Five tips to unlock employee engagement

As performance management evolves from an isolated HR-driven process to an intrinsic part of everyday business, Nina Mehta-Vania gives her five top tips on how organisations can increase employee engagement. 

The workplace is a fast-moving and sometimes unpredictable place. Increasingly, organisations based in one country comprising mainly full-time employees are transforming into agile multinationals using mobile technology to underpin flexible working and compete for talent.

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Against this complex backdrop, performance management is evolving from an isolated HR-driven process to an intrinsic part of everyday business.

This focus is driving a shift in performance management back to its roots – alignment and maximum productivity. In book, The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce, the authors note that in order to achieve maximum productivity, organizations must achieve maximum engagement. Yet research from the Brandon Hall Group reveals that performance management is commonly inconsistent and ineffective, and too often employees and managers view the annual performance evaluation as a negative experience.

The reason is because in many organisations, the annual performance review is a backwards looking, one-time event where employees discuss their performance. Not to mention, annual reviews typically bring on a heavy administrative burden that doesn’t yield any significant return from a talent management or business perspective.

Organisations that find a way to support employee contribution and satisfaction naturally during the day-to-day workflow, rather than as part of the annual approach to performance management, will be most successful.

Here are five performance management essentials organisations can implement to support employee performance and engagement on an ongoing basis:

  1. Set personalised goals for each individual that clearly define desired behaviours – and explain how these support organisational objectives. Each employee should know what success looks like for him or her.


  1. Establish a culture of ongoing performance management. Employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged, according to Gallup research. Timely conversations about employee performance also provide a better opportunity for learning, as well as offer the opportunity to monitor progress on assignments, proactively monitor workload, and have conversations about personal and professional growth.


  1. Engage employees with their own development. Move away from top-down goal setting, where the manager sets goals for the employee.  Aim to create a process where employees and managers collaboratively set goals, and create learning and development pathways. The key is for both parties to understand how to align personal goals and career development that support the broader organisational strategy. This understanding will help employees establish the connection between their day-to-day work and big picture objectives, and how their work contributes to success.


  1. Provide tools to simplify ongoing performance management to keep it engaging. Modern talent management platforms provide managers and employees a central view of performance and development activities, provide structure to coaching and feedback conversations, and help document and localise materials related to employee performance and development. Organisations should also look to predefine tailored feedback and coaching tips that managers can insert into a discussion about employee, to speed up the writing process and improve the quality and consistency of feedback.


  1. Focus on leadership and developing managers. Gallup researchers found that up to 70 per cent of employee engagement is impacted by the employee-manager relationship.  Effective leadership is not about command and control – instead it is more about effective coaching and mentoring and providing a culture of accountability and trust. Conversations should be two-way and managers should be prepared to receive feedback on their performance whenever they are giving out feedback. Managers can also contribute to learning and development by providing assignments that stretch an individual as well as building on their strengths.


People remain an organisation’s biggest expense and give organisations their greatest competitive advantage. Unlocking the connection between employee contribution and satisfaction is the key to engagement.

Maximising the value of ongoing performance management, driven by meaningful conversations, is at the heart of this. Many organisations are moving in the right direction, automating their appraisal processes and integrating them to some extent within a talent management solution. However too often performance management remains a one-off annual step.

Looking ahead into 2017, the challenge will be to transform performance management into a meaningful ongoing process that is central to bridging the gap between employee satisfaction and contribution, ultimately impacting your employee engagement efforts.

The traditional annual appraisal process is outdated in a world where effective ongoing performance management can drive performance and respond to changing organisational goals as often as needed. At the same time, a modern performance management process provides continuous opportunities to connect with employees and make sure that they are engaged and feel supported in their work.


About the author

Nina Mehta-Vania is a Talent Management Consultant for Halogen Software



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