5 Things Every Performance Management Program Needs

by Sharlyn Lauby | Posted | Performance Management

5 Things Every Performance Management Program Needs

Performance management is a hotly debated topic in business right now. Specifically, the debate about whether or not to conduct the annual performance review. In fact, this very blog has published articles about “Rethinking the Traditional Performance Review” and “3 Alternatives to the Annual Performance Review.

But performance management is more than whether or not your organization has an annual employee review. Performance management is a process that allows employees to channel their talents toward organizational goals. That alignment between talent and organizational goals is what makes performance management valuable to the business. It’s also the reason that, regardless of what happens to the performance review, organizations need a strong performance management program.

5 Things that need to be in every performance management program

It’s very easy to use the terms performance management and performance review interchangeably. However, as organizations have conversations about what to do with the performance review, it would be helpful to consciously separate performance management from performance reviews. To illustrate, here are five things that should be in every performance management program.

  1. Ownership: Someone needs to be responsible for performance management. It might be tempting to say that HR owns performance management but, at best, HR owns the process and should be a part of educating people about how it works. The real owners of performance management are managers and employees. Because that’s where performance turns into accomplishments. For performance management to be successful, everyone needs to understand their role.
  2. Consistency: Another essential element for success is establishing performance expectations. Without them, organizations can’t establish a consistent brand. Employees need to know the performance standard. Managers have an obligation to tell employees whether they are meeting, exceeding, or not meeting the standard on a regular basis. In addition, managers must have a consistent way of measuring performance free of bias.
  3. Feedback: Employees want to know how they’re performing. Whether it’s positive or negative, the organization must have conversations about performance. The discussions should happen at every level – company, department/division, and individual. Feedback could be between a manager and employee or peer-to-peer. It can be conducted in a formal setting - like a regularly scheduled 1:1 meeting - or informally.
  4. Documentation: Organizations will want to maintain a record of each employee’s performance. This information is valuable for succession planning, promotions, transfers, and other employee events. It’s important to note that having documentation on file doesn’t have to be in the form of the annual performance review. Keep in mind that technology can play a huge role in helping managers document performance.
  5. Accountability: Managers and employees must be held answerable for the goals they set and the actions or inaction they take toward accomplishing those goals. Accountability is about being answerable for an action or decision. Accountability isn’t always easy and organizations need to create cultures that encourage and support accountability – at every level.

Performance management is about more than employee reviews

Building an effective performance management process involves the entire organization, not just HR. Managers and employees are key players in successful performance management.

Organizational success is contingent on performance management. And performance management is so much more than annual performance reviews. That doesn’t mean organizations should eliminate the annual performance review. It does mean that organizations need to strengthen their performance management program. 

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People aren’t assets, they’re the core of your business. Don’t take that for granted.


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