Have Your Employee Performance Management Practices Been Changing?

How often do you review your employees performance?  If you are like most it is probably done annually.  However, have you ever considered doing it differently? Throughout recent years many senior leaders in well known organizations have discussed their concerns about the process of annual employee appraisals and have embarked on a process to eliminate this facet of employee performance management altogether.

“Performance management as practiced by most organizations has become a rule-based, bureaucratic process,” a Google executive wrote recently. “Employees hate it. Managers hate it. Even HR departments hate it.”

What’s behind this apparent trend? Among other things, annual performance reviews often:hardwood employee review

  • Take place too late in the year to alter an employee’s real-time conduct
  • Contribute to an atmosphere where people feel like they’re being “graded” (adding more stress to sometimes stressful working environments)
  • Lack accuracy, in cases where poor-performing employees ratchet up their work ahead of an impending review, thus masking inferior performance the rest of the time

Some traditional management techniques may not be keeping pace with our changing times and might, in some circumstances, impede employee productivity. As a result, there’s a growing emphasis on employee coaching and mentorship, now seen as a more effective approach to growing employee talents and keeping them engaged with their jobs.

We have been introduced to a few interesting coaching strategies and techniques coming to the forefront in businesses today that are worth consideration.  For example:

Ongoing coaching conversations. Among many managers and HR experts, it’s now seen that ongoing conversations with employees are much more effective in clarifying goals and priorities than a once-a-year approach. Coaching dialogues that occur on a regular basis are viewed as doing a better job of communicating expectations, adjusting priorities, identifying challenges to professional growth and focusing on opportunities to improve specific areas of performance.

Scheduled check-ins. A variation on coaching conversations, the technique of weekly or bi-weekly check-ins enables managers to pinpoint issues before they grow into serious difficulties. It’s also a useful way to determine if employees have the tools and resources needed to meet professional expectations.

Quarterly performance snapshots. Some companies feel more comfortable promoting quarterly performance snapshots as a chance to look closely at how an employee performed in the preceding quarter (specifically, in relation to the company’s stated quarterly goals) and to talk about potential challenges and opportunities in the quarter to come. This type of approach could come more naturally for those currently in an annual review practice just conducted more frequently.

Future exploration. A frequent and regular review, such as at the end of a quarter is also “a good time to have conversations about what an employee’s future might look like within the company,” notes serial entrepreneur David Hassell. “Get clear on what they desire and how that syncs up with the needs of the company.” We have noticed a growing trend in today's workforce for the need for more frequent feedback and a clear vision of the importance of their role in the big picture.  Sessions like this also let employers articulate what employees need to do to advance their careers and uncover areas of employee discontent that might be developing.

Hassell also advocates “decoupling” coaching conversations from the necessary compensation review. Instead, he advocates that is more effective to use coaching sessions to truly improve employee performance and an annual compensation review meeting explain whatever compensation adjustments may be warranted.

It’s also worth pointing out that senior executives must be held accountable for their own performance over time. As leadership development expert Cynthia Stuckey points out, corporate executives “need to be role models for other managers, and handle performance management better than anyone.” Being able to coach and create meaningful dialogues “are core skills at C-level, where such processes are absolutely critical.”

Whatever your current strategy is, the beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to re-examine its effectiveness and consider introducing new elements to further enhance employee performance and engagement. Maybe some of these ideas will help you.  If you have other best practices pertaining to employee performance reviews, in or outside the hardwood lumber industry, let us know.  We want to hear from you!

Tony Cimorelli
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