BSBMGT502 MANAGE PEOPLE PERFORMANCE
LEARNER GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK
This Learner Guide supports the unit BSBMGT502 Manage people performance.
This unit describes the skills and knowledge required to manage the performance of staff who report to them directly. Development of key result areas and key performance indicators and standards, coupled with regular and timely coaching and feedback, provide the basis for performance management.
It applies to individuals who manage people. It covers work allocation and the methods to review performance, reward excellence and provide feedback where there is a need for improvement.
The unit makes the link between performance management and performance development, and reinforces both functions as a key requirement for effective managers.
No licensing, legislative or certification requirements apply to this unit at the time of publication.
At the end of the unit you will be able to:
1 Allocate work
2 Assess performance
3 Provide feedback
4 Manage follow up
Before you begin
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Allocate work 2
Assess performance 2
Provide feedback 2
Manage follow up 2
Consult relevant groups and individuals on work to be allocated and resources available
Managing performance requires us to reconcile caring for and developing our people with ensuring that departmental and organisational aims are achieved. Managing performance requires us to strike a balance between compassion and accountability.
Good modern managers strive to balance these two areas according to the situations in which performance needs managing. This involves judging each different situation on merit and deciding a course of action and management style that is right for the situation.
For instance, we need to be caring and compassionate if, for example, an employee needs help and encouragement to get through difficulties or challenges. On the other hand we need to focus on accountability responsibility where, for example, matters of health and safety or essential processes or policies are concerned.
Being able to assess situations and adapt our management response is vital to managing people. If we manage people well, we manage performance well too.
It’s important to recognise a fundamental fact: that everyone is capable of exceptional effort, productivity, output, and performance. There is actually no such thing as a person who is in themselves a ‘poor performer’. Where people fail to perform in any respect it is generally because of poor management or a flawed organisation.
Understanding this – that everyone is potentially a great performer – is a key to being a great manager of people and performance. Recognising and accepting this principle helps us to focus on helping people to find positive solutions, rather than focusing blame, criticism and recrimination, the traditional resorts of old-style autocratic or incompetent management and organisations.
Sumantra Ghoshal (1948-2004), the humanist management writer and academic, who believed that management should be above all else a force for good, got it right when he said:
“A very different philosophy of management is arising. We are moving beyond strategy to purpose; beyond structure to process, and beyond systems to people…. Asshole management is not inevitable.”
Performance management is about people. It’s not about systems or processes or rules or computer systems. It’s about people.
Getting the best out of people is not rocket science – it’s mostly about helping people to do a great job.
A big part of what people need from their managers is a clear understanding of what is expected – in other words – explanation and clarification and agreement of performance expectations.
A second big part of what people need from their managers is help in meeting these standards and expectations – which logically requires the manager to first find out what help they need, because it’s different for everyone, and if you don’t ask then you won’t know. So why guess? Ask people what they need.
A huge proportion of performance problems can be traced back simply to a failure to explain and agree expectations and/or a failure to understand and provide the help that the person needs. These are the responsibilities of the manager – not the employee. Don’t assume everything is understood and perfectly within people’s capabilities. Instead, take time to explain, check and ask until everyone concerned is happy and sure of what needs doing, why, and how.
Expectations need explaining and agreeing for all aspects of the employee’s responsibility and performance – from the most basic standards, to the most open-ended freedoms – yes even freedom is an ‘expectation’ that must be explained, understood and agreed.
Different aspects of performance, and different tasks and responsibilities, of course need treating in different ways, as do people according to their different levels of experience, knowledge, capability, capacity and confidence.
Usually the aspects of performance that place the biggest demands on managers, and create the biggest challenges and problems, are those areas concerned with a ‘failure’ to perform to a certain standard or target or other requirement. Performance above standard rarely creates a management headache. It makes sense therefore to look first at managing performance at the level of basic standards and responsibilities.
And just a quick note about performance appraisals and where they fit into performance management: Attending to below-standard performance needs to be handled at the time – do not wait to spring it on people several months later at the dreaded performance appraisal. Make sure you never allow a situation to develop where one of your people could turn round to you and say, “I wish you’d told me at the time – if I’d known about it then I’d have sorted it out…”
Many people need to know how that are doing every day – ask them what will help them most. Most people need feedback at least once a week. A few can get by with feedback once a month, but even for seriously capable high-level strategic people this is a starvation diet. Be mindful – performance management more than just a once a year process – it’s a continuous activity.
It’s your first day on the job. You’ve been given a new department, with all new employees and you’ve got to get it to work. What are you going to do?
In this situation, many managers would run around like a chicken with its head cut off, amusing and annoying their workers and peers, but not really accomplishing anything. Let’s be real here. Before you get the whip out and try and drive your workers to run faster than a speeding bullet and leap over tall buildings in a single bound, you really need to take some time to find out what’s going on. You need a plan, but before you can create a plan, you need to know what is going on.
There are actually two parts of gathering the information you need to accomplish, before you can even think about putting a plan together:
Let’s start with the first question; what work needs to be done. Typically, you’ll be given some idea of what work needs to be done; but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be given the whole picture. Your boss will expect you to have the ability to figure out for yourself what needs to be done. That doesn’t mean that he won’t answer questions, just that he’ll be waiting for you to ask them. He doesn’t want to withhold information from you, nor does he want to make your job harder, he just expects you to do the job.
Okay, so where do you find the questions to ask? Let’s start with your customers. Every department in every organization has customers. I’m not referring to the ultimate customer, who buys your company’s products or services; I’m referring to internal customers; those other departments who need something from your department, so that they can do their job.
Each department has a number of customers. In most cases, a quick informal analysis of the company’s structure and relationships between the various departments will show you who they are. If you are the purchasing manager, your customers are those who utilize the products you purchase. If you are the engineering manager, purchasing and production are your customers. If you are the maintenance manager, everyone in the company is your customer. No matter who you are, you have internal customers.
Okay, now that you know who needs to receive the “product” of your department, go to them, and find out what they need from you. Be careful though, some will take this as an opportunity to try and sell you on their pet projects. Don’t be fooled. You shouldn’t take what they say as a hard and fast rule; remember, you’re seeking what questions to ask.
With that information, you can go back to your boss, and start asking the necessary questions to further refine the role of your department. You can continue to do this, even after many years of managing the same department. Remember, your ultimate customer is your boss.
Now that we know the work to be assigned, we need to look at resources. This is where it is extremely important to know your people. Take the time to learn about them; read their personnel files, any published pieces, look at previous work, find out what they say about themselves and what other say about them as well. You have to make your own decisions, but get as much information as possible, before making them.
Each individual will have certain “hard skills” and “soft skills” that you will need to learn how to exploit. Hard skills are things that are learned in school or through practical application. They include things like digital electronic design, cost accounting, technical writing and contract negotiation. Soft skills are those things that deal with how that person works. These can be things as varied as being a good team worker or working better alone; being detail-minded or a big-picture thinker; having a broad base of knowledge or being an expert in one area; taking the time to get every detail just right or being a fast worker, who gets the job done in a crunch, but needs to clean the details up later.
Both sets of skills are an important part of a person’s working ability. Just because someone is the best electrical engineer in the company, doesn’t mean they’re the person to work on a particular project. If that project needs to be done in a hurry, and they’re the detail type who takes forever to get the job done, you’re better off giving the project to another engineer, who may not be as good, but can get it done right now.
There’s one other set of skills is important to keep in the back of your mind. Those are the non-job-related skills that everyone brings to the job. Maybe you’re managing the purchasing department, and it turns out that one of your purchasing agents does photography as a hobby. Okay, so what; photography isn’t part of the job description, right? True, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll never need any pictures. Knowing that Fred is an amateur photographer may save your bacon sometime in the future. This non-job-related skill may prove extremely valuable when you need to take pictures of some special parts that you’re sending out for bid.
Responsibilities for performance
Everyone in our workplace has an important part to play in organisational performance. Good organisational performance is the result of high quality functioning by the individuals within it.
Chief Executives are responsible for managing their workforce. They should be committed to their agency’s performance management policy, procedures and systems, and clearly demonstrate this commitment.
Line Managers are responsible for guiding and managing the performance of employees, both as individuals and as a team. Managers need to set performance objectives, provide feedback, appraise performance, guide development and ensure employees are rewarded for good performance.
Employees are responsible for their performance and their participation in performance management, both formal and informal.
When developing policies on performance management, succinct, principles-based documents are best. The more layered and bureaucratic a policy is, the more difficult it will be to follow and apply and may create unnecessary difficulties for managers. Rather than attempting to define every possible scenario, effective policies are principle based tools, to be followed so far as is reasonably possible in given circumstances, and can be supplemented by specialist advice as required.
Anyone who has employees will be familiar with performance management in one form or another, whether they realise it or not. Performance management is the process of managing the performance of your employees against a series of defined goals and behaviours. It can take place on a formal level (the annual review) and an informal basis (day-to-day feedback and suggestions).
Performance management is a necessary part of working with your managers. For your staff to work at their most effective, they need:
Like a sporting team, it is important that each employee understands the exact part they play in the final result, and is coached to be able to carry out their job as effectively as possible.
As well as helping employees work more effectively for your business, individual team members can benefit greatly from constructive performance management. Rewarding and acknowledging staff members for their efforts and achievements can lead to improved staff morale, greater company loyalty, and reduced staff turnover.
Employers who provide feedback and areas for improvement can help employees develop and learn new skills that can be useful in their career development. This can also increase staff retention and employee satisfaction. If done well, performance management can have many benefits for both the organisation and employees. Done badly it can lead to disputes, conflict, reduced staff morale, legal issues and high staff turnover.
What is performance management?
Performance management is simply a term used to describe a set of activities that assess whether goals or objectives are being met. These activities include defining work, setting goals, providing feedback and encouraging development. Performance management is about shared responsibility and understanding of roles, expectations and standards.
Every day, we all ask ourselves:
These questions can apply to the day’s work, or to the planning of the work for the next week, month or year.
A manager’s job is to decide whether an employee’s achievements match what was expected. It is also the manager’s task to connect the employee’s work to organisational objectives (that is, provide role clarity).
Your organisation may have formal performance management systems that require an annual appraisal or review. While these formal elements of performance management are important, the more critical aspects of managing an individual’s performance are daily interactions and feedback. Performance that is not actively managed is nonetheless influenced by default. Failure to provide feedback means employees are unaware of whether their performance is acceptable and valued and can be a major disincentive to stay with the organisation.
Furthermore, failure to manage negative performance can have harmful consequences on the morale of the rest of the work team.
A performance review is usually a structured meeting where an employee’s performance over a given time period is assessed and future developmental needs are planned. The review should build on the informal performance management process that has been undertaken daily. The main purpose is for both the manager and the employee to gain an overview, in the form of a retrospective summary of performance and a prospective look towards the employee’s ongoing performance and development.
The performance review is usually part of an organisational performance management system. It provides for consistency of practice across an organisation.
Both feedback on, and development of performance are essential ingredients of managing performance. By fulfilling their duty to improve performance as part of their everyday work, managers increase the quality of employee work outputs and engagement.
As a manager, you are critical to the success of the organisation. Not only do you assist staff in understanding their role within the organisation, assist them in their development, and monitor their work to ensure it is satisfactory, but you also create organisation culture.
The saying that ‘people join organisations but leave managers’ has been verified by a number of recent studies. It is performance management-related activities that influence how much effort employees put into their work, as well as their attitudes and commitment to an organisation. Good managers produce high-quality, effective workers who are engaged with their work and want to remain in the organisation.
Managing performance is a key part of the ongoing communication process between you and your staff.
It has to happen every day in order to:
More broadly, managers must also take responsibility for the following elements.
Ensuring person-job ‘fit’
Carefully match people to positions. Employees who are good at their work and enjoy it are better performers.
Maintaining a positive relationship between the employee and the organisation
Manage perceptions of the organisation and senior employees by explaining organisational vision and strategy and the actions of decision makers; encourage innovation; ensure employees understand the benefits of working in the organisation; and
emphasise its positive features.
Ensuring employees understand their ‘fit’ within the organisation
Create an understanding of how an employee’s work helps the organisation to achieve its goals, and help them feel that you and the organisation value them.
Encouraging a culture of performance
Promote open ‘two-way’ communication with employees; be flexible and support employees when something doesn’t go to plan for no fault of their own;
and encourage innovation.
Helping to build networks amongst talented employees
Allow employees to work together and share areas of expertise, creating job-focused networks that help meet work objectives. New skills and ideas and higher ambitions and goals increase employee engagement.
Demonstrating commitment to employee development
Helping employees to achieve their future career goals is important. Talk about career plans and help develop knowledge and skills in their current position that might be useful for future job opportunities.
Performance management activities influence how much effort employees put into their work, and also their attitudes and commitment to the organisation. Good managers are associated with high-quality, effective employees who are engaged with their work and want to remain in the organisation.
When do I manage performance?
The short answer is: every day! Performance management is a process not an event. While it may appear simplistic, the day-to-day communication process about what needs to be done and feedback on how well it is being done is often overlooked. Many managers are not aware that they are not providing sufficient feedback and guidance.
In addition to informal everyday interactions, managers will participate in their agency’s formal performance reviews. These are usually held at regular intervals during the year. The key to effective formal performance reviews is a ‘no surprises’ approach, which is why day-to-day feedback is so critical.
Whether formal or informal, performance management is based on three important principles:
When being done effectively, formal and informal processes are mutually supportive.
How do I manage performance?
When a manager provides employees with clear expectations, feedback and problem solving, not only is employee performance enhanced, but there is also a positive influence on the employee’s attitude to, and relationship with the organisation.
The Corporate Leadership Council (2005) (CLC) analysed data from over 90,000 employees in 135 organisations around the world. The research showed that managerial behaviours have a disproportionate impact on employee performance and retention and hence on the organisation’s success. CLC found that there are key people management strategies, which managers can use that are most effective for encouraging high performance and retaining good workers. Those that relate to the first role of a manager (that is, enabling daily performance) include three basic and critical steps. In fact, if a manager did nothing else to manage their employees, this alone would have enormous impact on organisational productivity and employee performance and retention.
Consulting with Staff
Staff will provide valuable insights into what strategies will and won’t work in the workplace, and what they believe will make a difference to their health. In addition, by engaging them early you will create a feeling of ownership which will assist with participation rates.
Collecting the information – who, how and what
Before you begin to consult with staff, you’ll need to consider three things: who to consult with, how to collect the information, and what to ask staff.
To begin with, it’s important to determine who you wish to consult with: the workforce as a whole or a specific group within your working population. Staff from different areas of your organisation may require different strategies to get them engaged, or assist them in achieving healthy behaviour changes. For example, what works for your office workers, might not work for your warehouse staff, and vice versa.
The next thing you will need to determine is how you will consult with staff and collect this information. It is important to ensure that your method of collecting information is suited to your workforce and produces the information you require. Many workplaces choose to assess health issues and behaviours through an online staff survey. However, this method may result in a low response rate and not accurately represent your whole workforce as:
When selecting your methods for consultation, consider strategies to engage workers that are typically harder to reach. Offering healthy incentives for staff to participate in consultation might result in better response rates. Whatever the consultation method, timely and accurate feedback is crucial. People want to know that their opinions are valued and that action is being taken.
Some common and useful consultation methods:
Finally, you need to identify what you will ask your staff. Effective consultation should cover:
Team Leaders need to allocate roles to team members in such a way that the roles are coordinated to achieve the team’s goals and that team members take responsibility for their individual roles. Allocating appropriate roles and coordinating these roles can lead to increased morale and motivation.
Allocating Roles to Team Members:
There are a number of factors that Team Leaders need to consider when allocating roles to ensure that the team is effectively meeting its goals. Team Leaders need to ensure that team members:
• Understand their roles
• Understand the roles of their team mates
• Understand how the roles interrelate in the achievement of the team’s goals
• Have authority to coordinate activities with team mates
Understand Their Roles
In order to be effective in their assigned roles, team members clearly need to understand their role and the expectations of the role. If the expectations are unclear then the team member may inadvertently underachieve thus jeopardising the successful achievement of the team goals.
Understand the Roles of Team Mates
Understanding the roles of team mates helps ensure that team members concentrate on their own responsibilities and that their actions do not impinge on their team mates functions. Team members need to understand the challenges and basic functions of other roles so that they can support and complement their team mates.
Understand How the Roles Interrelate in the Achievement of Team Goals
As team members take ownership of the team’s goals it is important that they understand how the different roles of each team member interrelates. Knowing that each role is contributing towards the achievement of team goals encourages team members to play their part and take responsibility for their work. Understanding how the team operates increases the sense of belonging to a team and a belief that the whole team is moving in the same direction.
Have Authority to Coordinate Activities with team mates
It is important that team mates have the authority to coordinate their activities with team mates. This helps ensure that obstacles can be effectively dealt with by the team and that opportunities for improvements to the work process can be capitalised upon.
Allocating Tasks to Team Members:
One method for allocating the appropriate type of tasks to team members is Responsibility Charting. Responsibility Charting involves identifying who is best suited to dealing with a situation or issue in a certain way by identifying four roles that individuals adopt in relation to a decision. These four roles are:
• Information provider
• Decision maker
• Knowledge recipient
For example, one team member may be given the role of identifying and providing information about a problem or issue. Another team member, who has past experience may be consulted on appropriate options. The Team Leader may be required to select an option and make it happen and a senior manager may need to be informed of the decision (receive the knowledge).
Note that more than one person may take on each role. In the above example fellow team members may have to be informed of the decision.
By consulting with team members it is possible for individuals to indicate the role they feel they should play in any particular decision. This helps encourage team members to adopt the roles they feel most comfortable with. This in turn helps ensure that individuals are encouraged to take responsibility for their roles.
However, on some occasions it is important that the Team Leader encourages team members to take on roles that they are less inclined to select for themselves as this aids the development of the individual and helps ensure that the team as a whole is strengthened.
Benchmarks and timelines are the checks and balances that help the team and individuals in the team to know how they’re going. Appropriate timelines and benchmarks will help to prevent the need for crisis management.
Setting agreed benchmarks
Benchmarking simply means setting a standard for performance. By setting benchmarks, you let team members know exactly what is expected of them.
Setting benchmarks requires finding out the most efficient way to achieve a quality outcome. Many organisations set their benchmarks by what their competitors are doing and try to equal or better their competitors’ performance. However, it is also possible to benchmark against enterprises that are not competitors but have similar tasks and functions.
You need to be realistic in setting timelines. This includes making allowances for part-time and casual staff and allowing for emergencies such as equipment failure and staff illness or unavailability.
There are many tools available to help with developing timelines. These range from simple, paper-based tools such as diaries, planners and calendars to electronic products, which combine these functions in an integrated way, or offer other functions. These products include messaging and collaboration software, such as Microsoft Outlook, and planning software, such as Microsoft Project and MindManager.
Develop work plans in accordance with operational plans
There is a hierarchy in the planning process. Before creating actual work plans, it is important to have an operational plan. For the operational plan to be created, you need a strategic plan. Strategic plans are created by your organisation’s board of directors. Operational plans are normally created by your organization’s upper management (although you may have to create your own). Work plans are created by individual department managers.
You should receive the operational plan from your direct manager. It will not only include the operational plan for your department, but for everything that is under the supervision of that manager. So, if you are the manufacturing engineering manager, the manufacturing vice-president will be your direct supervisor. He will have created an operational plan, with objectives and milestones, to complete what the board of directors has agreed on as a strategic plan for the company.
From that and the work assignments that you know need to be done, you will need to create the work plan. This plan details out the scope, direction and purpose of what your department needs to accomplish in order to fulfill your responsibilities under the operational plan.
At this point, the work isn’t divided down to individuals or even individual tasks. All you are doing is determining what your department as an entity has to get done.
Be cautious here; many managers have made the mistake of losing site of the operational plan, and becoming side tracked by irrelevancies. There are always a million things to distract you from what needs to be done. Some of these are legitimate and others aren’t. Part of what you are being paid to do is to recognize the difference between the two.
Just because some other manager can yell a lot, doesn’t mean that what he wants done is important. It may be important to him, but it may not help you accomplish your departmental goals or be in agreement with the operational plan.
As part of your work plan, you need to develop realistic milestones and a realistic schedule for completion. I say realistic because it’s very easy to create a beautiful looking plan, that can’t be done. Why can’t it be done? Because it doesn’t take into account all the variables that can make it impossible to complete the plan. Be sure to consider the following:
You can’t account for every possible contingency, but you shouldn’t discount them either. Some extra time must be built into any work plan or schedule to account for whatever. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to explain why you didn’t get the job done.
What should a Performance Improvement Plan include?
Common issues in Performance Management
Unfortunately, many employees view Performance Management as a negative rather than as a positive learning opportunity. Some common complaints you may hear are:
Your responsibilities as a Manager
As a manager it is important you follow a robust process that will help avoid any nasty industrial issues. Make sure you can tick off the following when conducting performance management.
A generally accepted statistic is that leaders spend around 70% of their time dealing with the bottom 30% of their team, on items such as coaching, re-directing, even fixing their work.
This is all dead time and money. Now imagine you could spend that same 70% of time developing, coaching and rewarding your top 30% performers. Can you see the immediate benefits? The sad thing is that your high performers are normally the ones who are a) neglected by their managers and b) responsible for picking up the slack left by the poor performers. It’s time for you to make a shift. Make a change for the better – get your poor or average performers up to scratch or out of your business because these people are holding you back.
Allocate work in a way that is efficient, cost effective and outcome focussed
Your key parameter in making allocating work (making work assignments) is efficiency. You have a limited number of resources (the people working for you) and what may seem like an unlimited amount of work to be completed. As you allocate work, you must be thinking of:
While all of these are important, the greatest importance must be laid on outcome. Yes, we want to be efficient and cost effective, but ultimately the job needs to get done. There are times when efficiency and cost effectiveness need to go out the window, in order to get the job done.
Back in my engineering days, we had an order for some customized transit buses. The order carried stiff penalties for not getting the buses delivered and into service by a specified date. Because of the penalties and some guarantees that upper management made to the customer (who was a large customer) I ended up shipping the buses before they were completed. Then I flew a small crew to the customer’s city to finish the work. The customer would use the buses during the day, and my crew would work on them at night.
Sending that crew to work on the buses at the customer’s facility wasn’t efficient or cost effective, but it had to be done. We had to stay outcome focused. The result was that the customer was so satisfied with our extra effort, that we received several other orders from the same company.
That was a crunch situation. To make it happen, we had to focus on outcome, and ignore efficiency and cost effectiveness. That shouldn’t be the “normal” way that anyone operates. You always want to be as efficient and cost effective as possible, while still accomplishing your goals.
Ultimately, lack of efficiency and lack of cost effectiveness can send any company into bankruptcy. Income always needs to be greater than outgo. If everyone ignores efficiency and cost effectiveness, it doesn’t take long for the outgo to overcome the income. Part of the job of every employee, and especially every manager, is to keep costs down and efficiency up.
One of the problems in allocating work for efficiency and cost effectiveness is that it’s easy to overload the most efficient worker in your department, while avoiding giving work to the mediocre worker. Not only is that fundamentally unfair, it can ruin that star employee. They can become so overwhelmed with work, that they burn out.
To prevent this, prioritize which parts of the workload need the greatest efficiency. Those are the things that need to be allocated to that high efficiency worker. That way, they can stay efficient. Other tasks, even though they might be more efficiently accomplished by your star employee, will have to be allocated to other workers.
To ensure the best performance out of your team members, it is essential that you always explain to them why they are doing the tasks that you are assigning them. Granted, in some vague way, we can say that every task is to benefit the company; but that’s not concrete enough for most people. The more that they can feel that their work is going to truly accomplish something for the benefit of the company, the more easily they can be motivated. The worst thing for employee motivation is to feel that their work doesn’t matter to the company.
Confirm performance standards, Code of Conduct and work outputs with relevant teams and individuals
Set clear performance expectations
Guiding the way people go about their work is based on the belief that doing things correctly will lead to quality outputs. Clearly defining the actions and behaviours needed to perform the duties of a role is often as important as defining the required output.
Performance expectations should be SPECIFIC and ACHIEVABLE, and should focus on the OBSERVABLE.
Specific means being precise. For example, it is more useful to say, “I would like you to greet customers with a smile and friendly ‘hello’” than to say “I want you to provide good customer service”. By being specific about observable behaviour, managers will find it easier to effectively communicate with employees about standards and expectations. For example, “Kerry I noticed you came in 30 minutes after our team meeting started; was there a reason is more effective and beneficial than “Kerry you were late again, you should be on time”.
Achievable means that the employee can objectively achieve the expected outcomes within the limitations of their abilities and available resources and timeframes.
Observable means it is a behaviour that can be measured. For example, to say that someone was aggressive is vague in meaning and assumes you know what was intended by the behaviour. If you say, “when you shouted…” the employee knows exactly what you are discussing; similarly, when you refrain from inferring intent you avoid getting it wrong, for example, the person may reply “I was not aggressive; I raised my voice because the customer was hearing impaired”.
Are you familiar with people who, over their whole career, remain oblivious of characteristics of their work style that hold them back – and everyone except them knows what needs to be remedied? This is often the result of a lack of constructive feedback. Don’t deny your employees the opportunity to improve and progress in their careers by withholding information they need to be able to do so.
It is important to identify the reasons for a decline in an employee’s performance. A variety of issues of which you are not aware may lead to diminished employee performance. Work in partnership with the employee to develop clear strategies that they can adopt to improve their performance. Make sure they leave with a clear understanding of what they need to do to improve their performance and how you will work with them to help them do so.
If day-to-day communication includes effective feedback, then the manager need not be apprehensive about giving negative feedback at the annual performance review, and the employee need not fear any unpleasant surprises. In effective organisations, formal meetings confirm knowledge already shared during informal discussions. Feedback can then be used to further develop capability and to form plans for role and career development.
Certain expectations of performance are mandatory standards that are (or should be) effectively written into employment contracts, or at least referred to in appropriate operational procedures. Such expectations and standards form part of the ‘psychological contract’ that exists between employer and employee. Other less firm responsibilities and activities (for instance optional developmental opportunities) of course often also form a part of the ‘psychological contract’, but basic standards and job requirements are generally non-negotiable.
You must know what these things are, and you must have a clear commitment from your people that these are ‘given’s, because we’ve all got better things to do than fart around sorting out stuff that one might expect to come across in the primary school playground, but not at grown-up work.
In other words, management is challenging enough without having to spend time on things that form part of people’s basic contract and published standards for doing the job. By implication, this aspect of performance should manage itself.
So, what if performance needs managing in this area?
If performance falls short in this area you must revisit the ‘psychological contract’ and probably the actual employment contract too, so as to clarify basic and non-negotiable expectations as quickly and simply as possible.
But be compassionate and caring. Be creative about the way you handle below-standard performance. Non-negotiable does not mean ruthless or uncaring. Be sensitive. Be firm but be fair.
1. Are the performance standards agreed and written down?
If not, ensure they are and go through the process of reaffirming them, otherwise you’ll be building on sand. If necessary seek input from the department responsible for employment contracts (usually HR), or if the standards in question are contained within an operations procedure or manual, refer to the department which owns that responsibility, for example health and safety, or quality.
2. Are the standards and expectations understood properly?
Explain them and seek confirmation of understanding and agreement. ‘Understanding’ extends beyond the written word or description of the standard – it is a matter of checking people’s interpretation – what it means to them. Check that their interpretation meets the expectation or standard in practice and application and spirit.
3. Are the standards agreed?
If not this is effectively a matter of discipline, and you should begin the disciplinary process because you’ve got a problem here with the basic ‘contract’ between employee and employer, and you should immediately inform whatever senior people need to know this. Disagreement in this area amounts to defiance and rejection of the ‘contract’ between employer and employee and needs dealing with firmly and clearly, in accordance with disciplinary processes laid down by the employer, which must be within applicable employment law. This all assumes that the standards concerned do actually form part of the employee’s formal ‘contract’. If not then the manager and if necessary representative from HR department must revisit, redefine and agree the ‘contract’ with the employee to find out whether the issue is a matter of discipline or education or re-negotiation – so watch out for these situations. Warning signs are for instance when an employee says, “No-one ever told me I had to do this,” or “Show me where it says that I can’t do (X, Y Z..)”. Sometimes people are genuinely under false impressions and simply need pointing to the appropriate written standard somewhere. Other times people can be testing the system. And at worst people can be actually rebelling. The manager’s responsibility is to identify the root reason that’s causing the person to ignore or flout the standards, and then to deal with it appropriately.
4. Are the standards agreed, but there’s some other reason why they are not being met?
Where there’s no confusion about the standard or expectation that is not being met you must sit down with the person and ask them what’s happening that’s making it difficult for them to meet the standards. And then go from there. You must judge the situation on merit and with sensitivity and if necessary seek input from an appropriate person in the HR department, who will be better able to advise as regards professional counselling, or any other support the employee needs in order to resolve the difficulties. It’s generally a matter for HR also to decide on any special arrangements or dispensations, mindful of the circumstances. The duty of the line manager in these situations is generally to identify what the problem is, whether the person wants to resolve it, and to facilitate help or a solution. Managing performance that is below ‘contracted’ standard starts with identifying the actual root cause, so as to be able to take appropriate action, firmly, professionally, creatively and compassionately.
The better a job that you can do to convey your expectations and the company’s expectations to your work force, the greater a chance you have of avoiding problems. All too often, assumptions are made as to the quantity and quality of work that is expected from individual workers. The manager assumes that the worker knows what is expected of them, and the worker assumes that the manager is satisfied with their level of work. Due to a simple lack of communication, the work isn’t done in a satisfactory manner, tempers flare, and workplace problems arise.
Any job has performance standards, whether they are written or not. Even if there are written performance standards, it is possible that the “normal expected level of performance” is different than what is written in the standard; possibly because the needs have changed, but the standard was never rewritten.
As a manager, it is your responsibility to insure that your workers understand the performance standard to which you are holding them. This performance standard must clearly state the level of performance you expect from them, both a qualitatively and quantitatively. Without stating both, one employee might seek to do “perfect” quality work, thinking that is what you want, but not getting enough of it done. Another might try and get as much done as possible, but at an unacceptable quality level.
Many companies post signs in their work areas saying things like, “Our Goal: 0% Defects!” That’s great as far as it goes, but it’s not conveying the right message to the workforce. Anyone can improve their quality, just be slowing down. So, you’ll have better quality products, but you won’t have enough of them to pay the bills. Better to say, “Our Goal: 1000 units per day, with 0% defects!”
Another factor in communicating expectations to your team members is to explain the company’s Code of Conduct to them. A Code of Conduct is the set of rules relating to employee behavior and conduct with other employees and customers. This code can be written as a part of the company’s policies, decreed by upper management, or established through time as a part of the corporate culture. Regardless, your department will be evaluated in part by how well your department members follow this Code of Conduct.
As a manager, you need to monitor your team members’ performance, as related to the performance standards and code of conduct, on a constant basis. As much as possible, you want to monitor this in accordance with some sort of measurable standards. This will help you avoid any type of favoritism or unfair treatment of employees.
Be sure to keep ongoing records of employee’s performance. These records will provide you with the necessary data to complete accurate reviews at performance review time. It will also help you make decisions on future work allocation.
If you find that a team member isn’t working up to standard, you, as a manager, need to determine why. It may be that the team member doesn’t understand the standard, doesn’t have everything they need to accomplish the work, doesn’t have the necessary skills and knowledge, or that they are in the midst of personal problems which are impeding their work ability. Regardless of the reason, you need to know about it and apply corrective action.
Develop and agree performance indicators with relevant staff prior to commencement of work
Performance – tasks, projects and development of opportunities
Now we come to the more forward-looking aspects of performance:
How well the work is done – by individuals and by teams; the quality of service above and beyond minimum expectations; the reaction to challenge and opportunity. Great performance in these areas is managed and achieved by involving the individuals and the team in contributing as much as they can towards:
The rules of delegation and meetings and motivation provide a lot of the processes and methods for doing these things.
When working with your people as individuals or in teams you must take into account the following (for ‘task’, read also ‘project’, ‘opportunity’, ‘initiative’, etc):
You get the idea – where you do not know any of the above – and in many cases you will not even have a clue – you must ask people. And where you need to seek clarification or evidence of competence or experience, then do so – it’s all part of creating clearly understood expectations and freedom and support required.
At all times you are balancing – and helping your people to balance:
If you involve people and teams in arriving at this balance, and agreeing your own level of involvement (which will vary for each task and project) then this will help you to manage performance more effectively.
Essential within this process is:
To provide the above for repeating tasks you should produce or use a standard procedure or standing protocol – rather than keep reinventing the wheel. Operations manuals would normally contain a lot of this, but in this fast-changing world, lots of content in operations manuals is out of date, and lots of standard instructions are in need of changing, so ensure all operational protocols and standing methods are checked and updated accordingly.
Everybody likes to feel some ownership in what they are doing. This sense of ownership can give the impetus to go the extra mile, getting the seemingly impossible done on time and under budget. To have that sense of ownership, it is essential that they feel that they are a part of the decision making process.
While it is much easier to dictate performance requirements to employees, that doesn’t mean that they will be accomplished. Just like anything else, employees like to feel some ownership in the performance criterion that they are rated on. While you probably will not have the authority to change company policy, you can do something about the performance indicators that you are using to determine the employee’s quality and quantity of your employees work.
Performance indicators are the measures against which performance outcomes are gauged. In some cases, the performance indicators that are in place may not provide for an accurate indication of employee’s performance.
Let’s say that you are a manufacturing supervisor, in charge of a group of technicians who perform final test and calibration of some sort of electromechanical device. Since your department is part of production, quantity is a major factor in determining employee performance. But, what if you have an employee who works extremely fast, but their work needs to be redone after Quality Control checks it? Is quantity alone an accurate indicator of their performance? Obviously not.
In this case, other technicians would feel it was unfair, if you were to give that one employee high marks at performance review time, just because of how fast they work. This would be even worse if the other technicians had to fix what Speedy Gonzalez wasn’t doing right.
In a case like that, it would be beneficial to sit down with all the technicians, and develop performance indicators which balanced quantity with quality and other statistics. That would provide a much more even handed evaluation of employee performance. Your workforce would be happier and more likely to accept the performance reviews that you passed out.
Whether you determine the performance indicators or do it in conjunction with your staff, they must be decided upon and communicated to your workforce before the work is initiated. Insure that they are communicated to everyone who is affected by them; never trust one employee to convey this type of information to another. A simple misunderstanding in these cases can have dire consequences in a worker’s performance.
Changes to performance indicators will always make employees feel as if you are seeking a way to treat them unfairly, even if your goal is to make it easier to recognize their excellence. For this reason, changes to performance indicators must be undertaken with extreme care. If you find it necessary to make such a change, try to involve the people affected in the decision process as much as possible. Be sure to communicate the reasons behind the proposed change, and if possible show them where it will be a benefit to them. The more advance notice you can provide, the better it will be accepted.
Conduct risk analysis in accordance with the organisational risk management plan and legal requirements
Everything in life or in business involves risk. Regardless of what you are doing, there is always a possibility of something going wrong. A key employee could have a car wreck on the way to make a presentation; the parts you ordered could be made backwards; an alien space ship could land on your desk, destroying three months of work.
Granted, the risk of an alien space ship landing on your desk is extremely slim; but that doesn’t change the fact that all activity in life has risks associated with it. While some companies treat “risk analysis” as a one-time event, the reality is that it should be an ongoing process. Every project that a company undertakes and every task that is assigned to someone within the company has some risk associated with it; large or small, it’s still there.
Risk assessment deals with two basic things:
So, as I said, the likelihood of that alien space ship landing on your desk is pretty darn low. But, the likelihood of someone in your team being sick and not able to meet a deadline is pretty high. In fact, the closer you get to the deadline, the higher it seems to get.
Some negative events are regional, such as inclement weather causing a shutdown of a facility. There are parts of the world where the likelihood of snow causing a shutdown is right up there with the alien space ship. There are other parts of the world where you can pretty much take it to the bank that two or three days a year, the facility will have to shut down due to snow. Other negative events are industry specific, such as the lack of availability of a raw material or part that is in common usage. Even others are specific to your business.
Risks assessment is normally done with a matrix. One side of the matrix will deal with likelihood and the other with severity of consequences. Individual risks are placed in the appropriate box on the matrix, to coincide with their likelihood and severity of consequences.
The grater the possibility and the more severe the consequences, the greater a need there is for you to develop a contingency plan to mitigate the damage caused by those negative events. Failure to develop a contingency plan could spell disaster for whatever projects are affected by that negative event. Ultimately, it is possible that failure to develop contingency plans could cause the demise of your company.
Contingency plans are the plans for what you will do, should that negative event happen. They can be simple or complicated, depending upon the need; however, the best contingency plans are usually simple ones. The loss of a key designer can be mitigated by having another designer on your team, who is ready to take over, should something happen to the principal. The risk of the alien space ship landing on your desk and destroying your project can be mitigated by having another copy of the project, stored in an alternate location.
To properly assess the performance of any workforce requires some sort of system by which they are assessed. In some companies, this system is provided by the Human Resources department. However, in many cases, this system needs to be created or modified by individual managers.
Regardless of what the rest of your company is doing, you need some sort of system by which you are able to determine your employees’ performance against measurable criterion. Those criterions have to be something that makes sense, given your department’s goals and objectives. They also have to make sense for that person’s particular job. Finally, they have to be something that is not affected by opinion, either your or anyone else’s.
In the city bus manufacturing plant that I worked in as a manufacturing engineer, my boss proposed a system for performance management, where he was rating the engineers based upon complaints from the supervisors on the production floor. Since he was one of the world’s champions at CYA, all he cared about was avoiding complaints. The problem was, 90 percent of those complaints had to do with problems that came out of design engineering. So, he was trying to rate the manufacturing engineers on how well another department did their job.
Fortunately, we were able to squash that system real quick. A few of us went to him and told him what we thought of it, explaining why his system was unfair. He saw the logic of our arguments and went back to the old system.
It is essential that you have a system that is relevant and fair to your employees. Anything less will squash employee morale and initiative. If people don’t think that they will receive something for going the extra mile, they won’t bother going an extra inch.
Refer to Activity Booklet and complete Activity 1-6
Design performance management and review processes to ensure consistency with organisational objectives and policies
Regular formal performance reviews are part of any effective performance management strategy. A performance review is a meeting where an employee sits with their manager, and they discuss the employee’s performance against a set of objectives.
Objectives are a set of achievable goals developed in correlation with an employee’s position description. Opportunities are provided for employees to discuss any concerns they may have concerning their role, and to set new objectives for the future. A good performance review can have some extremely positive outcomes for your business, so it is worth taking the time to create a performance management strategy, and implement it.
Here are some of the outcomes you can expect to see from a well-executed performance review:
Although it might be tempting to delay conducting performance reviews, particularly when busy, taking the time to meet with your staff and discuss their progress on a regular basis can benefit not just you and them, but it can also have a positive, long-term effect on your entire business.
Things to Consider When Planning a Performance Review
Although performance reviews may seem like a fairly straightforward process, there are a few things that you should consider before you start the review process. One of the most important considerations is the timing of the review.
End of Financial Year
A very common time to conduct performance reviews. This timing allows for reviews to be linked with budgets and bonus schemes. However for some businesses, this time of year is a peak period. If that is the case, it would be better to find an alternative period such as the end of May.
End of Calendar Year
Conducting reviews at the end of the calendar year may also work well from a timing perspective. However, staff may be winding down for the year, preparing for holidays and may not be in the right frame of mind to receive feedback or act on it. If that is the case for your business, perhaps late November is a better option.
Consistency is also critical. Having all business units and managers following the same cycle and system will ensure that all employees are measured in a consistent manner.
Some companies even choose to include 360 degree feedback from peers, clients and other managers to provide a more rounded view of performance. If this is the case, additional time may be required to collect information from all the sources so this should be factored into the planning process.
The key goal is to schedule performance reviews so that the process is thorough and all parties can be fully engaged.
Conducting the Performance Review
When delivering feedback, always remember to be respectful, yet direct. Talking around an issue, or being vague about a problem, will not help your employees improve in the future. For the best results, be as specific and clear as possible when providing feedback, particularly on areas for improvement and performance issues. If staff members don’t understand exactly what it is you are expecting of them, it will be extremely difficult for them to improve to meet your expectations.
It is also worth noting that a performance review should be a summary of events for the entire year, not just the past few weeks or months. There also should not be any new information in an end of year performance review. Regular feedback throughout the year can help avoid this happening.
How to Conduct an Effective Performance Review
Performance management does not just have to mean a formal, sit down review. However, if you are conducting formal performance reviews there are a few things you can do to help make sure everything goes smoothly and the outcome is as beneficial as possible for both you and your employee.
Here are some suggestions to help increase the effectiveness of your formal performance reviews. Regular feedback throughout the year can help avoid this happening.
As part of the preparation process, many businesses ask the employee to complete a self-assessment and return it to their manager prior to the performance review.
A self-assessment should ask for feedback on how the employee performed against the agreed goals and KPIs and may also include a section on how the employee rates themselves against company values and behaviours. This allows you to note any discrepancies or potential areas of conflict and gather additional examples and evidence to help support the feedback you plan on giving.
If done appropriately, negative feedback can be a valuable tool for your employees’ personal and professional growth, and can lead to performance improvements that benefit the entire company.
A performance management system is the process or set of processes for establishing a shared understanding of what an individual or group is to achieve, and managing individuals in a way which increases the probability that it will be achieved. Both short-term and long-term goals must be included in this system, taking into account the necessity of professional development in order to fulfill those goals. Relevant industrial agreements must be taken into account in creating any performance management system.
The problem with any performance management system created by a Human Resources department is that it will be based upon the largest population of workers in the company. Take a manufacturing company, for example. If Human Resources develops a performance management system, it will be based upon the workers on the production line. While that may work great for them, it doesn’t work well for engineering or other departments populated by professionals.
When determining the factors that will be used in your performance management and review processes, you must keep several things in mind:
• What is your organisation’s policy?
• What are your departmental objectives?
• What are the most important results you are looking for from your employees?
• How often are you going to review their performance?
• What data is available to you? Is that data relevant?
• How can you make sure that your system can’t be manipulated by employees who are only trying to get good “grades” and not accomplish the departmental objectives?
• What are industry norms for that job?
• What are company norms for that job?
It is typical to develop a weighted system of evaluation, where the most important criterion receives more “points” in the evaluation. For a factory worker, this would be quality and quantity. Other factors, such as job knowledge, while important, aren’t as important, so they wouldn’t be weighted as heavily.
As part of the creation of your performance management and review process, make sure that you document the entire process, leaving nothing out. This will help ensure fairness, but it will also make it possible for others to use your system. Without a well written procedure, other will need to be individually trained, which is a very expensive use of your time. Additionally, a written process insures continuity in the event that something happen to you.
Train participants in the performance management and review process
People are always afraid of the unknown. If fact, they are so afraid of the unknown, that many would rather face a truly dangerous situation, than have to face an unknown. As crazy as that sounds, it’s true.
If you keep your performance management and review process a secret, you will only succeed in creating fear amongst your employees. It won’t be a positive fear, either; where it motivates them to strive harder. Instead, it will be the kind of fear that keeps them talking between themselves, wondering about the “new system” instead of working productively.
As soon as your performance management and review process is approved and ready for use, be sure to train all participants in it. This includes both the reviewers and those that will be reviewed. The reviewers will obviously need to know how the system works. Those that will be reviewed under the system need to know how they will be reviewed.
This can actually work to your benefit. If your system puts priority on the most important factors in a particular job, then conveying the details of the system to the work force also conveys to them what you want them to concentrate on in their daily work. Let’s go back to our manufacturing example for a moment. If you’ve made quality and quantity the most important things in the evaluation, telling that to the production workers sends a clear message; produce high quality work, and lots of it.
Since their performance review and ultimately any pay raises are linked together through the performance management system, they will have good reason to concentrate on providing both quantity and quality in their work.
On the other hand, if your system is vague, or doesn’t place emphasis on the most important elements of an employee’s work, you might send them the wrong message. Let’s say that the emphasis was on professional knowledge, instead of quality and quantity. The production worker who sees that might decide that the best way to get a good raise is to become certified on as many production tasks as possible. Since certified usually just means a minimum level of ability, without having developed the speed of the normal worker, they might allow their productivity to drop, in order to receive the prize for professional knowledge.
Turn Performance Management into an opportunity for Performance Coaching
Most managers have performance conversations with their staff far too infrequently, this results in these conversations often being focused around managing poor performance or pay reviews. Staff end up dreading performance management conversations and become disengaged in the process.
To turn performance management into performance coaching:
Conduct performance management in accordance with organisational protocols and time lines
Identifying development needs
A performance assessment process should identify an employee’s work capabilities, including areas that require development. Managers should consider the following:
The next decision is to decide on the priorities and timeframes for development.
Developing high performance
Development is most effective when it meets an individual’s needs and career aspirations as well the employer’s requirements. Planning for development considers:
Developmental planning simultaneously communicates to employees that management is committed to their success, while promoting engagement to the work and commitment to the organisation.
Skills development, like feedback, is an ongoing process. It can include on-the-job training, mentoring and formal education. Usually development is reviewed at the formal performance review. Ideally, this involves forward-looking discussions between managers and employees about developing skills and knowledge in order to allow the employee to perform better in the current role and to facilitate future career development in the desired direction.
Rewards and recognition
Financial rewards are largely not appropriate in the public sector, but rewards such as development and career opportunities are highly valued. Non-tangible rewards, such as recognition, can have an immense impact on employee performance and retention.
The most powerful recognition is informal spoken feedback about performance. If this is incorporated into career planning, it becomes associated with rewards.
In addition to acknowledging and encouraging good performance wherever possible, managers should also recognise and support effort and improvement.
Companies vary in their frequency of formal performance evaluations, although most do it either once or twice per year. Before proceeding, it is important for you to find out what your company’s policy is on that. You don’t want to be perceived as unfair, for reviewing too often or not often enough.
You always want to complete employee reviews in a timely manner. Not only is this a company requirement in most cases, but failure to do so sends a very strong negative message to your team members. Even being one day late in completing a performance review can say “You’re not important.” That’s a message that’s hard to erase and can destroy months of work to try and build up that employee’s motivation.
When you created the performance management system, I recommended that you also write a process for using it. Even though you created it, you should still review that document, before beginning any performance management evaluations. None of us have a perfect memory, so we all need something to remind us of how to use systems, even our own systems.
As much as possible, you want to be calm, friendly and professional when you sit down with an employee to discuss their performance. You should never let your personal emotions, especially negative personal emotions, come out in the review. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if employees that you are reviewing express negative personal emotions. A performance review is a very personal confrontation, especially when it is less than positive. Many will take it as a personal attack on their value as a person. If both of you are emotional, the situation can easily get out of hand; with harsh language and even violence a possibility. You need to remain calm, so that you can calm them down.
Everyone has good points and bad points. The way you present the evaluation can have a lot to do with how it is received by the employee. If you are all negative, then they will receive it as such. On the other hand, if you can “sandwich” the negative comments between positive ones, you can reduce the negative impact. Plan your session out in advance, especially in those cases where you need to provide negative feedback. At a minimum, you want to start and end by focusing on something positive about the person.
Don’t be surprised if your employees disagree with your evaluation. Almost everyone thinks that they are better than they really are. That’s because they tend to see their own positive points and ignore the negative ones. When those negative points are a priority for you, there’s going to be a difference of opinion.
Take punctuality for example; let’s say that you’re the sales manager for the company, and you have to evaluate your field sales force. If they work by appointment, punctuality is an important character trait. Showing up to appointments late could be costing sales. So, in Employee X’s performance evaluation, you downgrade them for their lack of punctuality. They will most likely respond by talking about something entirely different, that’s a strong point for them. Their lack of punctuality isn’t an issue to them; so they feel that you are putting undue emphasis on it.
Listen to what they have to say. If they are right, tell them so. That doesn’t mean that you have to change your opinion or your priorities; it’s just being polite. It might not hurt to be reminded of their strong points anyway, especially if you’ve forgotten them.
Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. At the same time, they have to learn that it’s the boss’ opinion that matters. No matter how good they think they are, even if they think that they should have your job; you’re the one with “manager” on your office door, not them. That means that you’re the one with the responsibility and the authority as well. You have to look out for the company’s best interests.
Never let anything negative leave the office or conference room where you’re holding the review. When the two of you leave there, it should look to everyone as if you hadn’t been discussing anything more important than the weather. You never want to say anything negative about an employee in front of other employees. That is belittling and will destroy their morale. If the employee wants to tell their co-workers all the bad things you said about them in private, that’s their choice. You should never do it.
Monitor and evaluate performance on a continuous basis
Effective performance evaluation is a useful tool for employees to get a clear understanding of their manager’s views about their work. Performance appraisal/assessment analyses work for its timeliness and quality and uses this information to make adjustments to future work, in order to remain ‘on track’.
The key task for managers in assessing performance is to provide the employee with clear information about how effectively they are performing their duties and role.
The difference between ordinary feedback and formal appraisal is that assessment or appraisal is usually made against some benchmark level.
“You answer the phone promptly” is feedback. “Your phone answering was competent because you met the benchmark of answering the phone within six rings 90% of the time” is assessment.
Having a structure in place to guide performance related conversations with employees can assist managers to get to know employees better and is likely to improve the trust and respect employees have as a result of feeling more valued and appreciated.
Typical topics addressed in performance-related conversations include:
Employees should also be encouraged to regularly evaluate their own performance. Self-assessment gives managers an informed starting point for discussion and allows them to be aware of an employee’s perception of their own performance.
Another way to make appraisal more valid – and hence more acceptable to the manager and the employee – is to use multiple sources of feedback.
The more sources of feedback, the more robust the evidence about performance. For example, 360-degree feedback consists of data gathered from a manager, peers and employees and can also include customers and other stakeholders.
It is preferable for performance assessment to be a two-way conversation in which employees rate their managers, particularly with respect to their perception of the level of managerial support they have received. This approach can foster a cooperative, action-based and solution-focused discussion. When managers seek feedback on how to be better managers they can improve their performance as well as that of their employees.
Choose the right performance appraisal method for your employee evaluation
Depending on the size and type of business you have, there may be various methods you can utilize for your appraisals. Whether you chose self-assessment, critical incidents, management by objectives or 360 degree feedback there are advantages and disadvantages to each method.
As the name suggests, this technique entails your employee writing a review on their strengths and weaknesses around performance and potential to form a base for performance conversations with a manager
CI is based around the evaluation of critical behaviours that separate effective from ineffective behaviour.
Graphic rating scale
With this technique the employee can be rated using a set of pre-determined performance indicators and typically specifies 5 factors and rates the candidate against these from poor to great.
Comparing the candidate’s performance with that of others in similar roles.
Management by objectives
This assessment method is popular in assessing managers and professional employees. MBO focuses on end goals and emphasises on result orientated outcomes and gives quantitative measures of performance.
360 degree feedback utilises feedback from supervisors, employee and co-workers. It is an effective evaluation technique for career coaching and identifying strengths/ weaknesses.
Below is a table that will help you in choosing your appraisal method:
If you wait for performance review time, to review your employees’ performance, you’re missing something. Yes, that’s the one time (or two times) a year that you evaluate them formally, but that shouldn’t be the only time you evaluate them. You should be evaluating and re-evaluating their performance on a constant basis. That way, when it comes time to give a performance review, you’ll already know what you’re going to say.
My wife used to be a public school teacher. The teachers would receive an annual performance evaluation by one of the school’s administrators. This was a formal performance review, based upon the administrator sitting through one of the teacher’s classes.
The review was pre-scheduled. The teacher got to choose which class period they would be observed in. The administrator would choose the date, and inform the teacher. Everything was pre-planned. In fact, I’d have to say it was more pre-planned than it was supposed to be. Many of the teachers, knowing they were up for review, would prepare a special lesson, with short audio-visual presentations, interactive activities with the students, and a rapid-fire, engaging lesson plan. It was their best performance of the year. Not only that, but some would bribe the students to be on their best behaviour with candy or pizza.
Was that an accurate evaluation of their performance? Maybe it was as an actor, but not as a teacher. It wasn’t based on an “average” day (whatever that is); it was based upon a pre-planned act. How ridiculous!
For an evaluation to be accurate, it must be based upon an average of the good days and the bad ones. People’s performance will vary from day to day, week to week and even month to month. By constantly re-evaluating their performance, you’ll be able to watch for upwards and downwards trends. Personal problems, conflict with other employees or health problems can affect an employee’s performance. When you see that, you need to get to the bottom of the problem, and see if the individual needs some help. If it is affecting their performance on the job, it is your concern.
The day of “when you walk through that door, leave your problems behind” is behind us. While that attitude existed for many a year, modern management has come to realize that a person’s personal life will affect their work life. Trying to pretend that a personal life doesn’t exist doesn’t help anything. All it does is insure that the person doesn’t get any help.
Many companies provide limited psychological counselling as part of their health package. If that’s the case in your company, you’ve got a great tool for that person who is struggling with their personal life. As a concerned boss, you can push them towards taking advantage of that service.
Performance criterion, performance standards, and performance indicators don’t mean anything if you’re not assessing performance. You can be assured, unless you take invisibility pills on a regular basis, your employees will know whether or not you are assessing their performance, how often you are assessing it and how thoroughly you are doing so. They might even know that if you do take the invisibility pills.
Assessing performance is about logically analyzing performance, in accordance to the criterion, standards and indicators that have been established. As much as possible, you want to be coldly analytical, not allowing personal likes and dislikes to enter into the picture. Any analysis where you allow yourself to be moved by your emotions towards the person is bound to be incorrect.
You may have been the victim of an unfair performance review at some time. I know I have. There’s been more than once where I was working two levels above my pay grade, or was clearly the top performer in my department (in both quality and quantity), that my performance review was downgraded by my superior, so that they could give a better raise to someone else that they felt they had to.
My college aged son worked for Starbucks for a couple of years. Even though he was just a barista, he was the most knowledgeable person in the shop and had largely trained the store manager. He had enough awards pinned on his apron to make me wonder why the fabric didn’t rip. Yet, when performance review and raise time came around, that same manager he had trained gave him the same pay raise as the people who were barely doing their jobs. She hadn’t wanted to seem “unfair” and sadden the weak, lame and lazy, so instead she gave her best employee reason to quit.
While everyone gets nervous about performance reviews, everyone also needs them. In fact, those same people who are nervous usually want to receive a performance review, so that they can know how well they are doing in their job.
As a manager, you are doing your people a disservice if they have to wait until performance review time to find out whether or not you are satisfied with their work. Going to the other extreme, and constantly complaining, belittling or “sniping” at them for their work is going to destroy their morale. You have to find a balance somewhere in between. That way, the performance review becomes a confirmation of what you’ve already told them, instead of a surprise.
Refer to Activity Booklet and complete Activity 7-10
Provide informal feedback to staff on a regular basis
Providing constructive feedback
Constructive feedback focuses attention on aspects of an employee’s performance that require improvement. However, the fact that an employee’s performance needs improvement does not mean that feedback need be negative or critical. Use the same approach and criteria as for positive feedback, and:
Where practical, it is also useful to combine constructive feedback with a discussion of an employee’s strengths. Constructive feedback improves performance if it is relayed positively and includes specific advice on performing the task better.
Not providing feedback for improving performance may seem kind, but it denies the employee the opportunity to improve.
If you only provide feedback to your staff once a year at your formal evaluations, you’re not going to see much change or growth in them. If the problem you mentioned in your last performance review didn’t make much of an impact on them, you won’t see any change, until after your next performance review.
While formal performance reviews are useful tools, people need feedback on a much more regular basis than that. Depending upon the individual, their level of expertise, their work habits and their self-confidence, they might need feedback on a weekly basis. For many, that may be the only “approval” that they receive in their life. Without it, they become unsure, despondent and depressed.
At the same time, providing regular informal feedback gives you a way to work with that employee, in order to bring about positive change in their work habits. Taking a moment now and then to make suggestions, give direction and even a pat on the back will do wonders to insure that they are going in the direction you want them to.
Remember, negative feedback should only be given in private. You never want to berate an employee in front of their peers. Even if they seem tough enough to handle it, your negative comments can be devastating. Likewise, never use sarcasm, witticism or other ways of trying to make light of the fault that you are pointing out to the person. Using those methods takes it out of the realm of professionalism, and turns it into nothing more than an insult.
On the other hand, positive feedback or recognition should never be given in private. Everyone craves recognition and approval. You should take every opportunity that you can to publicly applaud your team members.
I mentioned a city transit bus order earlier, where I had to send a team to the customer’s site, in order to finish working on his buses. It was a little more complicated than that. I also had to go there with the team, set up a work place for them, arrange suppliers for them and deal with a number of engineering issues in the design of the custom package. Essentially, design engineering had dropped the ball, and I had to save the company’s bacon.
When all was said and done, the customer sent a very nice letter of commendation for me to my boss. They were nice enough to send me a copy as well. My boss never mentioned it to me, either in private or in public. Finally, after a month, I mentioned it to him. His response was, “what’s the big deal, I put it in your file, you know about it.” That man knew nothing about motivating his people. Not only did he destroy my motivation, but he lost out on the opportunity to motivate the rest of the department.
Informal means informal. Don’t schedule meetings with your people to provide feedback. Don’t develop a system where you provide them with a “mini-review” every month, keep it informal. That means personal comments, one-on-one. Your goal is always to motivate them to accomplish the mission, which is best done by keeping in touch with them, showing you care, and maintaining open communications.
You may find that you are providing more feedback to one employee than another for a while. Then, after several months, your focus will be on another. This is normal. What’s happening is that you’re automatically shifting to where the greatest need it. That doesn’t mean that the person you’re focusing on is the worst one in your department; just that for that period of time, you are recognizing that they need some special attention. When the time is over, you seek out the next person.
Just be careful that this natural selection process doesn’t leave someone out in the cold. That person who you aren’t saying anything to may be doing everything just right. But if you don’t say so, they won’t know so. Make a point of saying something to everyone at least once a month.
Advise relevant people where there is poor performance and take necessary actions
Okay, now we’re getting into the part that’s not so fun. That doesn’t reduce its importance in any way, it just means that it isn’t necessarily fun. It’s always fun to be able to give someone a pat on the back, but when it’s necessary to do the opposite, the fun flies out the window.
Poor performance doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a poor employee. There are a number of reasons why somebody could be performing poorly, not all of which are under their control. Don’t assume that the employee is unsalvageable, assume the best.
Remember, your company has money invested in every worker you have. It is a better financial proposition for your company to invest more in the poor performer, so as to make them a good performer, than there is in replacing that poor performer.
Poor performance can be a result of:
When you talk to an employee about poor performance, you need to seek out the root of the problem. They’ll probably be ready to blame it on anything, just to get the monkey off their back. So, don’t just accept whatever they say; rather, approach the problem as an investigator, seeking to find the root issue that is causing their poor performance.
Basically, you’ll have to run your investigation through a process of elimination. Seek out the most likely cause and eliminate it. If the employee’s performance has improved, you’ve won. If not, go on to the next most likely cause. Continue like this, until you manage to eliminate the root cause. Don’t be surprised if you have to try several different things, before finding and eliminating the actual cause of the problem.
When you’re in this sort of process, it helps to think of yourself as a coach, more than a boss. Your job, just like the coach of a sports team, is to get the best possible performance out of your “players.” Some need one thing to help them perform better and others need something else. You need to work with each individual, seeking out what they need, to make them the best “player” possible.
As a coach, be positive. Honey still wins more flies than the other stuff. You’re not going to get most people to improve their performance by being negative towards them; you’re much more likely to get them to lower their performance. Likewise, the carrot is more effective than the stick. Threatening disciplinary action or termination isn’t going to motivate anyone. On the other hand, if you can prove to them that you’re concerned about them, and want them to be the best that they can be, they’re likely to respond.
Remember, your company has money invested in every worker you have. Recruiting costs, training costs, and the lower productivity that is a part of training have already been spent on that individual. It is a better financial proposition for your company to invest more in the poor performer, so as to make them a good performer, than there is in replacing that poor performer.
The Importance of Following Up after a Performance Review
Once the performance review itself is over, it is important to take a few follow up measures to keep the momentum going, and to make sure that any actions that have been discussed during the review are implemented effectively. It is important to remember that confidentiality must be taken seriously, and performance reviews should not be discussed with the employee’s peers.
At the end of the review, ensure you schedule in your next meeting, even if it is going to be a few months, or even a year away. Booking it in ahead of time means it is less likely to be overlooked or forgotten. You have then also set a date for your employee to achieve any of the objectives they have been given.
After the review has been completed, provide a summary to your employee. This offers both parties a record of any points that have been raised, and a clear account of what was discussed. Providing staff members with the summary holds both of you accountable, and can be useful to help avoid any misunderstandings or disputes.
If you have made any commitments to your employee, such as arranging further training, be sure to honour them, and do it in a timely manner. If you don’t follow through on your actions, how can you expect your employees to?
Provide on-the-job coaching when necessary to improve performance and to confirm excellence in performance
Help to solve everyday problems
Research undertaken by the CLC has found that ‘employees whose managers provide solutions to work problems put nearly 22 percent more effort into their job, are nearly 43 percent more committed to the organisation and feel 39 percent more closely matched with their jobs than do employees who have no manager assistance in solving day-to-day problems at work.
Enabling solutions is therefore a key management task. As a manager, you can help your employees by removing barriers; assisting them to get the information, resources or technology they need; breaking down projects; translating long-term goals; clearly communicating expectations and acting as a catalyst to get new initiatives going.
Believe it, or not; every person working in your department or in your company has the potential to be a star. Whether or not the ones working under your direction become stars has a lot to do with you. Even people who seem like “worthless” employees have this potential within them; there is something that they are excellent at. All it takes it bringing that potential to the outside.
I used to have a young man working for me on a part-time basis, helping me in my video production studio. I constantly had problems with him; not paying attention, playing on the computer when he should have been working and missing cues to switch between cameras. The only reason I put up with him, was that I couldn’t afford anyone better.
That young man was an airsoft buff (false combat using plastic BBs). He lived, breathed, ate and drank airsoft. He finally left me, in order to go to work at a local paint ball field. Now, he’s their star employee. The same guy that I couldn’t get to pay attention became a star. Why? He was interested in what he was doing.
It is easy to concentrate on the problem child in the department, spending all your time trying to bring his or her performance up to standard. While you are doing that, you may be ignoring the true potential that lies within your better employees. Oh, they might be working out all right, but they may not be living up to their potential. Nobody has bothered to draw it out of them, and they don’t know how to draw it out of themselves.
Some of the greatest leaders in the world are professional sports coaches and symphony conductors. These people strive to bring out the best in each and every person that they are coaching. While you may say that they are unsuccessful, I’d have to disagree with you. How many people do you know personally who are good enough to play on a professional team? The lowest ranking loser on a professional sports team is better than anyone you can find for your scratch team.
So, how do these professional coaches turn everyone into a superstar? Granted, they’ve got some pretty good raw material to start with, but so do you. What they do, is seek out the best in each and every individual that they work with, strengthening those abilities and putting that person to work where they are the strongest. They encourage, chide and push their people, drawing out the hidden talent that’s within them. They constantly raise the bar; trying to get those same people to go a little bit farther, a little bit faster and a little bit higher.
It’s all about excellence in performance. Excellence is the characteristic of going above and beyond. An excellent performer is one who regularly and consistently exceeds performance targets and standards. How? By never being satisfied with how well you did yesterday, but striving to do better tomorrow.
History is full of examples of people of excellence. They are the ones who succeeded, when everyone else said that they couldn’t do it. They are the ones who don’t know how to say “can’t” but only say “can.” They are the ones who become winners, by never giving up.
Just as with that sports coach, you need to be constantly seeking where your people’s strengths are, helping them polish those strengths, and finding ways to help them overcome weaknesses. Don’t wait for them to come to you, proposing that the company send them to a conference or seminar; you look for those conferences and seminars. Find places you can send them to, where they can improve their professional knowledge. Help them with their professional development. Help them become better at what makes them good.
Most of all, you need to encourage your people. It’s way too easy to become negative in the workplace, only speaking to your team members when there is a problem. Keep doing that long enough; and they won’t want to talk to you. When they see you coming, they run the other way. But, when they know that the words which come out of your mouth are just as likely to be positive as they are to be negative, they’ll be waiting to hear what you have to say.
Lastly, always take whatever opportunity you can to publicly recognize moments of greatness. I’ve said it before, but I can’t overstate it; never let an opportunity pass you by, where you could have recognized someone, without doing so. I don’t care if you have to print certificates of achievement out on your personal computer. It works for elementary school kids, and it works for adults as well.
Document performance in accordance with the organisational performance management system
As a manager, your job is to manage the people and other assets in your department, in order to accomplish the goals and objectives of your department, in agreement with the company’s goals and objectives. Part of that is leadership, but part of it is management as well.
I’m probably wrong, but I don’t think that there is anyone in the world who likes doing paperwork. Some of us are better at it than others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we like it. In fact, some of the best people I’ve met at doing paperwork are good at it because they don’t like it. When they have to do it, they do so with great intensity, so as to get it over with as soon as possible.
Leading people is invigorating, challenging and fun. Managing them is not. However, leading them, without managing them isn’t enough to meet the needs of our companies. The managing part is the paperwork part, that’s why we don’t like it.
It’s important to keep accurate records of employee performance. I said earlier that you should constantly re-evaluate the performance of your team members; at least in an informal way. I still say that. But, just because it’s informal, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write a note, and put it in your personal file on that person. Those notes, will provide you with a much better picture of that person’s overall performance than your memory will.
At the same time, if you have to take any personnel action on the person, such as writing them up for some infraction, you’ll have the data to support your claims. It’s not enough to say, “So-and-so comes to work late, you’ve got to be able to prove when they came to work late; specific dates, and a specific number of minutes late.
Don’t forget to write down the positive things as well. Have you ever seen a “comments box” in a restaurant? What do people write on the cards? Negative comments, right? Why is it that we’re so quick to say something negative, but not to say something positive?
If you value your workers, you should be taking as many opportunities to file positive comments about them as you are taking to file negative comments about them. That way, if someone else has it in mind to cause them some problem, you have the ammunition you need to protect them.
In the bus plant, I ran into a situation like that. The company had hired a new production manager; a man who had been a plant manager for Chrysler corporation. He was well dressed, but rather rough around the edges; kind of like a thug dressed up to go out. Nobody wanted to cross that man. I think he had just about everyone afraid of him.
At the time, we were running two shifts on the production line. We were also implementing a change on work assignments. Since there was no 2nd shift engineering department, the manufacturing engineers were rotating between shifts. It was my turn to be the senior engineer on 2nd shift. My instructions were to set everything aside for the night and concentrate on supporting production as they implemented the change. That way, I could make any necessary changes immediately.
Half way into the shift, I received a radio call to report to the production manager’s office. He had all his superintendents there, and they were talking about the implementation of the work assignment changes. I walked in the door, and the production manager tried to pin the lack of success in making the change on me. I shot back to him, “I’ve spent the entire night going back and forth between your production supervisors, making sure they had everything they needed. All of them have told me they were too busy to implement the change. It looks to me like you’ve got a problem.”
Well, like I said, nobody crossed this man. I was probably the first person who had done so in years. He was dumfounded.
The next day, when I arrived at work, my boss’ boss met me. He asked me about my “crossing swords” with the production manager. I confirmed that I had. Then he told me that the production manager had tried to get me fired over it. However, I had initiated more cost reduction projects for that company in the 2 previous, than everyone else in the company put together. My boss’ boss knew that, and used it for my defence. I didn’t lose my job. However, if he hadn’t had all my proposals in his filing cabinet, I might have.
Conduct formal structured feedback sessions as necessary and in accordance with organisational policy
Managing performance improvement
Performance varies according to context and over time. Improving performance is a part of performance management and should not be feared by managers or employees. When constructive feedback is not enough to lift performance, more formal management may be needed.
Finding the reason for unsatisfactory performance
In dealing with unsatisfactory performance, it is vital to first identify its cause. Managers should seek answers to questions such as:
Both the employee and the manager need to:
Support is available from:
In complex situations it may be better to engage in a case management approach, where multiple parties meet to work together and share perspectives. Typically, a case management approach involves a team including managers, human resource practitioners and other specialist professionals.
Seven Common Triggers to Avoid When Giving Negative Feedback
Providing negative feedback is an essential part of the performance review process. Identifying areas for improvement can help employees develop their skills, and enhance their future career prospects. However, negative feedback is not always well received. To help reduce the risk of your performance review ending up in an angry confrontation, or potential HR issues, there are a few common things to avoid when delivering negative feedback. These include:
As already mentioned, you will need to conduct formal, documented performance reviews, for all your employees, at least once a year. Your company will have a policy on this, and you will need to file those reviews. In many companies, your supervisor needs to sign off on those as well, before you conduct your formal review session with the employees.
This structured feedback needs to be documented for human resources’ files. Typically, there are certain forms to fill out for those records. In most companies, performance reviews and annual performance based raises are combined into one session. The first part of the session being a discussion of the formal evaluation and the second part dealing with the raise (or lack thereof).
Since raises are typically tied in to performance, this system works quite well. The employee performance review becomes the review for the raise as well. In companies where formal performance reviews are given every six months, one of the two is designated as the review for raises.
In addition to this, you may have to conduct additional formal counselling sessions with your employees, especially in cases where they are subject to negative personnel action. This could include any sort of “write-up” for an infraction, disciplinary action, or a warning that termination is being considered, unless the employee improves in some clearly defined way.
Any negative personnel action requires a formal sit-down counselling session, where the employee is informed of the proposed action, the reasons behind it, and any action that the employee is required to take, to avoid further negative action. Both you and the employee must sign the form.
As the immediate supervisor, you should keep copies of all these negative personnel actions in a secure file, forwarding another copy to Human Resources. You must be sure that any personnel files that you have in your possession, even if they are only your personal notes, are kept secure at all times. Failure to do so can result in you receiving disciplinary action, as that can adversely affect the lives and jobs of your team members.
You may think that making it through your department’s formal performance reviews entitles you to a break, but I’m afraid not. Those performance reviews were just a stop alongside the road of life. The very next day, you need to restart the process of informally reviewing your employees’ performance.
There is also the matter of what is known as follow-up. Many times, in the course of a formal performance review, you may encounter reason to implement a plan of action, to improve an employee’s performance or professional education. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they were doing anything wrong; it could just mean that there is an opportunity for improvement or to help them prepare for advancement in the company.
In fact, one of your goals as a manager should be to work your way out of a job. Ideally, you want to train your people to the point where any of them can take over your job. That frees you up for further advancement. Many managers, especially in obscure fields, are passed over for promotion, because there is nobody to take their place. Train your people, so that you don’t get held back.
Refer to Activity Booklet and complete Activity 11-12
Manage follow up
Write and agree on performance improvement and development plans in accordance with organisational policies
If you’re going to work with your people to improve their professional ability, professional knowledge or job performance, it’s always good to have a written plan to work to. Some companies make this part of the performance review procedure and include it in their performance management system. Even if your company doesn’t it’s still a good idea to prepare and agree to a plan.
In many cases, managers only bother to create such a plan for their poor performers. But, if you want to make your people stars, wouldn’t it make more senses to have these plans for everyone in the department? Granted, they won’t all say the same thing, but it is still worthwhile writing and agreeing on a plan to prepare your top performer, so that they are ready to move up into management.
I don’t care how good you are, there’s always room for improvement. When I was in engineering, I was going to school in the evenings, working to learn more about my field. As a writer, I’m constantly learning new things. I haven’t even let my doctoral degree stop me from learning and improving.
As part of knowing your people, you need to know what their goals and dreams are. As a regular part of their performance review, ask them, “Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?” The answer to that question then becomes the basis for creating their improvement plan. If you have a technician that wants to be an engineer, you can help him go back to college. Likewise for a nurse that wants to become a nursing supervisor. Many jobs hold the potential to being a stepping-stone to higher level positions.
If you make the creation of a performance improvement plan a part of everyone’s review, then it eliminates the stigma for those whose plans are to overcome problems that may lead to termination. You are working with them, to improve their performance, just like you are with everyone else in the department. At the same time, the items which you include in their plan will make it clear that you are working with that individual to bring them up to an acceptable level of performance.
In the case of performance improvement plans for personnel that are below par, you need to insure that a copy goes to Human Resources, for inclusion in that person’s personnel file. Should disciplinary action or termination become necessary, that document becomes part of the proof that you and your company have tried to work with the individual.
It is important that the employee who is receiving the improvement plan signs it as well. By signing it, they are stating their agreement to work on those items. Of course, they can always refuse to sign it. In those cases, your only recourse is some sort of disciplinary action, such as a letter of reprimand and warning for their permanent file.
Seek assistance from human resources specialists, where appropriate
You need to realize that you are not alone when it comes to dealing with difficult employees or having to take negative personnel actions. The Human Resources department in your company exists for the purpose of supporting you. As such, they are available to help with any personnel related actions needed.
Nobody expects you to be an expert on the ever-changing laws that deal with the personnel working in your department. You are a generalist, expected to manage the people and resources entrusted to you. You’re not a specialist on personnel law, benefits or training. Those people work in the Human Resources department. Any time that you need their services, avail yourself of them.
One way that you should definitely utilize the HR department is when you have to take negative personnel actions. Before handing any piece of paper to an employee, run it by HR, so that they can verify that the language you have used won’t give the employee any opportunity to build a case against you. You can also contact them to find out what your options are, when negative personnel actions are necessary.
Sometimes, the person who is performing so poorly in your department is doing so only because they are a poor fit with the work you are doing. Remember the young man who worked in my video studio, which I talked about in the last section? He didn’t work out all that good for me, but he was a champion when he found the right place to work.
Your problem child might be a star, if you can get him into the right job. Talk to the Human Resources department about people like this. Generally speaking, it is more cost effective for the company to move someone like that, into a more appropriate job, than to terminate them and hire another person.
Another area where you definitely should make use of the Human Resource department is in the area of training. We were talking about performance improvement and professional development plans. Does your company provide finances, or financial reimbursement for those who chose to go back to school while they are working for the company? If so, your HR department will be the ones to help you connect that person with those benefits.
Some companies (especially larger companies) HR departments offer in-house training for job related skills. Most of the time, these in-house training courses are for lower level skills and positions, but not always. That connection may be just what one of your team members needs, in order to encourage them, and prepare them for their next step in the company.
Reinforce excellence in performance through recognition and continuous feedback
If you have someone who is doing well, you need to shout it from the rooftops. Let the whole world know that you have a rising star in your department.
I heard it said once that the way to create elite troops in the military is to tell them that they are, then wait for them to live up to their image of themselves. While I’ve never experienced that in the military environment, I have in the work environment.
I’m a born over-achiever. In my 35 plus years of work life, I’ve had success after success. I won’t say that everything I’ve done is a success, but a lot of it has. In a sense, I’m on my fourth career right now. I’ve been successful in the other three, and it looks like this one is a success as well. How? Because I don’t know how to quit.
When I was growing up, one of the things that my parents hammered into me was, “Never say can’t.” Well, I don’t know how to say “I can’t.” In fact, I had one boss one time who got mad at me, because I’d never say that I couldn’t do something. If I didn’t know how, I’d learn it.
Even more than that, I’ve thrived on the recognition I’ve received through my various successes. I just keep going, until I am recognized as being a success. Notice that I’m not saying, “Until I think I’m a success.” No, I’m waiting till others think I’m a success. I can think that I’m a success while I’m sitting on the sofa, watching television. That doesn’t make me a success. But, when others say I’m a success, then I’m a success.
Let me say here that I’m really not any different than anyone else. As a manager, I’ve used the same strategy to get others to become rising stars. I always look for the potential in people who work for me, and work hard to nurture that potential. Part of that nurturing process is publicly applauding every success that they have.
Excellence has to be nurtured. Many people who started out in excellence ended up wallowing with the pigs. It wasn’t that they wanted to end up there; it was that nobody was giving them a pat on the back. Because of that lack of encouragement, they stopped trying.
This is very common with public school teachers. They get out of college all bright eyed and eager to teach; then they run into a hard wall, called reality. The students don’t want to learn, the principals don’t give them any support, and the parents only yell at them. For many, they start out the first couple of years as excellent teachers; then after a few years of being beaten on by negativity, they give up; just doing the minimum necessary to keep their jobs going.
Let me say it again; everyone craves recognition. Every opportunity you can find to recognize people, do it. In my office, I have a number of things which were given me through the years, which all were prizes of recognition, for something that I did. Even though those things look like a bunch of junk to anyone else, they are some of my most prized possessions. Why? Because of what they represent.
Recognition doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to be recognition. Somewhere, I have a hand-drawn “certificate of recognition” that I received from my commo (communications) platoon, back when I was a second lieutenant. It isn’t fancy; or official; but it’s special.
If the most you can do is print a certificate of recognition off of your personal computer, do it. If your company policy and department budget allow you to do something a little bit better, do it. Look for reasons to recognize people, even things that don’t seem important. Give an award for the cleanest office, the best coffee maker, or the person who is always early to work. Encourage excellence by recognising it whenever you see it.
Provide effective feedback
Keep feedback impersonal
One of the most important rules is to ensure that feedback is based on the professional level of the person and not influenced by or involving personal feelings. An objective overview can be gained by using one of the above appraisal techniques and will help the evaluator to stay impersonal without mentioning personality or intelligence.
Focus on specific behaviours
When giving someone a performance appraisal it is important to keep in mind not to come across as critiquing everything the evaluatee does. Instead focus on a specific occasion or behaviour that you had in mind. As the person being evaluated, it is easier to listen to that one time behaviour where things didn’t go as planned compared to everything the person did wrong.
Make the feedback goal orientated
If we do not have a goal, we do not know when we achieve something or how to measure whether something is working or not. Setting goals with your people allows you and your team to take action in achieving these.
Consider the timing of the feedback
With feedback, time is of the essence. When employees do something well, they want to be praised for it, likewise if unwanted results come about, then it is important to give feedback while it is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Bringing something up weeks after it has happened is both unconstructive and can lead to other potential issues.
Sometimes miscommunication happens. The message we send and the message that is received can unintentionally vary. Effective people managers will ask the person they are dealing with to verify key points of the conversation to mitigate any misunderstanding.
Provide positive reinforcement
Ever wondered what exercises help a team perform better at work this year? The answer is positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement rewards positive employee behaviour to strengthen it and at the same time enhances self-esteem, which results in employee performance (Grawitch and Ballard, 2016).
Praise your people
Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs explains self-actualisation as one of the deepest emotional needs, (Maslow, 1943). When you praise or approve of someone for their talent or potential, it can significantly drive motivation and confidence, leading them to repeat the behaviour that earned the praise.
Listen to your people
Make your people feel important by listening to what they have to say no matter how small you may think their story is. Actively paying attention to everything they say is a powerful technique to make people feel important and raise self-esteem.
As a people manager you will have significant impact on staff morale.
Monitor and coach individuals with poor performance
For every star performer you have, you’ll probably have one that is at the other end of the scale. Remember, these people have potential too. You just have to find what their potential is and then find a way to bring it out of them. As you do, you will begin to transform their lives.
People who are poor performers require constant monitoring and coaching. Part of this is just to make sure that they do their job to the best of their ability. The other part is to make sure that they don’t slip any farther behind. All the time that you are working to pick that person up and dust them off, there are other forces at work to drag them down and bury them. To succeed in your goal of picking them up, you need to be diligent in watching out for the effects of these other forces.
You don’t want to monitor just their performance, but you also want to be monitoring their progress in accomplishing the performance improvement plan that you’ve created for them. They may need step-by-step coaching, giving them ideas in how to take themselves to the next step in that plan.
Remember, coaching is about bringing out the best in them. What works for you or what works for someone else, may not work for that underachiever. You may have to find new methods to help them overcome themselves and their limitations.
A coach works for constant incremental improvement. You can’t take a star athlete and change them into something else overnight. Nor should you try. On the other hand, no matter how good those athletes are, their coaches are constantly making minor changes in their technique, seeking ways of shaving a fraction of a second off their time, or adding a fraction of an inch to their jump. Don’t try and get big changes out of the people you are coaching, work for little ones.
If you try and give these underachievers to big a change at one time, they might feel overwhelmed and choke on it. Telling someone whose productivity is 60 percent that you want them at 80 the next week is too much. Work with them to find what they can do to save enough time to bring them up to 62 percent, then 64 percent, then 65. Little by little you can get them not only to 80 percent but 110 percent.
As part of this process, be sure to encourage them on every victory. When you see that they’ve gone from 60 percent to 62, tell them. Make a big deal out of it. That victory is as important as the one made by your departments top performer. It may not seem so to outsiders, but to that person, it’s a true victory.
Unsatisfactory performance – Inability
Where unsatisfactory performance is not deliberate, it may arise due to inability on the part of an employee to perform the duties of the role. Regardless of whether an employee’s inability to perform is temporary or permanent in nature, it must be addressed. Examples of temporary causes of unsatisfactory performance include personal problems and/or ill health. Usually, once transitory causes have been addressed, an employee’s performance will improve. But if this does not occur, or if the causes of unsatisfactory performance are ongoing in nature, formal processes will need to be employed to manage the issue.
Unsatisfactory performance – Ill health
If an employee is not performing duties satisfactorily (including breaches of discipline) and it appears that this is caused by mental or physical illness, then medical information will be valuable in determining what action to take in order to assist the employee and to improve performance. While this information may not alter the outcome, it may:
When managing unsatisfactory performance that may be caused by mental or physical illness, it is important to refer to the relevant employment legislation and/ or any industrial instruments, such as Awards or Commissioners Standards. Public servants, for example, may be directed to undergo a medical examination and may be suspended from duty – with or without pay – if they do not comply with such direction.
Principles for managing unsatisfactory performance
Regardless of the nature or possible cause of unsatisfactory performance, it is vital that it is addressed as soon as possible.
Natural justice, procedural fairness and other principles of administrative decision making
The rules of natural justice and procedural fairness and other principles governing administrative decision making must be followed. This is always the case, regardless of the nature or cause of the unsatisfactory performance.
The rules of natural justice apply whenever the rights or legitimate expectations of an individual are influenced by a decision. There are three basic principles employers must follow; these are commonly known as the hearing rule, the bias rule and the no-evidence rule.
The hearing rule requires that a decision maker must give a person whose interests may be adversely affected by their decision an opportunity to be heard. The bias rule requires that the decision maker be disinterested and unbiased with regard to the matter to be decided. Not only should justice be done, but it should also be seen to have been done.
The no-evidence rule means that the decision that is eventually made must be based on logically relevant, sound evidence.
The term procedural fairness is often used interchangeably with natural justice, but it is a distinct concept. Essentially, procedural fairness requires that the process leading to a decision is fair. This is particularly important where there are defined policies and processes for administrative decisions, such as Commissioner for Public Employment Standards.
Where agencies have specific policies or procedures, it is important that these be followed as closely as is reasonably possible to prevent situations in which employees may successfully argue that they were denied procedural fairness, which in turn could affect substantive decisions.
When making administrative decisions, decision makers should also:
The decision maker has a two-fold duty to take account of relevant considerations and to ignore irrelevant ones. Relevant employment matters will usually be pertinent, and include factors such as:
Factors such as the employee’s marital status and political beliefs would not only be irrelevant considerations, but would inevitably amount to unlawful discrimination.
The industrial principle of condonation
A common problem with managing unsatisfactory performance is that it is often not addressed in a timely fashion, therefore the behaviour is seemingly condoned by management. Only after an accumulation of unsatisfactory behaviours over a lengthy period does a manager become frustrated and decide to take action. This manager may believe that the accumulation of such behaviours can be used as evidence of unsatisfactory performance or misconduct, even though the situation has in fact not been managed effectively. Constantly ignoring unsatisfactory performance or inappropriate management responses, such as repeated informal warnings effectively condones the behaviour.
Once a behaviour is considered to be condoned, management is not entitled to formally deal with it retrospectively. The previous unsatisfactory performance may be relevant only from the perspective of an employee’s character. If behaviour is condoned, management is not able to use the cumulative behaviour as a basis to impose a more serious penalty as it would normally be able to do if the behaviour had been appropriately managed.
Provide support services where necessary
Some people use the term “facilitator” for managers and supervisors. I like that. In reality, your job as a manager isn’t to do the work, but to help the people under your charge do the best work possible. That’s what makes you a facilitator.
Part of facilitating your people’s working ability is to support them when necessary. There are a number of ways that we can take this, providing a number of different types of support, such as:
Regardless of the type of support needed, we really can’t honestly blame an employee that doesn’t meet our expectations, if we don’t provide that support.
Many years ago, when I was engineering in the medical equipment plant, I was given the project to make a connector change over in our entire line of products. The connectors we had been using were no longer available, and I had to do the necessary redesign work to accomplish the changeover. While the project should have been staffed with about four people, I was only given one other person, on a part-time basis.
At the beginning, I had great support from the other departments. If not, I would probably have fallen flat on my face. But, as the project progressed, and I moved from making changes on major products to more minor ones, the interest from those other departments waned. I reached a point where there was a serious potential for shutdowns on parts of the production line, because parts were running out.
I tried talking to the managers of these other departments, but they gave me excuse after excuse; saying that I had to wait in line for their services, just like anyone else. That was, until we were having a departmental status meeting. I reported on my project, including the lack of support. My boss’ boss was there and said he’d take care of it. Within 24 hours, the support I had needed miraculously appeared. He had provided the support I needed at that moment.
Another time, an engineer working for me needed some time off, because of his wife being critically ill, nearly dying. Although he had already used his “sick days” I made arrangements for him to be able to take some time off. In that case, that was the support he needed.
Support can take many forms. Your workers won’t always ask for it, thinking it might make them look bad. Sometimes, they don’t even realize the support that they need. As an astute manager, looking over the shoulders of your team, you should be able to see what types of support they need. Don’t wait for them to ask, if you know they need some support, get it for them; whether it is from within the department or from some other support department.
By providing support, you eliminate excuses. Many low performers are experts at making excuses. I call this phase of dealing with the person, the “excuse elimination” phase. You must eliminate all their excuses before initiating disciplinary action. Otherwise, they can always claim that you treated them unfairly, disciplining or terminating them without just cause.
Counsel individuals who continue to perform below expectations and implement the disciplinary process if necessary
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, there will always be a few people in the workplace who are determined to fail. They either don’t care enough to help themselves, or are convinced that your company owes them a living, just for being alive. Regardless, you can get to the point with one of these people, where it is clear that no matter what you do to help them; they don’t want to be helped.
As you continue to work with these people, trying to get them to follow the performance improvement plan you’ve created for them, you will need to become gradually more direct and forceful in your counselling sessions. Remember to always have these sessions in private. It’s okay to give them praise in public, but not to correct them. If you feel that you need a witness to these sessions, ask the Human Resources department to support you.
When you get to this point in dealing with an individual, it is important that you are clear and direct with them about what the options are. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t give hints, and don’t leave any possibility of misunderstanding. Be clear and direct.
You must also be sure to document each and every one of these counselling sessions. This documentation should be signed by the person being counselled as well as by you. If they refuse to sign it, not that they are refusing. In that case, have a witness from Human Resources for the next meeting with that individual.
A copy of your documentation needs to be delivered to the Human Resources department for their records. Actually, you should keep the copy and give them the original singed document. In the case that a court appearance is necessary, it is the Human Resources file which will be produced in court.
Most companies require at least three documented counselling sessions with an individual, before initiating termination procedures. Be sure that you know and fully understand the company’s policy and procedures about discipline before commencing this process. If you are unsure of the proper procedures, forms or methods to use, make sure that you contact HR. They’re the experts in dealing with these things; it’s their job to support you through this type of process.
Terminate staff in accordance with legal and organisational requirements where serious misconduct occurs or ongoing poor-performance continues
Termination, the cessation of the contract of employment between an employer and an employee, at the initiative of the employer, within relevant industrial agreements, should only be used as a last resort. Let me repeat myself here, your company has invested money in hiring and training that individual. If there is any way of salvaging them as an employee, it is to the company’s benefit.
In any company’s policy manual, there are certain types of misconduct that require immediate dismissal. Some of these might include:
In these cases, immediately contact Human Resources, to get them involved in properly processing the paperwork and terminating the employee.
However, most terminations aren’t for these types of misconduct, but for poor performance. Before terminating these employees, it is important to insure that you have taken all necessary steps and have all necessary documentation for the reason to terminate the employee and the actions you have tried to do to continue their employment.
Once again, you’ll need the involvement of Human Resources. Arrange a meeting to bring your file to them and sit down to discuss and review the situation. It may be that they recommend some other course of action, before terminating the employee. If so, you pretty much have to go along with their decision. They are probably making that recommendation to insure that the company is in agreement with the law, before terminating the employee.
Termination should be accomplished in the most professional and non-emotional manner possible. There is no reason to make any final comments to the employee, trying to justify your actions. Nor should you allow yourself to say anything that could be construed as sarcastic or abusive.
It is always hard to terminate the employment of someone who has worked for you. If you have followed all the steps that we’ve laid out in this course, you have no reason to feel guilty. Don’t be surprised if the guilt comes, but you don’t have to accept it. It isn’t your fault that you had to terminate them, it’s their fault. In reality, you’ve probably bent over backwards to avoid terminating them. You have no reason to feel guilty.
Refer to Activity Booklet and complete Activity 13-18
Section 1 Allocate work
Why is staff consultation necessary in determining the allocation of work? If teams are consulted, should you still consult individuals?
Describe 3 work tasks that you could add to a work plan for an Assistant Manager in a retail store selling whitegoods.
How can you assure that your work allocations are cost effective? What measures and tests would you utilise?
In order to establish performance standards applicable to an organisation, what sources of information would you refer to? Outline two.
Provide examples of (other than the ones provided):
• Organisational Vision – e.g. to be known for our superior customer service and satisfaction.
• Organisational Objective – e.g. to reduce the number of dissatisfied customers by 25%.
• Organisational KPI – e.g. the number of customer complaints that remain unresolved at the end of a week.
• Team Member’s Goal – e.g. to increase the number of satisfactory complaint resolutions by 15% this period.
Taken to the next level, each employee goal should have at least one associated KPI. How will you specifically measure, on a regular basis, whether or not this person is meeting his or her goal?
Team Member KPI – The weekly percentage difference in complaints handled that result in satisfied customers versus unsatisfied customers.
What is a risk Assessment Matrix? How does it help you in managing risk related to people performance?
Section 2 Assess performance
When is the best time to evaluate staff performance? Why?
Provide an example where training could be utilised to manage an underperformance issue. Describe the situation and the training that would be utilised to address the performance issue.
Design a reward and recognition system for production line staff that work in processing plant. Consider the performance requirements and indicators that would be applicable.
What is 360 degree feedback? Should all workplaces be applying the technique? Why/Why not?
What steps would you take to manage underperformance?
What documents are used to record employee performance? Describe two.
Section 4 Manage follow up
List the information that should be included in a performance plan.
Who are human resource experts? Where would you normally find them in organisations?
Outline a way to reinforce positive behaviour in your staff.
Case Study: UK Rail Organisation
Research was conducted on the role of coaching and its contribution to development and training in a rail company in the UK1. Managers at a UK train operator became role models for their employees, who now have more power to take direct responsibility and reach their full potential. The change took place following a management-development program at train operator Southern, working with a professional coaching and training company on a program that reached 300 managers.
Southern continues to be a very successful business, consistently delivering the high standards of service to their passengers1. Perhaps an element of this is attributable to their focus on changing the leadership and management style. A significant contributory factor to this was their coaching program, and the learning and essence of coaching they have applied to their management training. The program was seen as a key part of developing their business. The company adopted its first formal coaching program in 2005 and, the following year, formalised it within the overall HR strategy and made developing a coaching and facilitative leadership style a key objective. The feedback and evaluation of the coaching program was a good indicator for the company to assess its coaching programs effectiveness and its impact on its employees.
The HR manager of this UK rail company, who also took part on the program claimed:
It was the most rounded, fun and exciting development program I have come across in my career (Pollitt 2009)
A revenue manager who took part on this program described it as a journey of self-awareness. The research highlights the positive impact of the coaching program on this particular UK rail company and identifies one of the outcomes of the program. In 2008, numbers of grievances, disciplinarians and tribunals were all down. In the same year service performance and train reliability both rose. In the recent employee engagement survey, a significant statistical correlation was discovered between managers who had attended the coaching program and their individual engagement scores with their direct reports.
How was coaching used in this instance to improve people performance?
If you were to counsel a staff member for has not performed to expectations, what environment would you use to provide the counselling? Why would you use this environment? How would you record the counselling sessions?
Discuss the Fair Work obligations with regard to terminating staff. Refer to https://www.fairwork.gov.au/ending-employment as a basis.