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HR Pros on Performance Management

By Ben Eubanks | 3-min read

What’s the right way to manage employee performance? What approach leads to the best results? HR professionals have strong opinions about performance management – ask HR leaders to comment on the subject, and the debate begins. We saw that clearly in our recent #SparkConvo Twitter Chat, held a few weeks ago. During the discussion, I used my background in HR analysis and honed in on our recent IDG performance study by asking a handful of questions around informal performance management processes, including topics such as: 

  • Why the average employee doesn’t fully understand how their company rates performance 
  • Why there is a perception of unfairness within the performance management process 
  • What is the impact, if any, of life stages or generations on worker satisfaction with informal performance management systems

Beyond those specifics, though, the participants provided some powerful takeaways ranging from how to “fix” these issues to the integral part communication plays in creating a successful performance management approach. Below we’ll explore three of the key learning points the chat had to offer. 

1. Consistency is Critical

Employers that want to set themselves up for informal performance management success must ensure that managers check in with their employees consistently. Continuing to approach performance management like a once-a-year activity is a great way to diminish trust and hamper relationship building with employees. As Tamara points out in her comment, this can drastically change how employees perceive performance-related feedback.

2. Focus on Performance, Not the Rating

In recent years, Harvard Business Review and other publications have highlighted stories about firms that are doing away with ratings systems. Why? Because they focus too much on assessing past performance – and not enough on encouraging future performance. Once that foundation of trust and future investment has been established, employees understand that their leaders want them to perform well, and an informal approach to performance management is designed to encourage that performance and career growth. 

As Randal points out in his comments, there’s nothing wrong with knowing who is performing and who isn’t: That knowledge is critical for business operations. But Randal draws the line for his HR practice at pinning a number on individuals that may not reflect their true value to the organization. 

3. Age Doesn’t Matter: We All Need to Perform

One of the most pressing questions I wanted to ask was around generations: Essentially, does age make a difference in how someone desires to be managed? As Joe points out in his comments below, the need for feedback, recognition, and career growth isn’t limited to a 20-something employee in their first job. These are core needs that workers of all ages, functions, and levels desire. 

If your firm has an informal performance management system or you’re considering one, the ideas captured here can help to ensure success. First, build a foundation of trust and respect with your workforce, then look for ways to focus on growth and accomplishments, not just past performance. Finally, remember that this applies to all of your workers, not just those starting out on a new career path. 

If this sounds like a conversation you would have liked to participate in, feel free to respond to the comments embedded here or search our Twitter chat hashtag #sparkconvo to see the entire discussion. Plus, we would love to have you join us for our next Twitter chat! Make sure you’re subscribed to the blog for updates – we’ll let you know when it’s time for the next live discussion of a hot HR topic.