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The New Year rules to managing performance

A New Year is upon us and many employees will be thinking about ways to boost their career – new opportunities, challenges and learning experiences, so now’s an ideal time to ask yourself, “are managers actually managing performance effectively?"
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Do they possess the skills needed for managing performance well, or do they find the whole process too time intensive? Are employees rewarded on pay, or through a scoring system rather than being held accountable for their achievements?

According to Bersin by Deloitte, only eight per cent of respondents feel their company’s performance management drives value, and a paltry ten per cent think their processes are worth the time invested. But a sea change is already underway in how companies are managing performance and if done well, it can crucially yield a 20 per cent increase in retention, engagement and in customer satisfaction.

Managing performance well is about balancing coaching with accountability – the new “yin/yang” of performance management – it’s about supporting ‘striving’ rather than keeping ‘score.’ For this to work, you need three key elements: build proficiency in your managers’ coaching ability, hold individuals accountable for their own successes, and have strong organisational support.

1) Coaching

A study by Blessing White found that 23 per cent of employees thought coaching sessions add little value, but strong coaching skills help employees meet their accountabilities, which are key to optimising return on investment when it comes to managing performance. The problem is many managers still believe that employees just want advice when really, they want to be stretched and given the necessary support so they can work through challenges.

Managers need to see their role as primarily one of coaching, with a mind-set that’s focused on helping individuals clarify action plans with new stretch goals, for which they are accountable and that can be practically implemented. It’s about working in partnership with your employees to link their goals with their core strengths, areas of growth and their key engagement drivers. It’s about developing the means for employees to overcome challenges that obstruct objectives and to reinforce successful progress that is helping them to reach their goals.

Finally, excellent coaches that supercharge performance constantly provide feedback and analysis that’s linked to outcomes – ask questions such as ‘How can I help you achieve this goal?’ ‘Here is what to do differently’ and ‘This is how this advice will improve your success.’

2) Personal accountability

There is also the employee side of the performance management conversation. Individuals should be expected to seek out their managers and engage with them. They should be responsible for ensuring their own personal goals are set and the criteria, against which success will be determined, is agreed. High performers consult their bosses more often about progress and impact. They own their performance, understand the process of learning from experience, and then use lessons learned to increase the value they create. In many situations, feedback is powerful. In short, they switch from being passive recipients to active receivers.

3) Increase organisational support

Managers and direct reports can do a lot within their own spheres of accountability to achieve personal and team goals, but for real impact to be realised, better organisational support is needed. But our research tells us that managers avoid ongoing performance-related feedback and coaching because they see it as too time consuming, not valuable enough to employees, and they lack coaching skills. When organisations strengthen their manager’s coaching skills, build a top-down culture where everyday coaching and personal accountability is the norm and switch from reward through pay increases to recognition and reward, then business outcomes radically improve.

Motivation and sustainable performance studies show that linking pay to performance can be demotivating. Strategies like career path acceleration, linking stretch objectives to bonuses, and a focus on team performance, are powerful tools for driving performance.

Steer your culture away from ‘managing under performers’ to one where leaders align the person to the work. Doing a better job of assessing the capabilities and work motivations of people and then matching these assessments with work will make a big contribution to increasing performance, so provide leaders with talent assessments, job design, and analysis support. Managing people’s performance has always been a noose around a manager’s neck but it shouldn’t be. Do away with the traditional annual performance review process and replace with a daily coaching culture that holds people accountable for their success, and you’ll soon see the benefits in your bottom line.

Russ Becker is president of AchieveForum, a global leader in leadership development and performance management. He has over 20 years in the learning and development space.

Image: Shutterstock

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