesn’t want that to happen?

As we know, thousands of books, articles and training courses have been written about the often-maligned performance management process and how it can be improved. A few companies have even decided to do away with the process entirely. But most organizations are still looking for better solutions to what they have in place today. Many large companies like GE, Eli Lilly, SAP, Adobe and Accenture have already radically changed their approach as their old process was not working for them. These sweeping changes to the performance management process are applicable to small and medium companies as well.

One of the problems has stemmed from organizations trying to adopt the same processes whether they are a company of 30 employees or 130,000 employees, whether they are a local or global player, and whether they are a product or service organization. This is not a process where “one size fits all”. We believe that the process should be customized to the company, it’s culture, and it’s employees. And we help companies revamp or overhaul what they have today.

Why are you doing this process anyway?
It does take a lot of time and effort on both the part of the employee and their supervisor, to do the process well, so you want the outcome to be really worthwhile. My experience is that at most organizations 20% of the employees feel good after the completion of the process and some 80% feel indifferent, demotivated or even cynical. There are many factors that contribute to that 80% (as covered in the volumes of work on the subject), but our observations are that the 3 most common problems are:
  • It is really not a year round process (even if it is touted as such).
  • Management is using the performance rating system to justify the compensation increases. So it is being reverse engineered to fit a bell shape curve or some variation of that for divvying up a pot of money.
  • Too much emphasis is placed on “evaluation” and not enough on “development”.

We would argue that the real purpose of a performance management process is to ensure:
  • Clear expectations are set.
  • Feedback is given regarding past performance.
  • Feedback is given about future development of their strengths.
  • The right level of recognition is given.

So we endorse:
  • Keeping the process very simple and understood by all employees and supervisors.
  • Having the process be truly year round (monthly discussions and frequent check-ins).
  • Wrapping the process around Feedback and Coaching, which is its true value.
  • Having skilled managers who can develop their employees.

In our minds, having a stellar performance management process that develops your employees, and having an excellent talent acquisition process so you get the best talent you can into the organization, are two of the most important people related processes to get right. If you can master those two very important people processes, they will become the cornerstone to your organization be successful.


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