Performance management: Overcoming challenges and driving results in your firm

Performance management is not just about hitting targets, it's about continuously raising the bar.

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Performance management is not just about hitting targets, it's about continuously raising the bar – Unknown

The Academy to Innovate Human Resources has defined performance management as a set of processes and systems aimed at developing employees, so they perform their job to the best of their ability.

Aguinis and Kraiger, who are connoisseurs of human resource and organisational psychology have elected to say that "Performance management represents an ongoing process of communication between a supervisor and an employee that occurs throughout the year, in support of accomplishing the strategic objectives of the organisation.

The communication process includes clarifying expectations, setting objectives, identifying goals, providing feedback, and reviewing results."

The management superstar the late Peter Drucker also said that "what gets measured gets done". Performance management has to be a continuous conversation between the appraisee and the appraiser.

What are the most important components of performance management?

To make the performance management work the appraiser and appraisee must collaborate on goal alignment. This is where the collaborators set specific, measurable, accurate, relevant and timebound goals. Effective goal setting is a participatory affair. This is because it creates ownership and some realism. It also provides a wider and deeper perspective that won’t be available in one person.

Successful performance management is predicated on continuous monitoring and evaluation. This means that the performance data has to be tracked in a particular determined time. The goal tracking is essential for betterment.

It has been wittily said that feedback is the food for champions. It is the performance management participant who handles good and tough feedback who is able to raise the bar of their own output. Remember feedback is a two-way traffic. It is wrongly assumed that feedback is the portion of the appraisee only. A remarkable performance has to be two-sided.

Both players have responsibilities to work. For example, the appraiser has to provide support, coaching, set expectations, communicate, avail resources, making fair and objective assessments.

The appraisee has to, set personal goals, seek feedback, document achievements, self-assess, prepare for appraisal discussions, act on feedback, participate in development planning, maintain open communication, demonstrating accountability and continuously improving. World-class performance is most definitely a two-way traffic.

For a solid performance management programme to give the intended fruits it is important to have employee development through coaching, training and mentorship. As a matter of fact, even the immediate supervisor needs training in performance management, providing constructive feedback, setting smart goals, conducting performance appraisals, handling difficult conversations, recognising bias and avoiding discrimination, documentation and record-keeping, coaching and mentoring, conflict resolution, legal compliance and ethical considerations.

A respectable appraiser is a well-trained one. Especially in avoiding performance errors like rating errors, halo effect and central tendency ones. When performance management errors are more pronounced it makes that process lack reliability and validity. In my experience bungled performance management can generate drawbacks like decreased employee morale, loss of trust in leadership, reduced employee engagement, increased turnover rates, disruption of team dynamics, inaccurate performance assessments, legal risks and potential lawsuits, decreased organizational productivity, damage to employer brand and reputation wasted time and resources.

In summary, performance management can be both a good servant and a bad master. It needs a lot of prudence and professionalism in order to achieve its intended purposes.

Richard J. Magoma is an HR trainer and conference speaker, [email protected]

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