· 2 min read · Features

Performance management: has anything changed in 50 years?


The recession has focused minds on the importance of individual performance and many organisations have learnt that 1950’s style, ‘keep it simple, stupid’ performance management processes did nothing to save them.

Yet, little in performance management has changed over the last 50 years - five decades! The only significant changes have been the development of competencies as a language for discussing capability and performance and the automation of performance management.

But in the former case, much of the added value has been eroded by consultants, trainers and HR staff who have over-complicated or otherwise damaged most competency models. In the second case, most have fallen into the trap of automating poor quality paper-based processes rather than using contemporary technology to create new and better processes.

The fact that most organisations have trivialised performance planning and appraisal, however, does not mean that employees, managers and HR do not want individual performance managed; quite the opposite! In fact, most employee engagement surveys confirm that employees place very high value on being given clarity around expectations, receiving regular performance feedback and being advised on how they can improve.

They just don't see SMART objectives, trivial forms and annual interviews meeting the needs. Most managers say that a significant need is to be able to better manage the performance and development of their staff. But, most acknowledge that this is a 24/7 task not an annual one. Most HR professionals state that a critical need is to acquire better quality (valid, reliable, differentiating, comprehensive and useful) data about people and their performance but that appraisals do not produce that; they often provide more intelligence about the appraisers than about those being appraised.

Now, the major influence over performance management is technology. It is changing the very fundamentals of the employee-manager interaction and so many organisations now realise that they also need to change the way in which they interact with their most important assets, their staff, and that any process has to address seven critical needs. So how do we:

  • Set direction. Communicate to staff on a continuous basis what matters, the priorities, the values, the strategies and plans?
  • Clarify the roles that we want people to fill and how they should contribute to the overall management of performance (their own and that which affects them)?
  • Create and maintain aligned performance plans that enables us to manage performance - what needs to be achieved, how it should be achieved and the development needed to make that possible?
  • Monitor and measure performance so that we have a live and up-to-date library of evidence to inform decision making?
  • Enable and enhance performance so that maximum discretionary performance is achieved and individual potential is realised?
  • Assess and evaluate performance in a way that takes due account of measurements as well as circumstance that prevailed?
  • Recognise and reward performance in a way that is fair and that optimises the chance of securing desired performance in the future?

Clinton Wingrove, executive VP, Pilat HR Solutions