Improving performance management: 5 approaches

It’s no secret that performance management is an important component of a successful organization. Keeping employees on track with their individual goals through feedback and coaching also helps teams, departments, and the overall organization accomplish their respective goals.

But not every organization has a clear grasp of how to implement and practice performance management. In fact, a Gallup article notes that “traditional performance reviews and approaches to feedback are often so bad that they actually make performance worse about one-third of the time.”

Yes, the lauded practice can have a negative impact if it isn’t done correctly. But improving performance management isn’t complicated if you know which areas to address.

Keep reading to see how you can get a leg up on performance management. You’ll gain insights from Irial O’Farrell, an executive coach and accredited master in change management and leadership at Evolution Consulting, as well as author of SMART Objective Setting for Managers.

5 ways to improve performance management in your organization

Set clear goals at the executive level in a structured manner

O’Farrell says improving performance management starts at the top — specifically, the onus is on the executive team to set clear expectations regarding organizational goals and see that those goals flow all the way through the organization.

This includes determining the resources required to reach those goals and which functional areas each goal will rely on.

“Don’t leave it up to each function to figure things out on their own. There will be misinterpretations and a lack of coordination,” O’Farrell explains. “But also give each area some leeway to devise the best plan of attack since they know the ins and outs of their own departments. Strike a good balance.”

O’Farrell recommends convening for a half-day session where executives sit down and discuss all the details regarding goals before sharing them with department heads. This discourse can help you fill in gaps and anticipate challenges.

“For example, you may realize that three of your five goals will overburden HR or IT, so you can decide which goal you need to put on hold until next year,” O’Farrell says.

Ensure the executive team is modeling goals to your workforce

“It’s not enough to set goals and issue edits from on high,” says O’Farrell. “Your entire executive team must model the goals to the rest of the organization throughout the year.”

So whatever executives are asking of department heads and line managers, they need to be doing those things as well. For example, if you’re expecting all managers to give positive and constructive feedback on a regular basis, executives should be doing the same with their direct reports.

Invest in performance management training

Everyone in the organization should have at least a fundamental understanding of the performance management process. Employees can use this knowledge to develop their skills and carve out their career path within the organization. Managers need to know how to execute the process — how to set objectives, give feedback effectively, coach employees, listen and communicate, exhibit emotional intelligence, and so on.

“Training managers on performance management not only ensures they have the requisite knowledge, but it also involves them in the process so you get their buy-in,” O’Farrell explains. “This is critical to ensuring you reap the benefits you seek.”

Invest in performance management training

Frequently, the issue with performance management isn’t that managers are bad at execution; rather, it’s that they aren’t sure what constitutes “good” performance. O’Farrell says that if team and individual outputs are clear, it’s easier for managers to understand and assess performance.

“This is where organization design comes into play,” O’Farrell explains. “There should already be a vivid picture of each role’s expected outputs and contributions to the organization. Performance management should be pulling from this design to inform managers’ assessment and feedback activities.” Without this connectivity and clarity, O’Farrell says you can run into perspective issues.

For example, let’s say you supervise five employees. One is a star employee who seems to finish work faster and at a higher quality than the other four. You may be tempted to see the star employee’s work as the norm, which would deflate your opinion of the other employees.

“Solid organization design would set clear parameters of good performance so you could see that the star employee is a welcome anomaly compared to their peers, who are all performing in line with expectations,” says O’Farrell.

Use a solution like Jotform to make performance management more seamless

Improving performance management is an easier task with a solution like Jotform, an easy-to-use form builder and information collection tool.

Jotform has hundreds of prebuilt form templates you can use to streamline your processes and support your teams’ activities across the organization. For example, you can use evaluation forms as part of your performance reviews or feedback forms for informal check-in sessions with employees throughout the year.Up your performance management game. Get started with a Jotform template today.

This article is originally published on Dec 28, 2021, and updated on Nov 28, 2022.

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