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The performance management nightmare


GERI-ANN AUSTIN

The performance management nightmare

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EXISTING PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT systems review performance in the past which is out of sync with the needs of the organisation and its stakeholders, for whom the need for profit is immediate. Consequently, in the existing form performance management systems do not address the most critical issues of the business or employees in a timely fashion.

In organisations, performance management systems are primarily used for making assessments/ judgements regarding employees and for the development of employees, though related, this rationale informs the type of system in which the organisation invests. If the system is geared toward making decisions regarding employees, a performance appraisal system is generally utilised. Thus the results of the appraisal are used as the major determining factor in whether employees will be granted promotions, transfers, re-assignments to better locations, become a part of the organisation’s succession plan or restructuring plan.

In unionised environments, such decisions need to be justified by the appropriate paperwork and the appearance of transparency in the system and the performance appraisal system generates this information. It does not, however, drive/motivate employee performance improvement.

Conversely, when the system is used for the development of the employees where feedback is more frequent and only takes place at specific times, the company generally utilises a performance management system.

The information arising from the appraisal is used to assist in the management of employees by identifying shortcomings in their performance and implementing the appropriate training and development, mentorship, coaching and counselling interventions that would assist them improve their performance. 

The performance management or performance appraisal systems do not usually take into account the importance of integrating employees’ performance of their roles into the achievement of the overall objectives of the business. Therefore, both systems neglect the very reason individuals are hired, that is to execute jobs that assist the business to make money not in the future only but in real time also.

To make the performance management system more effective, it is essential that the management team arrives at a common competency based model at the macro (organisational) level and create departmental specific standards of performance reflecting the competencies unique to job families such as managerial, professional and administrative positions, as well as technical competencies for technical positions across departments. 

A set of core competencies and standards of performance common to all positions across the company, such as teamwork, communication must be established.

It is necessary for position descriptions to be flexible and clear which drives individual and team productivity and the information/ measurements used to guide total rewards and promotion decisions is far more objective and accurate.

These competencies, will be fully integrated into the position descriptions and will change based on the strategic and operational goals of the organisation.

Also, all organisational processes, procedures, policies and methods of doing business impacting the departments and the employee’s ability to deliver, will be reviewed simultaneous with the view to streamlining organisational efficiency in support of high level performance.

With this flexibility and responsiveness inherent in the system, it will require a comprehensive communication plan that garners support across the board.  This generates confidence in the appraisal instrument as being relevant, fair and transparent.

As employees carry out their roles their supervisors will review their work and should any mistakes be made then, these will be addressed as close to immediately as possible in a private and confidential area and the employee will be advised on how to proceed and effect performance improvement in short order. Their performance will be monitored for improvement. This interaction will be recorded on the performance appraisal form and remain in place until improvement is seen. 

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Finally, we come into the realm of managing employees’ performances as they occur and then reporting the actions that have been taken to address any issues on a monthly basis.

This process is much more dynamic and addresses the concerns of the organisation in a timely manner and results in almost immediate behavioural changes that create the conditions for organisational and employee growth, development and advancement.

This system, though seemingly lacking in structure, will decrease the workload and allow the management of performance to happen as it should, naturally.

Performance would still be documented, but improvement will be fair more important than simply assessing employees for a score.

This system will result in the real life conversations that are needed immediately in order to encourage change at a pace, that would allow the organisation to achieve its mandate and the demands of its stakeholders, which include the employees themselves and their need for financial enfranchisement.

This system reflects the evolution of another more effective, responsive, flexible, comprehensive, user friendly system, that allows for objectivity, transparency and includes all elements in the organisation, that impact employees’ performance, to emerge. 

It is, therefore, believed that rather than the focus being on managing employees’ performance as an isolated event, that it be an efficient and effective management of the employees’ performance in conjunction with the organisational processes, procedures and methods of doing business that impact on the employees’ ability to deliver high quality performances.

That way real improvement will been seen across the board because accountability will reside on both sides of the fence, gradually merging into one unifying force, propelling employee engagement. 

I, therefore, recommend the “organisation and employee performance optimisation procedure” which speaks to consistent organisation and employee development and advancement, facilitated by effective and efficient systems and processes that enable optimisation of business and employee performance.

Under this system, it will be crystal clear to whom inefficiencies should be assigned for correction.

This system will address core business and employee performance related issues in order to come up with a more comprehensive view of an employee’s and organisational performance.

It will certainly include qualitative explanation of quantitative data as performance criteria for the employee and the organisation will be easily measurable, thereby creating the elements of consistency and fairness in application and outcomes, that are integral to the proper functioning of any system that genuinely seeks to improve organisational and employee performance while sustaining industrial harmony, generating revenue and contributing towards the achievement of profit.

Geri-Ann Austin is an experienced human resources and employee relations professional. Email: [email protected]

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