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Getting performance management right

The biggest challenge with performance management is getting people to believe in the process

The very words ‘performance management’ are enough to put most people off. It sounds like a management exercise, and usually is in the majority of companies.

The biggest challenge with performance management is getting people to believe in the process and, critically, have faith that what they put in will determine what they get back. Performance management should be about bottom-up empowerment and each employee taking control of their own development and career goals. It has to be a process that appeals to people, not kills them off with 1-5 scales. It has to be simple and unquestionable to give people a positive and rewarding experience – especially if you are linking it to pay.

I believe business success is down to the performance, behaviour and attitudes of people, so investing the time in making sure this is managed well is crucial. The right conditions, environment, management approach and motivation all have to be in place to enable staff to deliver their best work. There can’t be lots of annoying forms, everything has to be easy to access, and people need to understand what’s on offer for them if performance management is to be successful.

Performance management systems are still in many cases one dimensional. They are based on numeric metrics – sales targets, financial performance, number of leads – with very little focus on behaviours and attitudes. We just don’t live in that world anymore. Successful companies are getting more interested in the way their people achieve their goals, and the way in which they help others to.

In our performance management system at CommunicorpUK the measures are simple; how well people live our values of Bravery, Integrity and Passion and deliver on our mission to do Ideas, Relationships and Results better than anyone else. It’s bold, it’s brave (because it’s linked to pay), and it’s about not only what has been achieved but how it has been achieved, in line with our values and desirable behaviours.

The role of leadership is hugely underestimated in this area. Organisations have to create a culture of feedback and individual growth and this starts with the leadership. It’s not an easy job and sometimes needs additional support. We worked with Jane Sparrow from The Culture Builders to help our leaders understand their critical role in this space and ensure they were role modelling the right behaviours. All of this has ensured that our managers are having quality conversations that have an impact and inspire people to achieve their goals.

For performance management to be successful it’s critical that each person is in charge of their own plan and development journey. Putting in a structure that creates ongoing touch points, encouraging a more regular dialogue about performance than just once a year, and giving people line of sight for their career and goals is a must.

But it’s down to the individual to seek ongoing feedback and improvement opportunities.

Great performance management is as much about attitude and behaviours as it is about process and so much of it comes down to how you communicate and engage with people. There’s much more to life than simply what we achieve in the workplace and recognising this

is an essential part of progressive performance management. Combining life goals with career goals shows that you care, as an employer, about what your people want from life and are interested in how you can support them in achieving it. This works really well for us and people have responded positively to it.

It is our job as leaders to know what good looks like for our people when it comes to performance management in today’s corporate culture. HR professionals have a vital role to play in both this education process and making the business case for performance management – because the results that are possible can be game-changing.

Grace Hannah is director of people at commercial radio group Communicorp UK