All of us want more than money from our work. We want roles that are interesting, challenging, and developmental. Most of us also want to participate in the process of setting and agreeing our work objectives. These are essential elements to working in a stimulating work environment. Any process of managing performance must involve managers in a continuous and ongoing discussion with every member of the team. This process, which is often called Performance Management, is a structured approach to ensuring that we get the important things done. It is a way of clarifying:
Many organizations have introduced performance management processes or systems. Whilst many work well, a lot more fall into disrepair. Some of the most common pitfalls to beset the performance management process include:
Motivating people at work also involves improving the team’s performance, and any performance management process must be applied on a consistent basis across all team members to gain maximum benefit. A classic process for managing performance is illustrated below. In our earlier management model of empowering, enabling and reviewing we referred to this approach which highlights the essential elements that managers need to follow.
It is essential that the manager and individual team members understand and agree their respective roles. This agreed definition and purpose can only be achieved by a focused discussion. People have to know why their roles exist and what their key outcomes in terms of performance and delivery are. Most people will, of course, want to have a discussion about any goals that they are being asked to deliver. Some organizations describe these goals as Key Result Areas or KRAs. These spell out the detailed results that need to be achieved by the individual.
There are generally four types of KRA:
As managers we can clearly demonstrate confidence in people by involving them in any objective setting process. This is likely to increase levels of commitment to achieving any agreed goals. The words we use as managers are the most powerful resources we have in terms of developing confidence in others. In agreeing performance standards and KRAs we have to successfully coach performance and in so doing employ the critical people skills of:
SO WHAT IS AN OBJECTIVE?
An objective is a statement of what tasks have to be completed and the measures by which it will be judged to have been successfully accomplished. An objective therefore makes a statement of:
When setting objectives and assessing the ability of an individual to complete a task ask yourself these two fundamental questions:
How competent is the individual to carry out the task?
How committed and motivated is the individual to carry out the task?
Your responses to these two questions will provide you with a quick assessment of what you need to do in providing the necessary level of direction and control to the individual. We might catagorize the various responses into four distinct types of capability:
BE OUTCOME FOCUSED AND USE PERFORMANCE MEASURES
When setting any objectives think outcomes. Make sure objectives are stated in a way that emphasizes a clear set of outputs. Remember an outcome might be a specific and measurable result, service, or behaviour. For example, an increase in sales of 10% by the third quarter or a reduction in individual customer response times from 30 to 15 minutes within the next two months.
A performance measure sets out how someone will know whether they have achieved their objective(s) or not. Performance indicators often refer to:
THE NEED TO BUILD-IN’ PERFORMANCE STANDARDS
Good objectives always have an explicit performance standard built into the task activity. For example, to increase the sales of product X by 25% by the end of Quarter 1. In activities where it is not immediately apparent what the performance standard or outcome is, you may need to work harder to build in a clear performance standard to avoid any ambiguity. For example, ‘To regularly update the customer database/ Such an objective is too loose and would benefit by the addition of more specific performance indicators. So it could be rewritten to include the following: ‘To update the customer database by 16:00 on Friday of each week and to transfer that data onto the main company database at each month end.’
This ensures that both the manager and team member are absolutely clear what is required in terms of deliverables.
When developing objectives we also have to focus on some additional questions:
USE ACTION WORDS WHEN SHAPING OBJECTIVES AND OUTCOMES
Make sure your objectives include a precise and appropriate action verb to articulate what someone has to do. Such words provide a bias towards action and again focuses thoughts and energies. Consider for example:
Construct, develop, produce, analyze, detect, reduce, complete, deliver, prepare, update, develop, introduce, deliver, reorganize, promote, build, set up, achieve, increase, generate, expand, reduce.
In order for people to understand how they are performing, managers also have to provide timely feedback on performance. Any feedback provided should be based on the agreed objectives and performance standards. Only by regularly monitoring individual performance can we measure real effectiveness. This practice also provides a framework for the discussion of individual strengths and weaknesses in relation to performance. Through the use of regular reviews we can motivate staff to consistently increase performance and encourage them to monitor their own performance.
Management warning: Whilst performance might improve as a result of aggressive behaviour such as threats and intimidation, any improvement is only ever likely to be short-lived. Bullying managers who impose unrealistic objectives will invariably come up losers – even if it takes a rather long time for any backlash to occur. At the same time, in today’s litigation minded culture, the era of the bullying manager is coming to an end as corporate leaders recognize the legal implications of allowing staff to be bullied by unscrupulous managers.
Evaluating performance is a critical element of any performance management process. Without it the whole cycle collapses. Evaluating performance allows you to check the endeavours of your team members and to reward high performance. As well as also dealing with poor performance, it also helps you to identify any factors that may have been outside of someone’s control and so adversely affected their results.