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How Managers are the Biggest Barriers to Effective Performance Management Systems

HR performing a performance management review.

If you’re not see­ing results from your per­for­mance man­age­ment process, your man­agers just might be the cause.

An effec­tive per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem has a lot of mov­ing parts, and the process requires effort from mul­ti­ple peo­ple and depart­ments to ensure its suc­cess. The HR depart­ment is typ­i­cal­ly respon­si­ble for design­ing the per­for­mance man­age­ment process­es, set­ting out time­lines, pro­vid­ing train­ing and mon­i­tor­ing suc­cess. Employ­ees are required to work towards achiev­ing their indi­vid­ual goals, which in turn helps the organ­i­sa­tion reach its cor­po­rate objec­tives. They should also be tak­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for their own career development.

The man­ag­er plays a piv­otal role in per­for­mance man­age­ment and the out­come of any per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem relies on man­agers doing their part effec­tive­ly. They need to make time for their employ­ees, deliv­er fre­quent feed­back, encour­age and recog­nise good per­for­mance and check in reg­u­lar­ly on goal progress. If your man­agers are not mak­ing time for this, then you will inevitably be left with an inef­fec­tive system.

The knock-on effects of a flawed per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem are clear. As Forbes puts it: bad per­for­mance man­age­ment costs a lot and deliv­ers lit­tle.” Employ­ees will be demo­ti­vat­ed and uncer­tain as to their pri­or­i­ties, mean­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ty will suffer.

So to ensure that your organ­i­sa­tion is get­ting the high­est return pos­si­ble on its invest­ment in per­for­mance man­age­ment, read on to learn about the most dam­ag­ing man­age­r­i­al prob­lems and how to avoid them.

Do man­agers regard peo­ple man­age­ment as their responsibility?

It has been shown that employ­ees with man­agers who excel at peo­ple devel­op­ment per­form a remark­able 25% bet­ter than employ­ees who don’t make peo­ple man­age­ment a pri­or­i­ty. The strongest per­form­ing com­pa­nies are those that empha­sise the impor­tance of per­for­mance man­age­ment, and yet some man­agers still fail to under­stand how peo­ple man­age­ment is their responsibility.

To over­come this, you need to make it clear to man­agers what’s in it for them’ through your ongo­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion and train­ing. And there are num­ber of clear ben­e­fits in tak­ing peo­ple man­age­ment seri­ous­ly which are backed up by research, such as bet­ter results, increased employ­ee engage­ment, reduced staff turnover and less mistakes.

Despite this, some man­agers may nev­er see peo­ple man­age­ment as their respon­si­bil­i­ty. So you should ensure that good peo­ple man­age­ment is a key cri­te­ria when recruit­ing and pro­mot­ing peo­ple into man­age­ment positions.

Are man­agers reluc­tant to invest in your per­for­mance man­age­ment system?

If a man­ag­er is evi­dent­ly unen­thu­si­as­tic about the per­for­mance man­age­ment process and is unwill­ing to invest the appro­pri­ate amount of effort, the sys­tem won’t be effec­tive. Many man­agers believe that cer­tain per­for­mance man­age­ment process­es (such as annu­al appraisals) are a waste of time, and in some cas­es they may be right! A quar­ter of employ­ees believe that man­agers regard per­for­mance reviews as a box-tick­ing’ exer­cise.

To deal with this, it’s impor­tant to ensure that all the ele­ments of your per­for­mance man­age­ment actu­al­ly deliv­er val­ue and that you make that val­ue clear to man­agers. Form fill­ing should be min­imised wher­ev­er pos­si­ble. Many organ­i­sa­tions are get­ting rid of their tra­di­tion­al annu­al appraisals in favour of hav­ing employ­ees and man­agers check-in with each oth­er more reg­u­lar­ly. In our expe­ri­ence, man­agers are much more recep­tive to this approach as it’s a more nat­ur­al process and feels less like an HR-dri­ven bureau­crat­ic exercise.

Are your man­agers putting aside the nec­es­sary time to dis­cuss per­for­mance with their staff regularly?

Reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion can seri­ous­ly impact employ­ee engage­ment, with one source claim­ing that man­age­r­i­al input accounts for an incred­i­ble 70% of vari­ance. Yet even if man­agers have bought into ben­e­fits of a con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment approach, reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions may still not hap­pen because man­agers often for­get or are too busy to sched­ule them.

This is where per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware can help by remind­ing employ­ees and their man­agers when it’s time to check-in and giv­ing HR and senior man­age­ment vis­i­bil­i­ty of whether the meet­ings are actu­al­ly tak­ing place.

Addi­tion­al­ly, organ­i­sa­tions such as Deloitte have found that putting the respon­si­bil­i­ty for organ­is­ing the meet­ings on the employ­ee rather than the man­ag­er results in the meet­ings being much more like­ly to take place. Engage­ment sur­veys typ­i­cal­ly tell us that employ­ees want more time and sup­port from their man­ag­er, so it makes sense to give them the own­er­ship for mak­ing that happen.

Do your man­agers have the nec­es­sary skills and con­fi­dence to deliv­er effec­tive feedback?

Many man­agers lack the con­fi­dence and skill required to sit down with employ­ees one-on-one and deliv­er mean­ing­ful, use­ful feed­back. These per­for­mance man­age­ment con­ver­sa­tions give employ­ees a real­is­tic per­spec­tive on their cur­rent progress and where they can stand to improve. Employ­ees lack­ing time­ly feed­back often feel blind­sided, frus­trat­ed and con­fused by crit­i­cal com­ments or reac­tions down the line, which is the per­fect recipe for disengagement.

For this rea­son, HR need to take time to edu­cate and sup­port man­agers in the key skills for effec­tive per­for­mance man­age­ment. In addi­tion to this, per­for­mance review soft­ware such as Clear Review has built in guid­ance and videos on the core skills of set­ting SMART objec­tives, hav­ing effec­tive one-to-ones and giv­ing great feedback.

Sum­ming up

No mat­ter how per­fect your per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem design is, it will ulti­mate­ly fail if your man­agers are not bought into it, don’t invest suf­fi­cient time, or lack the skills to car­ry it out effec­tive­ly. HR has a piv­otal role in mak­ing this hap­pen. It’s not some­thing that will be achieved overnight on the back of a sin­gle man­age­ment train­ing ses­sion, it will take a sus­tained effort over a peri­od of time. But evi­dence shows that there are rich rewards for those organ­i­sa­tions who make this effort — they achieve sig­nif­i­cant­ly improved staff per­for­mance, engage­ment and prof­itabil­i­ty. And this, after all, is what per­for­mance man­age­ment should be about.