Like many others focused on improving the workplace, QwikCoach has grown increasingly concerned about the current state of performance management.
In this 2-part series we’ll explore this important issue, share our concerns, and recommend action.
- In Part 1, we’ll discuss our position, provide observations, and offer some high-level recommendations for moving forward.
- In Part 2, we’ll share additional targeted recommendations – specific actions that can be taken by each of the key constituents/stakeholders – players that have key roles in today’s complex “performance equation.”
Let’s get started . . .
- As coaches, we see (and likely you do too) that performance management systems (as traditionally deployed) have not served individuals or organizations well.
- Performance Management has begun a long overdue transformation, but it’s far from complete and must continue. Please take a look at this interesting article.
- Effort is needed from multiple constituencies including staff at every level, managers, outside vendors, and internal HR/Talent to make the transition to a better state.
- Improving the ability of people to perform and contribute is critically important and needs to be a shared responsibility between the individuals who populate organizations, the organizations who “host” them, and the folks that develop technology-based solutions to support the performance-related efforts of individuals and organizations.
- Here’s a quick overview of how QwikCoach sees these shared responsibilities playing out:
- Individuals must endeavor to work in ways consistent with achieving established objectives and be open to receiving reinforcement and support designed to help them succeed.
- Organizations must develop managers and leaders so they are able to provide needed reinforcement and support.
- Those who develop performance support systems (internal and external sources) must endeavor to elevate these systems to reflect the latest thinking about what makes performance enhancement efforts really work and add value.
- While performance management as a formal process has been around for decades, its active use has done little to help individuals improve their performance. That’s because the emphasis of most Performance Management Programs have not been on improving performance but on documenting it.
- Traditional approaches typically require goals to be set at the beginning of the performance year with an assessment conducted at the end of the year.
- Typically, little to no support is provided between goal setting and performance reviews. QwikCoach calls this period “the void” for obvious reasons. (Here’s a hint why: little or no performance support is provided to help people address common performance issues, overcome obstacles, achieve goals, build needed skills, break old and dysfunctional habits, or address concerns.)
- To complicate matters and add to the dysfunction, when pay and performance are linked, committees are often created to review performance ratings and adjust them to fit a “normal distribution.”
- Naturally occurring individual performance however does not typically fit the characteristics of a normal distribution. Rather, studies show that performance levels achieved by individuals typically fit what’s called a “Power Law” distribution. Here’s an article we think you’ll find interesting.
- Breaking the performance contract (adjusting performance ratings by committee to fit predetermined characteristics of an inappropriate probability distribution – a normal one) is therefore not a good idea – it’s a bad one, with corresponding negative impacts on individuals and organizations.
- The absence of support, failure to help people excel, and adjusting performance ratings by committee are just some of the dysfunctions associated with performance management systems that prevail in many organizations today.
- This explains in large part why more and more progressive and thoughtful leaders are looking for different and more effective approaches when it comes to enhancing workplace performance.
Enter the era of Agile Performance Management
We’ll begin with three high-level recommendations:
- Overall, performance management needs to turn its focus away from documenting performance to enhancing it. This does not mean that documenting (measuring) goes away. It means that the emphasis shifts to enhancement and to becoming much more “agile.”
- Change the Name: Names matter and QwikCoach would like to see organizations replace Performance Managements Programs with Performance Enhancement Programs (PEP). We happen to like the acronym because putting some PEP into how organizations support performance is, we think, a good idea.
- Focus on Enhancing Performance and Being More Agile: A new focus on enhancing performance means that organizations will need to adapt what is today considered to be a more agile approach. This means switching the emphasis to more frequent goal setting, pervasive coaching, continuous feedback, and just-in-time collection of performance metrics. Being more agile will also means moving away from an almost singular reliance on the annual review and low (sometimes no) levels of on-going support and replacing inaction with action. By “action” QwikCoach means providing lots of coaching support, reinforcement, feedback and other associated activities that really make a difference when it comes to helping people excel.
Achieving real, meaningful, and lasting improvements when it comes to enhancing workplace performance will require fundamental change from a number of “stakeholders” – each of whom plays a critical role when it comes to workplace performance.
We’ll discuss recommendations related to each of these groups in Part 2 (coming next week).