Performance Management is simply the name we use for the process to help employees gain clarity about their role and their performance, so they can make any adjustments needed. It is jargon for guiding your employees to better performance.
Your employees come to work with an intention to be successful and to make a difference. No-one comes to work with the conscious intention of being a stuff-up or failing (although that can be hard to remember on some days!)
When taking on performance management there are a few myths and misconceptions that can stop what is otherwise a positive and useful process.
Here are my top 7 performance management myths
1. Performance Management is an objective process.
Wrong! Performance Management is just about sharing perspectives. You have one view and your employee has another view. You are not in their shoes, you don’t see the world as they see it and you don’t experience their feelings and experiences, so you can’t know with 100% certainty what is going on for them.
All you can offer is your perspective on things. The performance management goal is to make the process as objective as possible. That said, performance management is not a perfect science, no matter the fancy IT systems or forms you use.
2. You need to be totally impartial to do performance reviews.
This is also not true. Think about if you are driving somewhere and a person winds down their window to yell at you that you are a “bl**** idiot and why don’t you watch the road”. What is your response?
Now imagine someone you really like and respect is in your car, someone you value. If they say to you “you are weaving a bit. Are you OK?” what is your response?
If you are like most people you ignored the first set of feedback and listened to the second. Why? You can only have an effective review and expect some true action when you have a relationship of trust with the people you are giving feedback to.
If you are having problems with employees listening to your feedback and acting on it, maybe it is telling you that you are not in a position of trust with them. You are “outside their car”. You need to build your relationship with your team before you have effective performance.
3. You have to have the right forms or systems.
Forms are the least important part of any Performance Management system. People over-rely on forms and avoid having the hard discussions. The priority for performance management is the conversation and the discussion. Use the forms later to document your discussion, but don’t give them pride of place in the discussion.
4. It takes a lot of time to do Performance Management.
Have you ever had a poor performing employee? Someone who you talked to your family about, tried to work out what to do, lost sleep over before they finally either chucked it in or were sacked? How much time and productivity did that person cost you? Performance Management does take time – but it takes a lot more time and energy to deal with a problem performer down the track.
5. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and watch and wait to see if they get over the problem themselves.
Usually problems are apparent in the first few weeks of any new hire. The Probation period Performance Management process is the most critical of every Performance Management system. If you get on top of any issues during the probationary period, you generally end up with a great employee.
If a problem appears later on it should correct itself within a week if it is normal day to day issues. If it isn’t corrected within a week, you are creating a nightmare. Get onto the problem, have the hard conversation and deal with it.
6. You only need one form of Performance Management for everyone in the company.
If you are the CEO you need different depth of feedback about your performance than if you are a new trainee. If you give your trainee the same system as the CEO you are creating unnecessary work for yourself and added stress for your employees. At best the system will be a watered down version for the CEO and an insurmountable hurdle for the trainee.
7. You only need performance management if there is a problem.
Many businesses only use performance management or performance management processes when there is a problem. They then wonder why “I’d like a word with you – it’s time for your performance appraisal” is met with fear.
It is perhaps more important to use performance management systems for your high performers – to recognise and reward their performance, to praise what is going well and to help them set new challenges, than it is for poor performers.
When you consistently praise the good things your employees feel more confident and motivated; they are also much more likely to accept correction and constructive criticism and really try to make improvements when needed.
Performance management does not have to be difficult, or cumbersome. It is a normal part of day to day management and is a skill all managers need to develop to be effective in their roles.