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When you look at the overall talent management process, employee performance management is often an elusive target. While leaders conceptually agree that it is a good thing, it is generally viewed by most managers and employees as another worthless human resources process that wastes time and paper. Still, most leaders who "get it" understand that they must have some form of performance management system to continually advance their organization. Once we start down this road with a client, they all ask us for the same two things: They want a performance management process that is simple and doesn't require so much time that their managers won't do it.
Performance management doesn't have to be that hard. In fact, I think it's overdone at most companies. It can be very manageable as long as you think through the process and implement a system that makes sense with your organization's needs. This article summarizes the three major components of a performance management system. It's really a cycle that continues to build on itself. Just remember that when it comes to performance management, less can be more. You don't always need a 10- to 15-page form to document performance.
1) Employee goals and development: This is the first step and focuses on setting goals for both performance and individual improvement. Performance objectives should be for both professional and personal purposes with specific timelines. The manager should commit to providing the necessary resources and support to achieve these goals. An example might be to obtain the Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP) designation within six months, with the manager making a commitment that the employee can attend at least one industry workshop or seminar during the course of the year.
2) Self-appraisal document: The second step should be a self-appraisal. This should be a simple form that allows each employee an opportunity to self-evaluate and "brag" about their past accomplishments. Unfortunately, managers and their employees aren't always on the same page when it comes to identifying successes and failures. A word of caution here: Some employees may not receive this step favorably. They may question why they should be the ones to document all of their great achievements. After all, wouldn't a good manager know about all of their employees' accomplishments? Depending on your culture, a self-appraisal may be an optional step.
3) Performance feedback document: This is the most difficult step because most people as managers do not enjoy giving negative feedback to their employees. That is why it is so common to have a staff that is pretty much average. Only the superstars and the worst performers are recognized. It's also the most time-consuming step, as managers should meet with their employees individually to discuss their performance. If you don't have managers who are willing to give honest feedback to their employees on their performance (whether or not they successfully met their goals and objectives) and devote the necessary time, the entire system will fail.
How often you go through this process really depends on the circumstances and is a judgment call. A good guideline is an annual review process with a mid-year check-up to see how an employee is progressing on their goals. It wouldn't be uncommon for those goals to be adjusted at mid-year based on shifting priorities.
The application is numerous. You should be able to use the performance management system to determine merit increases, bonuses, promotions, transfers, training plans and even terminations.
If you still don't buy into performance management, think about it as a form of predictive and preventive maintenance for your people. It's really nothing more than a tool to ensure your people are operating at their peak performance without unexpected failures. Sound familiar? While comparing people to machines is like comparing apples and oranges, there are some great lessons that can be applied to both. For example, when a machine fails, is it generally the machine's fault or is it because it wasn't operated or maintained properly? Now, apply that question to the failure of an employee to perform their job.
As I've said before, professionals in the field of reliability and maintenance should be the first to understand the importance of performance management because it's already in their school of thought.