Putting Performance Back into Performance Reviews

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When we think of an effective performance management system, we think of our annual performance reviews.  If we are very honest, nobody looks forward to them. The manager looks back over the past year, identifies areas of improvement, rates performance and allocates compensation increases and bonuses. The employee tries to prepare their defenses. Employees who feel criticized and that their contributions are not appreciated often find other employment.  Even a great performance review can result in the employee landing in a different company for their dream promotion and compensation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused dramatic changes in the way we work and the way we conduct business.  We have already leaped years ahead in using technology to improve our ability to work and we are very comfortable with enhanced security.  We don’t give a second thought to cameras, keycards, metal detectors, and x-raying our personal belongings.  The Coronavirus has taken surveillance to even higher levels with tracking movement and gathering personal information in exchange for our safety.

If we create a new performance management system that incorporates technology and surveillance, we just might be able to put performance back into performance reviews. Imagine how different our work environment could be if those reviews were truly inspirational and motivational. Let’s explore some of the ways we can build a system that is more creative, flexible, forward-looking, strength-based and more human.

Imagine the possibilities when our performance management system is positive achievement-oriented, forward-looking and focused on the employee’s contributions and strengths. How about if all employees left the review meeting feeling like their employment was aligned with their life, skills, training and aspirations and feeling valued.  In these past few months, many of our direct reports have overcome great challenges including learning new skills to become proficient in working virtually and balancing work with homeschooling, child care, elder care and spouses working from home all happening in limited living spaces.  We have learned the valuable lesson that the playing field is not level and we cannot help our employees to improve without understanding their life, skills, abilities, training and aspirations and appreciating all their contributions and sacrifices.

When we keep our focus on improving and applying our strengths in the future, managers can look for more opportunities in which the employee can contribute and improve performance.  Managers can focus on coaching developmentally rather than critically. Employees could be eager to meet frequently with managers to discuss their contributions, strengths and progress and would leave the meetings energized and motivated.  Managers could mentor and teach to build on strengths to achieve excellence.

It is even better to imagine if we change the entire perspective of a performance review.  Instead of asking managers to fill out the forms and annuals review, we can ask every employee to meet at least weekly with their managers and base rewards on continuous personal growth, course correction, contribution, improvement, innovation, flexibility and real engagement with managers, goals, team and the overall corporation.  The employee could let the manager know what they will be accomplishing the following week and what they need to be successful. This encourages closer coaching and mentoring relationship with managers.

Managers would have the burden to coach and mentor to improve strengths, teach skills and motivate in real-time rather than periodically or annually and become more agile to recalibrate goals, strategies, and teams to respond quickly in this dynamic environment.  Employees could even post their strengths, accomplishments, skills and areas they are improving on a company profile page for real-time performance management. Managers would be more engaged.

Technology is already in place to track information about COVID-19 that can be used to track productivity as well.  The following are just some applications:

  • Tracking the time and location of checking company email can measure work-life balance
  • Tracking emails can measure response times and identify your “go-to” influential employees
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can track arrival and departure time as well as movement around building measuring collaboration and compliance with social distance safety rules.
  •  A mobile phone can record and analyze meetings and conversations providing coaching opportunities and improving decision making and relationships.

Let us know some of the ways you have improved your performance management systems

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