“There’s no way to get better at something you only hear about once a year.” — Daniel Pink
The annual performance review is dead. Yet, companies are still trying to figure out what is the right answer to approach performance management.
We had the opportunity to discuss and brainstorm on this topic with an incredible panel of 4 experts with different perspectives to performance management:
· Jack Altman, CEO, and Founder of Lattice
· Joel Constable, Director of Talent Development at Intuit
· Russ Powell, Founder of Peregrine Performance Group
· Laura Maish, Chief Performance Officer at Beaconforce
During the event, we discussed the questions: Is there a right way to do performance management? How can I make a performance management implementation successful? How can I measure the success of a performance management system?
There is no right answer to all of these. However, there are a few elements that can help us understand what performance management is about, in order to start thinking of ways to implement it.
1. There is no right way
“There’s no single best way to do performance management. It will depend on your goals as well as your company stage, size, and culture.” — Joel Constable
Joel started off the discussion by stating that there is no right way, there is no right answer to the questions previously stated. There are many “good practices” on performance management out there but if your strategy is to replicate those in your company you are off to the wrong start.
Every company is different, in a different stage, with a different size and culture. Joel went from working on performance management at Google to Pinterest and now joined Intuit and his main learning has been that there is no “one size fits all” method.
“Implementing a performance management process is all about tradeoffs, and making the right ones for your company.” — Jack Altman
Jack also talked about this, mentioning that performance management is about trade-offs and which are the ones each company is ready to make. Trying new things and getting constant feedback from employees and managers is a more successful and impactful approach than looking for the perfect way.
2. Clear expectations are key
The implementation of a new performance management system is not only a significant event for HR, but it’s also very important for a company’s employees and managers. Like any change management initiative, the key to a successful adoption is transmitting a clear message about its purpose.
The way management approaches the implementation of any new initiative will define the success of it. This is true especially for performance management, because it affects employees directly as it will track their performance in some way or another.
“ The success of a new performance management system lies in the attitude with which we approach it. If you approach it with humbleness and forgiveness instead of forcing it, people will be more open to it.” — Jack Altman
Additionally, the need for clear expectations is aligned to what employees also seek in their jobs. One of the drivers for intrinsic motivation in the workplace is clear goals. Therefore, it is not surprising that this element can have a strong impact on the adoption of a new initiative.
“When looking for SMEs, we were going to the managers. Then we realized they were not the right people to talk to. The right people are the ones in the field, the employees.” — Russ Powell
3. Drivers of success
“Helping employees understand their responsibilities may seem like “management 101,” but employees need more than a written job description to fully grasp their role.”
Clarity of what is expected is crucial. It’s impossible for an employee to know how he or she is doing or to understand how improvements can be made if the standards of good performance have not been made clear. Therefore, managers have the power to support employees in the adoption of a new system. A fancy interface for goal setting will ultimately not have any impact on performance without the support and follow up from management.
The importance of this element was not only reinforced by our speakers but also from attendees. One of our attendees shared his experience on the implementation of a new system on continuous feedback from an employee perspective. Even if the concept behind the new system was innovative and considered as a best practice, it didn’t work. It even had to be changed back, creating confusion and frustration. One of the reasons for its failure was the lack of transparency and clarity during the implementation.
Trust will create the foundation with which new initiatives will be built on. It will also open the door to communication and feedback, increasing the chances of the implementation’s success. Additionally, it’s also one of the drivers of performance. Laura shared how performance management has changed alongside the new generation of employee needs. Today, performance management is driven by autonomy and not by control anymore.
“In the past, performance management was always about control. The new generation of employees is not driven by control, it’s driven by autonomy and trust.” — Laura Maish
In conclusion, it is clear that performance management is an ever-changing topic. The secret is that there is no right answer, and it is a journey each company will have to take to find their unique approach.
It is also not a one-sided effort: managers, as well as employees, should be involved in the process to get their commitment and feedback. Launching a system for successful performance management not only requires clear goals, but it also needs a willingness for transparency and openness from management.