Stop Managing Performance & Start Measuring Growth

Deborah Hartung shares 5 ways you can manage your team's performance promote positive behaviours aligned with your company's values
Stop Managing Performance & Start Measuring Growth
Deborah Hartung

The origins of ‘performance management’, if you think about it, dates back to a more industrial, manufacturing- or volumes-based, output-driven workplace where the emphasis was placed on ‘how much of what, by when and of what quality’ can be done.

The factory worker who worked the fastest without compromising quality or causing workplace accidents, was a rockstar. The sales person who smashed their targets every quarter, got promoted to management and had a meteoric rise to the top, even if they were a total asshole and awful person to work with/for.

It worked for a good few decades and it’s ingrained in our collective HR consciousness and our workplace vocabulary. Small problem though: how many of us work in factories and high-volume production industries these days?

Traditional performance management methodology is focused on an employee’s past performance and encourages goal-setting for an entire year, which doesn’t allow for agility and rapid responses in the changing world of work. It also doesn’t really embrace the fact that we’re all doing a lot more ‘project-based’ work, where the stakes are high and the deadlines are tough.

Our 1980’s performance methods also don’t take into account the employee experience and the importance of timeous feedback and corrective actions where necessary.

Are you ready to stop ‘managing performance’ and instead start ‘measuring growth’ in the new world of work?

Here are 5 pointers to get you started on this brand new journey:

1. Don’t focus on the ‘what’ only

Traditional ‘performance management’ focuses on the delivery (the ‘what’ an employee does) in a job, and a ‘high performer’ is someone who can do more work or sell more products in less time, regardless of how they behave or relate to their colleagues.

I have seen multinational companies who believe themselves to be truly progressive because they’ve incorporated competencies or values into their ‘performance management system’, but then they either don’t include actual ratings and scores on those aspects or, alternatively, the behavioural competencies and living the company values don’t aggregate and contribute to ‘performance bonuses’ or ‘performance related salary increases’.

If you want to change your culture and attract and retain top talent, you have to redefine the concept of ‘high performance’ and include behaviours and competencies that are aligned with your corporate values.

In the end, it’s your people who build your business and they are not just ‘resources’ that you can mine. People want to grow and improve — not only in their jobs, but also in other areas of their professional lives. If you are obsessed about ‘how much of what, by when and of what quality’ they can deliver, or if you’re only rewarding ‘delivery’ — regardless of the consequences or negative culture impact — then you’re already in deep trouble…

2. Recognise and Reward the ‘how’

No matter how much we want to belabour the point in HR, people definitely DO leave bosses. Your employees’ first line managers, supervisors and team leaders can make or break your talent acquisition and overall talent management strategy, especially if you don’t properly manage, recognise and reward the desired behaviours in your organisation. It’s absolutely imperative that you incorporate competencies and behaviours linked to your core values in your performance appraisals (which need a major revamp, but more about that in my next article).

Redefine the concept of the ‘high performer’ to include not only ‘what’ they do, but also ‘how’ they go about achieving their goals and interact with others.

Read more about this to learn about the ‘performance values matrix’ in the work of Dr. Cameron Sepah. It’s brilliant and it works so much better than ye olde 9 box matrix!

3. Continuous Feedback and Coaching

The annual or bi-annual performance appraisal is long dead. The key to encouraging employee growth, is not only in embracing the ‘performance values matrix’, but also in ensuring that you collect continuous feedback.Engage with your employees on a more regular basis to share feedback and help them grow by celebrating and rewarding quality work & values-congruent behaviour, and also by coaching toward correct performance/behaviour when it is not at the required level within your organisation.

Empower and enable all your first line managers to give effective feedback and to use tools like the GROW coaching model, when engaging with team members. Reward first line managers for having regular monthly check-ins with their team members and for keeping track of employee satisfaction and growth.

4. SMART Goals that don’t just benefit the Employer

This is one old school relic I’m not ready to give up on entirely just yet. Proper SMART goals are extremely effective when they’re written in such a way that the goal actually tells a story of exactly what needs to be accomplished, the actions needed to reach the goal and the actual outputs or ‘evidence’ that will be used to track and measure accomplishment.

Whatever goals you set and agree on with your employees, be sure to include a focus on ‘growth’ both in their current role and outputs, as well as in their behaviour or actions as it pertains to corporate values and culture. In addition to those, be sure to throw in some personal growth, leadership and communications development goals that will empower the employee and help them prepare for their next role — even if it’s not with your team or in your organisation.

5. Celebrate and Correct

Don’t wait for annual salary increase time. The best time to show recognition, is the moment someone does something great. It creates a culture of recognition and it boosts morale. Just a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way to show your team members that their hard work and commitment isn’t going unnoticed.

If you’re having regular check-ins with your team members, use the opportunity to celebrate what they’ve done well and to correct and improve where necessary, in a progressive and supportive manner.

By simply having more regular conversations around performance, you automatically remove the fear and mystery that has historically haunted ‘performance appraisals.’

You will simultaneously be creating a culture of fairness, transparency and recognition. You’ll also creating an organisation that’s more agile and better prepared to rapidly respond to change and create improvements on the fly.

If you’d like some assistance with re-wiring your performance process, or you’d like to learn more about a fun, affordable way to give recognition, measure culture AND rate and track performance and employee growth — all from your mobile device — you should check out what Hi5 can do for you.