Performance made easy: 7 questions employers can ask about performance management

May 19, 2017 Christy Lukes

Performance management has been getting increased attention in the last couple of years, with many questioning its return on invested time and attention, and the effectiveness of the process. We wanted to explore this further—especially with the recent buzz about eliminating performance ratings. In the 2016 Workforce Mindset™ Study, we asked employees and managers for their thoughts about performance and preferences for performance management. And we’ve identified opportunities for improvement each step of the way.

It’s clear that performance management—in its many forms—is important and valuable. It's also clear that in many organizations, the process is not truly delivering on its promise. Employers—and their employees—may not be getting the value they expect from the effort they put in.

What are employees saying about performance management?

Seven of 10 employees surveyed took the time to answer this question: “If you could change one thing about how your company manages individual performance, what would you suggest?” The most common suggestion is more frequent performance and feedback conversations.

Here’s what else we heard:

  • Managers need to make the time to know their employees and understand the work they do on a daily basis.
  • Current processes are said to be “one size fits all,” but shouldn’t be; ratings and reviews should be more individualized.
  • Managers and employees are looking for a simple, streamlined performance management process.

Here are questions to ask about performance management:

With all the effort that goes into the performance management process and year-end performance ratings, employers can take active steps to improve the outcome. Start with understanding the current state of performance management in your organization—perhaps asking some of the same questions we asked in this study.

  • What do managers and employees say about the mechanics of performance management? Is it simple and intuitive? What steps are you willing to take to improve the process?
  • How well do managers and employees know and accept their roles—for example, who drives goal setting and regular check-ins? How are individuals held accountable?
  • What tools and training do you offer to help managers gain confidence and credibility in discussions?
  • How often do managers and employees actually talk about performance—formally and informally? Enough that employees know how they’re doing and have the opportunity to improve? Enough that managers can give accurate performance ratings?
  • How valuable are performance conversations at your organization? How do you measure this value?
  • If managers and employees aren’t having enough performance conversations or those conversations aren’t valuable, what’s getting in the way? Priorities? Capabilities? Relationships? Accountability?
  • What qualitative measures best align with how employees work and would encourage performance improvement?
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