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Performance Management

Week 5

How to get buy-in to performance management

We recently ran a survey of HR professionals into the main challenges they face with performance management. A consistent theme that came out was getting managers and employees to engage with the process. Here are some examples of the comments we received:

“Managers don’t like doing appraisals and often staff don’t like having them despite efforts that they should be positive and helpful.”

“It will continue to be viewed as a hassle until managers see the light that appraisals are for their benefit and the benefit of their team members rather than an exercise to enable HR to tick a box.”

“It is a slog every year to get the managers to make this a priority.”

Line managers are on the front line of performance management and are the ones who make or break it. So no matter how well-designed your performance management processes and tools are, if managers and their teams do not buy into them, they will not succeed. Here are four of the key ingredients for getting that all-important engagement:

1. Public commitment from top management

Top management have a critical role to play. They need to publicly demonstrate and communicate the importance that performance management has to the success of the organisation. For them to do this meaningfully, you will need to gain their commitment to it.  As we discussed in earlier masterclass articles, the best way of achieving this is to involve them in the process of agreeing your organisation’s goals and success measures for performance management and consult with them on the evaluation of your current performance processes and how they can be improved.

Once you have their commitment, get them to front the communication activities. Top management should be seen to ‘own’ performance management, rather than HR, so all major communications should come from them. Communications should sell the benefits to employees and managers of investing their time in performance management. This is commonly referred to as ‘WIIFM – What’s in it for me?’. Senior management also need to lead by example, so spend time coaching them to ensure they are demonstrating high quality performance management with their own teams.

2. Involve your managers and employees

In week 3 of the masterclass, we looked at the importance of involving a variety of line managers and staff in measuring the effectiveness of your current performance management process and discussing ways to improve it, through surveys, interviews and focus groups. Those who have been involved in this will feel greater ownership of performance management as they will have helped to design the processes and tools. You therefore want to ensure that you have involved as many ‘key influencers’ within the organisation as possible. These are the people who others in the organisation tend to listen to and are influenced by. Some of these people may be the most cynical about performance management, so all the more reason to get them involved and try to get them on side.

Another way of involving your managers is to have those most committed to performance management run internal training workshops. This will have a much greater impact on other managers than if training is fronted by HR. You could also appoint a number of internal ‘experts’ to act as internal advisors and coaches on subjects like setting objectives, identifying personal development needs, giving feedback etc.

3. Make it easy for them

Managers and employees are under an increasing amount of pressure to deliver results, so their time is precious. It is important to recognise this and ensure that your performance management processes and tools are easy to use and not too time consuming. I cannot emphasise this enough. One way of achieving this is to place more emphasis on regular feedback and ‘check-ins’ rather than long formal review meetings and forms. Done this way, the end of year review can become a simple summary of the year’s achievements and learnings, rather than a daunting in-depth analysis and assessment of past performance.

4. Give people confidence and skills

Even with simple, year-round processes, discussing performance and giving and receiving feedback can be intimidating for employees and line managers alike. As one of our survey respondents commented, “line managers avoid it and staff are anxious about it”. The best way to overcome this is to train your people in the core skills of performance management. These include how to set high quality objectives and deliver them, how to give and receive feedback and how to use coaching as a manager. We’ll be looking at this in more detail in week 8 of the masterclass.

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