By Katy Reif, Trüpp HR Business Partner
Performance management is a common topic I get asked about as an HR professional. We’ve found that many employers, even if they give lip-service to a performance management program, fail to provide regular feedback, yet based on Gallup’s work with companies worldwide,
- Only about 50% of employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work
- 24% of workers would consider leaving their jobs if they have managers that provide inadequate performance feedback
The bottom line, effective performance management is essential to the success of your business.
Whether formal or informal, performance feedback helps align your employees, resources, and systems to meet the goals of your company. It works as a roadmap for developing your employees, who are among your organization’s most important resources.
Effective employee feedback saves time for managers in the long run
While effective performance management requires an investment of time and energy from managers upfront, it results in far less time spent managing on the fly or micro-managing. The goal is to help employees understand what they should be doing and how they should be doing it. Employees make fewer mistakes when they have a clear understanding about their responsibilities and authority levels and are empowered to make more decisions on their own. This autonomy results in a greater sense of ownership, increased engagement, and less work for managers throughout the year.
Performance management facilitates employee success
Effective performance feedback is not just about looking backward and appraising an employee’s work, but also about goal setting and communicating performance expectations moving forward. These expectations, in turn, keep employees laser-focused and help uncover opportunities for growth before they become a problem, resulting in increased employee productivity and fewer issues to address down the road.
There will always be a need for informal and in-the-moment performance feedback; however, too much of it can be demoralizing for an employee. Regularly scheduled feedback, on the other hand, builds trust between a manager and a direct report, offers guidance on what it looks like to succeed in a position, provides opportunities to correct any performance concerns, and develops skills for the continued success of the employee.
Components of an effective performance management program
Rather than a performance management system that provides annual feedback on an entire year’s performance, we recommend a feedback cycle that happens regularly, throughout the year, with discussions varying from period to period based on changing objectives. Consider a system with an annual meeting to discuss employee development, quarterly check-ins to set near term objectives, and weekly or biweekly check-ins to assess status.
Weekly Check-Ins are an informal way for managers to touch base with direct reports. It is a time to discuss workload, deliverables, and any other issues that may need addressing by both parties. These check-ins give managers insight into where the direct report is with their work assignments and a time to provide feedback they weren’t able to provide during the week. Direct reports are able to reflect on their performance and direct the conversation based on what went well, what could be improved, set weekly action items, and make adjustments to quarterly goals as needed. Some positions may not require check-ins on a weekly basis, set the interval according to the needs of the role. Ideally the weekly agenda is created by the direct report, which reduces the amount of time the manager needs to spend preparing. A weekly check-in template might include:
- Priorities for the coming week(s)
- Recent accomplishments
- Lessons learned
- Support needed
Studies have shown that our ability to stick to a goal waivers at about the three month mark. Quarterly Check-Ins provide an opportunity for managers to refocus direct reports and set new goals for the coming quarter. Managers can take the opportunity to acknowledge any successes and offer feedback on any performance that needs improving. In these meetings, managers and direct reports can focus on development opportunities for core competencies for the position. The discussion should also include:
- Quarterly accomplishments
- Setting short-term goals
- Establishing metrics
- Status of ongoing projects
The performance management cycle concludes with an annual performance review. An annual performance review involves a formal discussion about an employee’s development and performance. The review is a planning process and involves the manager and direct report setting a plan of action for the next year while reviewing what they achieved over the previous year. If a supervisor has regularly been meeting with their direct reports, this formal and documented review should be simple and will summarize all the employee has accomplished in the past year. There shouldn’t be any surprises for the direct report about their performance since the manager has been providing that feedback to them over the past year. Both parties then sign this document and place it in the employee’s personnel file. Both individuals should refer to the document throughout the year as a road map for success. An annual performance review might include:
- High level accomplishments
- Opportunities for growth, career development, or promotion
- Setting employee development goals
- Longer-term goals for the coming year