Managing Performance on the Daily

Regular feedback and mentoring beat traditional performance approachPerformance Management is one of those topics that is both holy grail, and third rail. A high-performance organization that hums with productivity, motivation, and ongoing learning – what leader doesn’t want that? But how are we supposed to get there, if everyone is telling us performance reviews are hopeless, and we should toss formal performance management altogether?

At the end of the day, managing performance is the real work of all organizations. If your leaders and managers aren’t spending every day, all day, working to get the best out of their team – individually and collectively – what are they doing with their time? And I’ll let you in on a secret. Executives hate the annual performance review too. Leaders want to spend time building great teams, not building great review processes. A point-in-time snapshot of performance is useful information, but it’s not the real work of managing performance – it’s just the once-a-year paperwork.

So, what’s a leader to do?

I’ll point you back to a line from my first blog in this series:

The employer/employee relationship – once viewed as a transactional relationship – first evolved into “engagement,” and is now giving way to “experience.” 

Leaders need to move from viewing performance management as a transaction, and even beyond looking at it as a conversation, to making it the core of the employee experience. To get there, organizations need to focus on alignment, and supporting managers with tools and skills to enable this ongoing experience. Recent Aptitude research found just over half – 53% – of organizations say that their managers conduct annual performance reviews, and only 42% cite the use of informal feedback and coaching, and 43% indicate that their employees have visibility into leadership priorities.

It’s not just about the frequency of feedback and coaching. It’s also understanding how to make that feedback and coaching effective. Just over a third (38%) of organizations say that their managers get training on giving effective feedback. This is a potentially huge missed opportunity. Organizations that are supporting their managers in this transition from traditional performance management to experience-oriented performance management see differentiated results in several critical areas. According to the study data, these organizations are 57% more likely to indicate that they have above average levels of productivity (66% vs. 42%). And organizations that help managers learn the skills of feedback are 36% more likely to indicate they had improved their employee experience over the past year (64% vs. 47%).

Performance is not an annual occurrence so why is managing it?

Managers are the intersection between leadership and front-line employees, so supporting them with the right skills is an essential component of success. When managers are trained in these critical skills, there’s more likely to be alignment around performance expectations as well. It’s important for leaders to keep the focus on the experience that drives alignment and productivity, not the paperwork. Because, in the immortal words of one of my favorite coaches:

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company  work, a society work, a civilization work. ~ Vince Lombardi

Mollie Lombardi, Co-Founder, Aptitude Research Partners

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