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How to Restart Performance Management

September 22, 2021 Collaboration and Productivity
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Traditional performance management methods had a fundamental problem even before the pandemic pushed the pause button. Feedback was rarely, if ever, offered outside of an annual performance review. That flies in the face of what many employees want and expect from their managers.

According to a survey conducted by consulting firm PwC, 60% of employees expect daily or weekly feedback. Research by tech firm Adobe found that 80% of office workers want quick, in-the-moment input to their performance. 

Employee goal-setting should also be tightly connected with the organization's cultural norms and fundamental values to give employees a strong feeling of purpose. Implementing a continuous performance management strategy without this alignment can confuse employees about the wider corporate vision, resulting in dissatisfaction from both employees and managers.

With review season around the corner, here's what executives had to say about performance management and how to restart reviews in a post-COVID-19 setting.

What Is Performance Management?

At its core, performance management is a set of processes and systems aimed at developing an employee to perform their job to the best of their ability. 

Good performance management isn't simply about assessing performance and improving skills at a particular point in time, however. It's not a single activity but rather a group of practices that should be approached holistically. It affects compensation, promotion and many more job-related opportunities.

Performance management is also an important tool for companies because it helps them keep track of employee progress, growth and development.  A good performance management system helps employees understand company goals and align their personal goals and activities with the organizational mission.

Related Article: Designing Performance Management to Work for Hybrid Work

Tips to Restart Performance Management

Performance management as a concept seeks to build an effective and engaged workforce by providing continuous communication, feedback and support. And good performance management is of particular importance in the post-COVID-19 world, said Mike Grossman, CEO at Redwood City, Calif.-based GoodHire, a provider of employment background checking software.

"After COVID-19, performance management has perhaps never been more important both in terms of re-evaluating company objectives and offering clear guidance during periods of turbulence," Grossman said.

Here are five tips for tackling performance management in the new work environment:

1. Devise a Performance Management Strategy

Restarting performance management initiatives isn't something you can do from one day to the next. To truly rekindle performance management, companies need to have a strategy. It's not something to dive into without planning ahead.

"Think about how frequently you want to have performance conversations with employees, and how often those conversations constitute formal reviews," Grossman said.

Once that's decided, gather information about employee performance, including anything quantifiable like sales goals achievements or the number of projects completed, in order to have a fruitful conversation. 

2. Start Performance Reviews at the Top

Sometimes, top executives never receive performance reviews, resulting in managers who might not be following company policy or who relay the wrong instructions to their teams.

"Companies should start with performance reviews for managers and supervisors to ensure that everyone is on the same page in the future," said Zachary Hoffman, CEO at DigitalPR, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based public relations firm. "They also need to decide how frequently these reviews will be held going forward and who will conduct them."

3. Set Up Regular Performance Check-Ins

Start with check-ins before diving into formal reviews. "Give both managers and employees time to prepare and review what they've done over the past months," said Lundin Matthews, CEO of Tomball, Texas-based AdminRemix, a specialist in software management for education.

"A good review gives both the manager and employee time to provide feedback, but this only works if both parties can prepare ahead of time." 

Related Article: 5 Ways to Have More Effective Performance Conversations

4. Always Do Reviews One on One

A mistake some managers make is doing group reviews. While group reviews aren't bad in themselves, it's always a better idea to have personal talks with each individual to understand their motivations and challenges.

"Individual goal-setting is key to tracking employees' progress over the course of the year," said Kweli Washington, chief operating officer at New York City-based software firm Piano. "By having these conversations up front, employees understand what is expected of them and what it takes to be successful in their roles." 

5. Use a Performance Management Tool

Performance management tools are software platforms that help organizations measure and track employee performance consistently. In a data-driven world, it's something a company can't afford not to implement.

"One thing that we value a lot about the platform we use for reviews is that it's so easy for employees and managers to see historical reviews and performance information," Washington said. "Making progress comparisons with past performance accessible allows us to focus on individual growth over time, which is what we're looking for as a company that is growing so rapidly."

The rise of hybrid and remote work may have put a new spin on performance management, but one fundamental that remains is the importance of providing a two-way flow of information between employees and employers. By providing employees a venue to discuss topics and concerns or suggest new ideas, companies can go a long way in creating a culture of openness and inclusiveness that will retain more employees and keep workers motivated, engaged and happy.

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