Going beyond the basics to enhance the value
Most articles on employee performance management deal with the basics of the evaluation process. They provide managers with guidance on how to: observe, measure and track performance; give feedback effectively; conduct a performance appraisal meeting; and coach to sustain performance throughout the year.
However, there are a number of other highly effective practices that can enhance your performance evaluation process but often get overlooked. Organizations or even individual managers can easily adopt any or all of them to maximize the value of their performance management process.
Conduct self-assessments to get your employees' perspective
A fairly simple practice to implement at an individual or organizational level is employee self-assessment. You can either use the same form you do for your regular performance appraisal process, or create a slightly modified version. The purpose of the self-assessment is to get your employee's perspective on their performance. This is a powerful way to give them a voice in the process and help them feel more engaged. Managers unfamiliar with the practice often worry that employees will give themselves glowing reviews and ratings, making the performance appraisal meeting more difficult; however, experience shows the opposite tends to be true. When we evaluate ourselves, we tend to be much harsher than others. Getting your employee's perspective is an invaluable way to get more information on their performance and to prepare yourself for the performance appraisal meeting. It allows you to be ready to address differences in opinion or perspective, and gain insight into expectations.
Seek the opinion and experience of others with 360 degree reviews
One way to make your employee' performance appraisal process broader and more objective is to solicit feedback from others. Multirater feedback can help managers avoid bias, get a different perspective on their employee's performance and better identify areas that need coaching or development. You should consider collecting feedback from other managers, peers, subordinates, even customers — anyone who works with the employee on a regular basis and can give you insight into their performance. While it's often used in the context of leadership development, managers often fail to take advantage of this powerful tool for their performance management process. It can be especially vital when some conflict or tension exists between the manager and employee, when different personality types make the feedback process difficult, or when managers don't always work directly with their employees (shift work, project work, etc.). Substantiating feedback by gathering it from multiple, credible sources can make it more objective and increase its impact.
Give goals a larger context by aligning them with the organization's goals
While it's important to assign your employee goals as part of the performance management process, it's even more powerful to give these goals a larger context. This helps your employee understand why their work is important and how it contributes to the larger organization's success. While traditionally, managers have tried to accomplish this by linking employee goals to their own, a much more powerful practice is to align or link them to higher-level departmental, divisional, or organizational goals. Research on employee engagement has shown that this context setting is vital to employee performance. It helps them feel that their work matters.
There's a famous story about a visitor to NASA headquarters who came across a janitor sweeping the floor. When he asked the janitor what he was doing, the janitor replied: "I'm helping to put a man on the moon." It's this kind of goal alignment that helps drive up employee performance.
Help your employees improve and succeed with development plans
Companies often do development planning separately from their performance management and evaluation process, if they do it at all. But development planning is much more powerful when it's an integral part of the performance management process. The performance appraisal meeting is typically the prime time when managers and employees discuss performance deficiencies. Identifying training activities to address these deficiencies during the appraisal meeting, and documenting it in the performance appraisal form helps to communicate both the manager's and the organization's commitment to the employee, and their expectations for improvement. It also gives the employee a clear context for their learning. The performance appraisal meeting is also a wonderful opportunity to discuss the employee's career aspirations, both short and long term, and explore opportunities to prepare the employee for advancement within the organization. Feeling that they have a career path or future with an organization is another key contributor to employee engagement.
Implement pay for performance to reward good performance
One final practice that helps expand the value and impact of your performance management process is pay-for-performance. Performance ratings should be a known and visible factor in determining employee rewards and compensation. Integrating your performance management process with your compensation management helps employees feel that compensation practices are fair and empowers them. This practice applies to more than just merit increases and bonuses; any form of employee reward or recognition should be integrated with your performance management process and serve to reinforce desired behavior and performance.
Taking performance management to the next level
Performance management should be much more than a process for documenting and delivering feedback and coaching. When expanded beyond the basics, it becomes a powerful tool for helping your employees develop further and achieve their full potential. In so doing, they increase their value to the organization and help drive organization success.
Read how others are moving beyond the basics of performance management
By aligning employee goals with organizational goals, the San Diego Zoo is driving greater employee accountability and engagement.