Built for Success: Planning a Winning Performance Management Strategy

Every company wants to be built entirely of high performers, working together towards shared goals. But how does a company get there? Without proper performance management, the most innovative and inspired new hires may misdirect their efforts, ultimately frustrating management and subsequently themselves. In fact, according to a 2018 McKinsey Global survey, more than 50 percent of respondents believe employee performance management has not had a positive effect on employee or organizational performance.

To prevent these frustrations and potential loss of talent, corporations should look for ways to align the individual goals of employees to the broader goals of the organization. By tapping into the individual motivations of employees, you can help them achieve their peak performance, delivering great results for the organization as a whole. 

Benefits of Strong Performance Management Strategy

Here are just a few of the benefits of an effective performance management process:

  • Clearly-defined expectations: By knowing exactly how they will be evaluated, employees and managers can better gauge how they’re doing in-between reviews.
  • Better communication: With consistent check-ins and performance feedback from managers, employees feel they have the space to communicate more freely about company objectives and performance goals.
  • Less anxiety/stress: No one wants to feel like a bad employee. When you give employees a more transparent window into the review process, they are less likely to stress needlessly and can better focus on the task at hand. This same transparent approach to talent management ensures that team leaders won’t face shock or surprise from employees when it does come time to give feedback.

Planning Your Performance Management Strategy

A strategic performance management program should align human resources, managers, and employees to foster a culture of personal and professional learning. There are several qualities that organizations should be mindful of while defining their own plan.

1. Measurable objectives and performance expectations

Employees should know going into a position what is expected of them. New hires should be given individual and company goals at the beginning of their onboarding and continuing throughout their employment. Performance expectations can generally be classified as either results or behaviors/values. Results are the tangible goods, services, or projects completed by an employee, while behaviors are the way the employee acts during the process. The end result of these types of performance appraisal are to ensure that an employee is making a meaningful and positive impact at both the organizational and team level. 

With the right performance appraisal software, employers can set and track and organizational objectives with their employees, providing transparency into the performance management process. 



2. Professional development plans that look to the future

While short-term goals are necessary and helpful, employees should also have long-term, personal development goals that they’re working towards within an organization, from gaining leadership experience to learning new technical skills. Managers should collaborate with their team members to create employee development plans that go beyond the scope of the job description.

Employee input is essential here: managers should make a point to give employees a  say in what they learn and how they will eventually use those skills for the company benefit. This sense of control will naturally result in higher employee engagement, as employees will be more motivated to pursue goals they helped set themselves.

3. Ongoing, 360 degree feedback

One of the latest and most promising trends in performance management is that of a “anytime, anyone” performance management cycle. Various changes in today’s digital and social landscapes have driven this shift from the traditional annual or biannual performance review to multichannel, real-time feedback.

Due to the expectations of the developing labor pool, organizations are under pressure by their younger employees for ongoing, immediate guidance from their supervisors. In addition, the rapid innovation cycles of modern organizations demands teams to constantly adjust their goals and their behaviors accordingly. 

There are several ways to foster ongoing feedback:

  • Ongoing check-in conversations: Held daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly, regular check-ins allow leaders to touch base, give or get feedback, align with goals, and  on professional development progress. These check-ins not only ensure that the employee is on track with their day-to-day work and short-term goals, but also help foster a sense of trust between employee and manager.


  • Crowdsourcing Feedback: Yet another trend in performance management is the practice of collecting candid feedback from a variety of sources — colleagues, adjacent teams, upper management, clients and collaborators. In this way, companies avoid the trap of unilateral feedback — which can be unfairly narrow in scope or reflect the personal biases of the manager in question. 

While these ongoing feedback methods may seem time-consuming, they’re well-worth the effort. In a recent Gallup Poll, team members were 2.7x more likely to be engaged at work when provided with weekly vs. annual feedback.

4. A focus on the positive

There are a myriad of ways to give an employee feedback — and some are better than others. Be too direct, and you risk offending and discouraging your employee.  Be too opaque, and your employee is left wondering just how exactly to improve their performance next time.

Make sure to train both employees and managers on how to give constructive feedback that highlights good performance and shines light on areas for improvement. 

But try to stick to the positives. According to research by Martin Seligman, Ph.D, and Michelle McQuaid, performance declines by 27 percent when managers focus on employee weaknesses. In contrast, focusing on employee strengths resulted in a 36 percent increase in performance..For day to day feedback, encourage managers to use “a kindness sandwich” —  in which a piece of minor criticism is sandwiched between two things the manager likes about an employee’s approach. 



5. Engaging employee reward programs

While simply the act of achieving milestones and goals can motivate employees, sometimes extra incentives can be useful, especially for larger projects or especially strong performance. Organizations should budget for a selection of employee rewards such as iPads, televisions, spa packages or weekend getaways, to be given out to deserving employees when they’ve made a big impact on the organization. 

Tools to Transform Your Performance Management Strategy

Generally speaking, your employees want to perform well, develop their skills, and grow both professionally and personally.  A holistic approach to performance management, enables human resources, managers, and employees alike to align motivations and reach organizational goals.  Enhance your organization’s performance culture with the right software to support your strategy.

This post originally appeared on SelectSoftware's blog where we write about the latest in HRTech.

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