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Employee Performance Management. The dawn of a new era



Performance management, and especially performance management at individual level is a hot topic, debated by HR professionals, managers, employees, academics, researchers and practitioners alike. In the past almost 50 years, ever since it started being formally implemented, both the process itself and the name used to describe it have gone through numerous changes. So what is in store for performance management?

Nowadays, there are a lot of aspects that raise discussions and debates. Is it still necessary? How should we name it? Why do we do it? Do the results really matter in the end, or is it just paperwork, and a reason for some HR functions to exist? Does it help to reach the end results desired by the company?

One the one hand, if you ask an employee, he will tell you that performance management is, in fact, the same with his yearly performance appraisal. Why not admit it, this can be a frightening situation – you are judged based on something you have done a long time ago, and your improvements are sometimes taken into account, but this is not something you can be sure about because, no matter how many forms are completed, it still remains a subjective discussion. And everyone is interested in the merit increase: you know that is not the best time to ask for a raise, but what better moment could you find?

On the other hand, if you ask a line manager, it represents a tone of paperwork, sometimes with little relevance. If you are a good leader, you don’t wait for this moment to give feedback, you do it as many times as it is necessary. If you feel that talking to your subordinates, coaching, developing them, helping them grown is not a priority, then performance management is about past, not future. And it might not be your favorite process either.

HR complains that they do not see people engaged in the process, or taking accountability for their actions. Top managers complain that what happens on the shop floor is not linked to what they need to achieve.

So, given the situation, what can we do?

  1. Should the label (the name) be different?

All throughout my experience, I’ve come across names like Talent Management, Performance Enhancement, Performance Environment, Performance Enablement or Leadership Excellence.

Even when keeping in mind the famous Shakespearean quote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet”, let’s face it: labels do matter, as they can change some perspectives. However, if the approach is not changed, is just in vain. Personally, I like Talent Management, as we start with attracting the right talent for the company, and then move to providing the right framework to perform. All in all, we are oriented towards the future, both the individuals’ and the company’s growth.

  1. Should the process be changed?

In my opinion YES, it should. Performance management is about accountability and visibility, it is about lining the past (past performance) to the future (development of each employee). The process should exist, we should not eliminate it. But the radical change should take place in the leadership style – focus more on constant feedback, 1-1 meetings, coaching and developing of necessary skills, so the employees can perform in the allocated role. The process should be transparent and quick, it should be about aligning the business objectives to the important work that needs to be done, to the skills and individual talent, but also to the aspirations each one has. All in the context of the company’s culture and its mature leadership style, which sustains performance achievements. Otherwise, it does not matter how it is called – it will only bring frustrations.

Important corporations, with large number of employees, have started changing and adapting to the requirements of the new generations of employees, the general business challenges and the context. Soon, others will follow, either by the power of example or forced by internal needs. Forced rankings, tons of paperwork and huge delays in feedback are soon to be over. This is the reason why, as I consider, we are witnessing the dawn of a new era regarding performance management.

Oana Florea. Head of Talent Development. The KPI Institute

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