Consultant Interview: Paul Moroney
In 2017, the Performance Magazine editorial team interviewed Paul Moroney, Chief Product Officer at ActiveOps Limited. His thoughts and views on Performance Management are detailed below.
Best practice Performance Management is light in administration, great at recognizing ‘real’ performance, and realistic regarding the impact of factors which lie outside of the individual’s control.
- Which were the 2016 key trends in Performance Management, from your point of view?
The two most significant trends I observed are:
- The challenge to the current performance management framework, including the use of annual objectives and bell curves, as a significant input to performance ratings; does this process actually add value, when looking at the resource costs and stifling of innovation that it delivers?
- A break from the annual review and CPI movements being linked to pay increases. This is being replaced by more transformations based on changes related to an individual’s contribution and capability.
- What are your thoughts on the integration of Performance Management at the organizational, departmental and employee level?
If the PM system does not align from the organizational to the employee level, then any correlation between what the organization is driving toward and individual actions is mere coincidence. There must be an alignment for the organization to be effective. The challenge is to identify how the PM system needs to change, objectives and measurements-wise, between levels.
This is particularly true of the support functions within organizations, which need to ensure they are contributing ‘fit for purpose’ solutions for their organization, not just the ‘best of breed’ from their specialist function.
Usually, this is not a disaggregation of the organizational targets that the individual needs to contribute to. It takes effort and creativity to determine what the appropriate deliverable of staff will deliver a successful company outcome.
- Which will be the major changes in managing performance, in the future?
More and more data will be available to determine where employees are spending time. The challenge is to make good use of this data, to identify what was achieved in the time spent, not simply record where the time went. Unless actions are taken, ‘busyness’ will (continue to be) mistaken for a valuable contribution.
More organizations will challenge the current approach of annual and quarterly objectives, in favor of more agile approaches.
Organizational metrics such as Net Promoter Score will continue to be used at individual levels, even where the individual has little control over what drives the score.
- What aspects of Performance Management should be explored more through research?
The trend toward removing bell curves and traditional PM systems is growing. The performance of organizations that have taken this approach, coupled with an understanding of what replaced the ‘traditional’ system would be an excellent area of research. Recognizing limitations is good, finding a better alternative is more difficult.
Then, another aspect would be the impact of gamification as part of or alongside the PM system, and how these things work together to drive good performance.
- Which organizations would you recommend to be looked at, due to their particular approach to managing performance, and their subsequent results?
Organizations that have moved away from ‘traditional’ PM. Therefore, companies such as IBM, Microsoft, KPMG, Accenture, Deloitte and PwC.
- 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 have an interest in the decline of the Bell Curve. I have long held the view that for most large organizations, across large pools of people, with differing performance levels, it was self-explanatory that it worked. The challenge lies in the fact that organizations want the math to work at a team level of perhaps 10 people, along the lines I mentioned in answer to the interview’s second question.
This produces skewed results in two ways: generating good performance from average (or lower), and not recognizing great performance where four outstanding performance sources are on the same team. Sound logic, poor execution.
- Which are the main challenges of Performance Management in practice, today?
The increase in automation will continue to remove more straightforward work (initially at least). This will cause the remaining roles to be more complex in nature. The more complex and diverse the role, the more challenging to see ‘what good looks like’.
- What should be improved in the use of Performance Management tools and processes?
The ability to aggregate output in a meaningful way to demonstrate the contribution of individuals. Even data that is only materially correct is still more powerful to base performance conversations around than ‘gut feel and observations’. Data is not the answer, but it provides a framework for constructive conversations and comparisons.
- What would you consider as a best practice in Performance Management?
Best practice PM is light in administration, great at recognizing ‘real’ performance, and realistic regarding the impact of factors which lie outside of the individual’s control.
People providing discretionary efforts and good results aligned to organizational goals and values are rewarded and retained. Those who are not are provided the support to improve. If this is not successful, they need an opportunity to find a more suitable pursuit, even if it means changing organizations.
- Which aspects of Performance Management should be emphasized during educational programs?
The need for PM systems to be fit for purpose, to encourage organizational goals to be met whilst treating staff with respect. People will do what the PM system rewards, not what you ask them to do and not what you think they should do. Set PM systems up with this in mind!
- What are the limits that prevent practitioners from achieving higher levels of proficiency in Performance Management?
Historical views of what ‘good’ looks like. This is despite evidence that for many organizations, traditional PM systems have become an industry of deadline-driven, form-filling exercises that have little to do with what needs to be done.
Enough process to be useful, and no more!
- What is your opinion on the emerging trend of measuring performance outside working hours?
It seems most things can now be turned into ‘points’ or other measures and people care about them. Think FitBit, SnapChat and Candy Crush Saga and many more. Does it add value, will they sustain interest?
I personally think these will have a relatively short shelf life, but the people being attracted to counting performance in different ways will continue for many generations to come.
- What personal performance measurement tools do you use?
I use Office365 Outlook for capacity management, to do lists for what I need to achieve, Word and Excel templates to record goals and objectives. I am currently experimenting with a host of Apps that help make all of this easier!
Specialization Specific Question
- Consultant Point of View: What are the processes and tools you look at, in order to differentiate a successful performance management system, from a superficial one?
We look for the organizational linkage and context to determine what is important. We want departments and teams to know what role they play and how to effectively and efficiently deliver customer outcomes.
Then we want the individual to:
- have the opportunity to develop the rights skills, which change over time
- be provided with enough work and challenge to keep them gainfully occupied
- identify where the person ‘does not want to be here’ and help them find a way to change that attitude or move on. Life is too short for both that person and their teammates!
With all of the above working as intended, differentiate to reward and encourage discretionary efforts and excellent achievement!
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