Practitioner Interview: Mohamed Aamir Hussain
In 2017, the Performance Magazine editorial team interviewed Mohamed Aamir Hussain, Business Performance Manager at Saudi Dolomite Company Ltd, Saudi Arabia. His thoughts and views on Performance Management are detailed below.
I think the main challenge in performance management today is making sure that your feedback system and your performance audit gives you the chance to act upon your findings and results immediately.
- Which were the 2016 key trends in Performance Management, from your point of view?
I think that process breakdown and simplification is a key trend that has started in 2016. Managers are always looking to simplify their processes in terms of what can be measured and what can receive effective feedback, so I think the number one trend which started in 2016 is process simplification.
The second aspect of the change which has come about in performance management, would probably be the delay most performance reviews have encountered. I think the new trend is about having more frequent discussions on employee performance and departmental performance, maybe even as frequent as weekly rather than quarterly or on an annual basis.
What is more, these meetings should be more discussion based, rather than when an employee sits down in front of the evaluator and is continuously bombarded with feedback and then the rest of the year he has no idea what he has done wrong or right, and he might forget the suggestions he was given.
That is why, I think that the second trend is having discussions rather than single handed evaluations. Performance discussions about the shift from individual performance to measuring performance regarding company goals is another important trend that is a part of what has started in 2016.
- What are your thoughts on the integration of Performance Management at the organizational, departmental and employee level?
In my opinion, performance management systems and their integration starts right at the head strategic level. If your performance delivery does not complement the mission and vision of your organization, it cannot boil down to the organization’s departmental and employee level.
So, right at the grass-root level, when you set a strategic plan, everything has to be translated not only through your objectives, KPIs, KRIs and action plans, but also through specific broken down goals to each of the levels within that organization, whether it is the health level, the upper management level, or broken down to the departmental and employee level.
This basically means that you have to translate your strategy in a way that emphasizes performance and offers a feedback system to all performance management systems.
- Which will be the major changes in managing performance, in the future?
One major change in performance management, in the near future, is the implementation of more frequent discussion sessions rather than periodical reviews. Apart from that, I think that data and prediction-based analysis of performance will gain more traction.
Data-driven approaches are now leading the way in every business aspect and a predictive approach rather than a cyclic approach is the best answer, because we learn from what has happened and try to improve on that and we also try to predict what sort of performance you might be getting and take preemptive actions to see how we can improve things even before those things can happen.
- What aspects of Performance Management should be explored more through research?
Even though a certain amount of work is being done in this area, I think the psychosocial aspect of performance management, a person’s psychological and social interactions within his/her work environment, is a key area of research. This psychosocial aspect can affect a person’s performance greatly and I truly believe that there is a lack of correlation between what has been done and the meaningful results that have been drawn from this area.
- Which organizations would you recommend to be looked at, due to their particular approach to managing performance, and their subsequent results?
Throughout my professional career I have come across two such organizations. Saudi Aramco stands out for trying to improve their performance management strategy again. For instance, I think that companies like Saudi Aramco are working on moving from periodical evaluations to frequent discussions, with the intention of doing something which is better integrated, faster and inclined to having predictive analysis and performance.
The second company, which in terms of performance management stands out in the Middle East, is General Electric. I think General Electric has formed a sort of black box approach where they have an improvement cycle on every system that also includes a performance management system. Keeping a close watch on these two organizations will help us understand exactly how the shift in performance management is happening across the Middle East.
- Which of the existing trends, topics or particular aspects within Performance Management have lost their relevance and/or importance, from your point of view?
I believe the effect of the grapevine in a work-related environment has had a lot of weight in regard to managing how employees can be affected by rumors and inappropriate or irrelevant information within an organization. Dealing with these rather informal mediums of communication and the effect on employee performance, is something which is slowly losing relevance.
The second thing that has gained relevance, in terms of the illusion that most organizations have been living under, is that there is no gender bias in organizations. Despite the clamor surrounding this area of study, I think this area is gaining greater relevance. That is exactly why the idea that there is by default no correlation between gender bias and performance management is losing relevance.
- Which are the main challenges of Performance Management in practice, today?
I think the main challenge in performance management today is making sure that your feedback system and your performance audit gives you the chance to act upon your findings and results immediately. A lot of organizations have this issue with measuring performance and giving appropriate reviews and taking the right measures, but the main challenge they face is in implementing changes from those findings.
I think the first challenge that performance management faces today is the time within which they begin to implement general changes or changes in the policies/procedures of any given review. I would say the lack of a continuous improvement model is the main challenge.
- What should be improved in the use of Performance Management tools and processes?
The main thing that most of our performance management tools and processes lack in their framework is that they often look for a specific qualitative definition to what a finding should be.
When you are doing an ongoing performance communication analysis, appraisal meetings or a diagnosis, right down to coaching your employees or your teams, you require a lot of empathy. Most people, when taking an objective approach to performance management, tools and processes, leave out the human factor.
We are moving towards a data-driven approach, but that does not leave out the fact that we are also human and I think that is where the psychosocial approach comes in. We need to be more empathetic towards employees and try to understand them through consultative and discussion based reviews, rather than through something which is done on a hardline periodical basis.
I think that this is what needs to be improved and the continuous improvement approach is something that needs to be added to ensure that feedback is immediately tied to your next plan cycle for the performance review.
- What would you consider as a best practice in Performance Management?
In my opinion, a best practice in performance management is having a definitive framework. We have predictive analysis so this is now possible – just look at data banking – so I think that the best practice is using a predictive approach which can now be involved in alleviating or avoiding problems to begin with.
- Which aspects of Performance Management should be emphasized during educational programs?
I think performance management can be very in depth in terms of what it covers, but at the same time, it’s a very niche and specific area of overall strategy in terms of what you want to achieve and productivity at large. Having said that, I believe the aspects of performance management which should be emphasized during educational programs are coaching and mentoring.
We’re moving from a broader aspect of definitive coaching to performance coaching and mentoring, and this is where the psychosocial approach comes in. Having a very productive mentor mentee relationship can really improve the performance management framework and lead to better results.
- What are the limits that prevent practitioners from achieving higher levels of proficiency in Performance Management?
When we are talking about the human element in terms of performance, there is always the halo or the horn effect which comes in when any individual evaluates adults. This offers a specific challenge because a certain personal bias may come in.
However, by balancing the psychosocial approach with definitive data we can obtain unbiased results, rather than counting on the human intuition, a certain feeling that a person gets as an evaluator. Limiting personal bias is what performance managers and performance management personnel need to be trained on.
- What is your opinion on the emerging trend of measuring performance outside working hours?
It can be rather intrusive for employees if they don’t want to share their personal statistics of how they’re improving on a personal aspect.
However, if an employee is facing certain difficulties in his personal life and something from that is affecting his work performance, then through psychosocial consulting they could measure other statistics outside of the workplace which can help the consultant or the evaluator give him some sort of feedback, or help him through a difficult situation.I believe this is the only situation that can justify measuring performance outside of the workplace.
- What personal performance measurement tools do you use?
I personally use a step tracker because I want to make sure that I walk enough. I like to make sure that I’m not becoming lazy and I want to be continuously active. Apart from that, I have a personal goal tracker, through which I measure my personal skills and goals annually.
I want to make sure that by the end of the year I have done either a certification, a certain training, or something to ensure that my skills are in line with my current work, or that I have upgraded my knowledge in some sense. For this I have an excel sheet which tracks what I have done each week to further my goal.
Specialization Specific Question
- Practitioner point of View: Which were the recent achievements in generating value from performance management, in your organization?
I am currently working with a mining and minerals processing company and we’ve had a lot of human inefficiency and material wastage. This meant organizing our performance not just for individuals, but also departmentally and in terms of material wasted and a lot of other things.
Performance management in this case helped greatly in boosting performance departmentally, where we could correlate shut down times, production times, material issues and manufacturing issues directly with people performance issues.
This is where we have had key achievements, where I can say that we have registered a 15% boost in performance over the past quarter, having employed newer forms of performance management. We have also started to employ a predictive analysis and we are trying to bring about a change in the way we approach employees based on their performance. This is a key achievement because we had hours and hours of downtime and now that is changing drastically.
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