From one-way criticism to two-way conversations

Natalie King explains the benefits of continuous performance management.

Many companies still have a traditional approach to the appraisal process, and for many managers it is perceived as a box-ticking exercise for the HR department. Paper forms make the process arduous and time consuming and the review itself is retrospective bringing its own challenges – past accomplishments are diminished over time and fresher, more recent events take priority.

The entire process can be seen as destructive; its backwards-facing nature makes it challenging for managers to have positive conversations with employees struggling with performance. Managers don’t have the feedback to understand why an employee struggled with a particular objective and what support and coaching is needed.

An annual appraisal has the potential to be detrimental to a manager’s working relationship and may be demotivating to the employee. It’s easy for a busy manager to pass over employee successes and forget to give praise when due.

To further compound the issue, the entire appraisal looks backwards, compressing a years’ worth of performance into hours rather than looking forward to the year ahead.

A new performance management model

Leading companies such as Google, Deloitte and Microsoft, realised that the traditional annual review process wasn’t working. They sought out a new way to improve performance and were early adopters of a continuous performance management approach. 

Continuous performance management is based on a model of shorter term objectives, check-ins and regular feedback driving meaningful conversations between employees and managers. With this new model in place these business leaders have driven a huge cultural change and significantly improved performance.

They have inspired other companies to replicate their success, and as such, the continuous performance management model is gaining increasing momentum and is being adopted in all sizes of business.

New performance management tools

At the heart of this new model are online tools which facilitate the ‘continuous approach’, with all progress, achievements and feedback tracked throughout the year. With more regular performance-related conversations had between managers and their team, a culture of trust and openness is created.

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These two-way conversations allows both parties to review performance in real time, whilst being able to visually see, on screen, an overview of all achievements – and struggles – throughout the year.

We make a living by what we get

Winston Churchill once said, ‘We make a living by what we get’. However, employees are looking for more than just to scrape by and make a living. Employees are looking for motivation, self-improvement and to enjoy more responsibility.

The modern approach to performance management gives employees exactly that, with accountability and visibility of their contribution towards the success of an organisation.

A continuous performance management approach gives employees more short-term, achievable objectives which contribute to a wider team or organisational goal. With an online performance management tool, employees can track their progress and stay focused on their objectives, even if other work-related priorities come in.

Employees also clearly understand what is expected from them, how their performance is measured, and how they are personally contributing to a wider organisational goal.

Progress and proactive management

Online performance management tools give employees the ability to consistently assess and report back on their performance to their managers. Employees can voice their achievements or struggles directly to their manager prompting meaningful conversations to either praise, or review and adjust objectives accordingly.

Studies have shown that monitoring progress towards objectives is highly motivational, and helps employees to keep on track.

By making conversations on performance an integral part of regular one-to-one meetings with line managers, employees are kept informed of their progress towards targets and managers can offer support and coaching if required.

This creates a better working relationship and a more proactive management style, ensuring that employees get the support they need to consistently achieve high performance.

We make a life by what we give

Line managers are crucial in reinforcing the links between organisational and individual objectives. However, the traditional approach to performance management is a lengthy process and managers’ find themselves spending more time on administration than meaningful conversations.

Managers should be able to provide frank, yet supportive, conversations and ongoing feedback in order to aid their team’s individual development – these conversations can be hindered by a lack of awareness of progress, as this can be difficult to track without a system in place.

An online performance management tool records all progress, giving managers complete visibility of team and individual performance. Whether it’s a weekly catch up, a quarterly review or end of year appraisal the managers can see everything which allows for an objective discussion instead of focusing on recent issues or isolated events.

It is this greater visibility, highlighting both the achievements and stumbles that help to facilitate a continuous model to better support the employee’s progress.

A forum for feedback

Online systems provide a forum for feedback and structured points for discussion or objectives. This minimises writing or typing during the conversation itself, allowing managers to focus on having a positive conversation and support the employee.

Any action points following the discussion can be recorded in the software providing transparency for both employee and line manager over what was discussed and agreed as well as an audit trail of the interaction.

The approach minimises preparation from both sides, which detracts from the conversation. Furthermore, it reduces the administrative workload of managers; with minimal preparation time required and easily accessible snapshots of performance from their team, managers are more willing to use an online performance management system, endorsing its use within their team.

Going forwards…

Continuous performance management drives benefit to businesses in multiple areas. Employees become more engaged as they know what is expected of them and performance improves with clear and realistic objectives.

The working culture is also greatly improved, relationships between managers and employees become more open and transparent, and both parties work together to achieve success. With clarity of the top performers it becomes easier to determine who is eligible for pay rises, promotions and performance related bonuses, making sure your top performers are rewarded and retained.

To find out more on how the culture of performance management processes have changed in recent years, please click here.


About the author

Natalie King is content creator and marketing executive at Kallidus. For further information, visit Kallidus or follow @Kallidus on Twitter.


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