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Performance Clinic: Proving the value of performance management

Pink stethoscope

Wel­come to Per­for­mance Clin­ic, a new series from Clear Review. We’ll be answer­ing ques­tions from col­leagues, cus­tomers and any­one with a per­for­mance or engage­ment conun­drum. If you have a burn­ing ques­tion you’d like to put to our board of experts — includ­ing our founder, CEO and the for­mer HR Direc­tor at Sony Music Stu­art Hearn; our Head of Per­for­mance and Change Exper­tise Ami­ra Kohler; and our Head of Prod­uct Ali Hus­sein — then get in touch with us on Twit­ter, Linkedin or by email. We’ll keep all ques­tions anony­mous, naturally. 

Ques­tion: How do I per­suade my sales­peo­ple, who know they’re judged pri­mar­i­ly on their finan­cial tar­gets, that they need to take per­for­mance man­age­ment seriously? 

Answer: Sad­ly, this isn’t an uncom­mon ques­tion and it’s not con­fined to sales­peo­ple, although they may be the group we hear about most frequently. 

This spe­cif­ic ques­tion was asked by a cus­tomer at a rel­a­tive­ly small com­pa­ny. We asked for a lit­tle more info to try to pin the chal­lenge down. 

It turns out that, in this par­tic­u­lar case, the sales direc­tor says he is per­fect­ly hap­py for his team to be judged sole­ly on the basis of their num­bers in the CRM sys­tem. So it may be sen­si­ble to speak direct­ly to the team mem­bers you think will be most recep­tive and argue your case. 

How do you do that? We asked our Head of Per­for­mance and Change Exper­tise, Ami­ra Kohler, for her advice. 

Every orga­ni­za­tion has recal­ci­trant man­agers. The chal­lenge with sales teams is that they’re judged in a very spe­cif­ic way. As long as they hit their tar­gets, the busi­ness is going to defend them — and right­ly so. You could start with the sales­peo­ple you believe will be more pro­gres­sive in their think­ing, and explain­ing that good per­for­mance man­age­ment will offer them more in terms of career devel­op­ment. Yes, sales­peo­ple who sell will always be suc­cess­ful, but sales­peo­ple who under­stand the impor­tance of con­struc­tive feed­back or per­son­al devel­op­ment objec­tives (for exam­ple) may have the edge when they’re com­pet­ing for a promotion.

Then there’s the train­ing and devel­op­ment angle. This ties into the work we’re doing on engage­ment: good per­for­mance man­age­ment (tied to engage­ment) is about uncov­er­ing the obsta­cles to sus­tain­able high per­for­mance. What learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties do peo­ple need? What rela­tion­ships need to be devel­oped for them to be more effective? 

The point of good per­for­mance man­age­ment is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all tool. We work with many orga­ni­za­tions that have employ­ees in diverse work­ing groups and need inher­ent flex­i­bil­i­ty in the way they do per­for­mance man­age­ment. Local coun­cils are a great exam­ple: they have office work­ers; munic­i­pal work­ers; edu­ca­tion pro­fes­sion­als. Per­for­mance man­age­ment needs to work in slight­ly dif­fer­ent ways for all of these, yet still do the job of devel­op­ing them. For some sales­peo­ple, it may be that the focus is on per­son­al devel­op­ment objec­tives rather than organ­i­sa­tion­al goals. That way, you still have some­thing to mea­sure but the what’s in it for me?” fac­tor is more obvi­ous. It’s about per­son­al devel­op­ment and growth in areas that will sup­port their career advancement. 

For the direc­tor, you could talk about reten­tion. Every orga­ni­za­tion wants to retain its best peo­ple. Replac­ing a great sales­per­son is expen­sive. You may be able to see that staff turnover in Sales has been above aver­age for the last cou­ple of years: that’s a good place to start the con­ver­sa­tion. Alter­na­tive­ly, you could pitch it as a way to help the busi­ness pro­mote from with­in on a more reg­u­lar basis. It’s near­ly always more cost-effec­tive to pro­mote than to hire exter­nal­ly — if noth­ing else, you’re sav­ing the man­ag­er from hav­ing to read 25 resumes and sit through a dozen interviews. 

Yes, you may still encounter resis­tance, but you’re pre­sent­ing a val­ue-added argu­ment. Smart peo­ple will see the val­ue. And if the sales direc­tor sees that their smartest peo­ple are using the sys­tem, ask­ing for check-ins and demand­ing feed­back, they’ll start to see the val­ue too.”

If you have a ques­tion about per­for­mance man­age­ment, employ­ee engage­ment or any­thing else con­nect­ed to the future of HR, we’ll be delight­ed to help. Send your queries to us on Twit­ter, Linkedin or by email. All ques­tions will be quot­ed anony­mous­ly unless you specif­i­cal­ly ask us not to. 

Our new eBook, Powering Performance with Engaged People, is now available.