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Changing a Performance Management Process: How to Overcome the Fear

Girl sticking tongue out at polar bear.

Fear is a nat­ur­al reac­tion to organ­i­sa­tion­al change, but here are a few tech­niques that can ease (and prompt) your tran­si­tion to con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance management

It is now pret­ty much uni­ver­sal­ly accept­ed that con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment is the most effec­tive way of man­ag­ing employ­ee per­for­mance. Annu­al appraisals con­tin­ue their sharp decline in pop­u­lar­i­ty and reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions are no longer sim­ply a dis­rup­tive per­for­mance man­age­ment trend. Agile per­for­mance man­age­ment is now the sta­tus quo for many com­pa­nies, whilst oth­ers are begin­ning to tran­si­tion towards this tried and trust­ed per­for­mance man­age­ment tool.

Despite the many advan­tages of con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment, there are still a num­ber of com­pa­nies who are resist­ing the chang­ing tide. This resis­tance is usu­al­ly the result of a fear of over­haul­ing an exist­ing sys­tem. Per­for­mance man­age­ment affects every­one in the organ­i­sa­tion, so any changes pose a big risk. Those respon­si­ble for such changes begin to ask them­selves: What hap­pens if man­agers don’t adopt it?” or What hap­pens if employ­ees com­plain even more than they do currently?”

Although fear has nev­er been a good jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to not do some­thing, we need to accept that fear does play a key role when it comes to stag­nat­ing per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tems. As such, this arti­cle address­es these con­cerns and gives our pro­fes­sion­al advice on how — and why — you should over­come your trep­i­da­tion and imple­ment a new, more effec­tive per­for­mance man­age­ment system.

Be real­is­tic — know that organ­i­sa­tion­al change of any type takes time

You have just made a deci­sion to make a sig­nif­i­cant organ­i­sa­tion­al change, such as adopt­ing a more future-focused per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem. This is when you start to feel the pres­sure and you want imme­di­ate results that will prove you have made the right deci­sion. You want engaged employ­ees, you want to see improved morale and you want it all to hap­pen soon.

How­ev­er, it’s wise to tem­per your nerves and your excite­ment for now. All organ­i­sa­tion­al change takes time and it won’t always be smooth sail­ing. Dur­ing your tran­si­tion process, allow for some obsta­cles and frus­tra­tions. Under­stand that change won’t hap­pen overnight and you will inevitably encounter resis­tance from some camps. Once you accept this, it will be a weight off your mind and you can address these issues and con­fu­sions, with­out the pres­sure of feel­ing you must have a per­fect sys­tem from day one.

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Take it from the pro­fes­sion­als — all com­pa­nies can tran­si­tion to con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance management

In just the past year, at Clear Review we have helped more than 50 diverse organ­i­sa­tions tran­si­tion away from annu­al appraisals, includ­ing Clydes­dale & York­shire Bank­ing Group, Pinewood Film Stu­dios, Aston Vil­la Foot­ball Club, Insti­tute for Appren­tice­ships, Harper­Collins Pub­lish­ers and New­port City Coun­cil. Ditch­ing annu­al appraisals and mov­ing towards reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions isn’t an impos­si­ble feat. Any busi­ness in any sec­tor can be suc­cess­ful in the tran­si­tion and reap the rewards. The key to get­ting it right is to com­mu­ni­cate and to involve key stake­hold­ers in the change. You need to give man­agers appro­pri­ate train­ing and guid­ance and you need to talk to employ­ees to make sure they under­stand why you are mak­ing the change. You also need to find the right per­for­mance review soft­ware to under­pin the transition.

Change your per­spec­tive on how to mea­sure a suc­cess­ful per­for­mance man­age­ment system

Under annu­al appraisals, there was a pres­sure and expec­ta­tion to get a high com­ple­tion rate of annu­al appraisal forms. Know­ing this, you might be putting your­self under the same pres­sure for reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions, and that would be a tall order. But, like all things, we need to con­sid­er the val­ue of these kinds of metrics.

Let’s say you were pre­vi­ous­ly get­ting 90% of annu­al per­for­mance review forms com­plet­ed. How­ev­er, it’s impor­tant to ask your­self how many of these appraisals actu­al­ly led to mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sions that con­tributed to improved per­for­mance? In all like­li­hood, not very many. Nobody enjoys annu­al appraisals. Every­one wants to get them over and done with as soon as pos­si­ble and, as they try to accom­plish so much in one meet­ing, that one meet­ing is gen­er­al­ly oner­ous and an inef­fi­cient use of time and resources.

Let’s say you then moved to a new con­tin­u­ous mod­el and you got say 50% of employ­ees hav­ing reg­u­lar, mean­ing­ful per­for­mance dis­cus­sions in the first few months. Despite the low­er face-val­ue met­ric, this is like­ly to be a big­ger win as a much high­er pro­por­tion of your work­force will now be get­ting reg­u­lar, per­for­mance-enhanc­ing feed­back than under your pre­vi­ous annu­al appraisals approach.

Keep your per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem simple

Sim­plic­i­ty is one of the most impor­tant things to get right in any per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem, but one of the eas­i­est things to get wrong. The typ­i­cal annu­al per­for­mance review is far too com­plex. It attempts to accom­plish far too much in one go, much of which feels irrel­e­vant to the employ­ee and manager.

One thing you can be sure of in per­for­mance man­age­ment is that the more you ask peo­ple to do, the less well they will do it. Peo­ple can only han­dle so much and when you over­bur­den them, you turn the process into a tick-box exer­cise that nobody enjoys.

Con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment breaks things down into their com­po­nent parts and keeps things sim­ple. In our expe­ri­ence, this sig­nif­i­cant­ly min­imis­es inter­nal resis­tance to change. You can get imme­di­ate per­for­mance improve­ment just by hav­ing reg­u­lar devel­op­men­tal con­ver­sa­tions, com­bined with in-the-moment feed­back. So for any ele­ments on top of this that you want to add, you should ques­tion the val­ue they are bring­ing to the process and make them sim­ple and clear as pos­si­ble. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true of per­for­mance-reward links which are com­mon­ly made far more com­plex than nec­es­sary (see this eBook for more infor­ma­tion on this).

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Ensure your per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware is sim­ple and user-friendly

On the note of sim­plic­i­ty, when select­ing a per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware to com­ple­ment your new process, find a clear, sim­ple, user-friend­ly pack­age that you can use from day one. You shouldn’t need to have to pro­vide any train­ing on your new soft­ware — if you feel like you would need to, this is a sign that the soft­ware is too complex.

One of the most com­mon com­plaints peo­ple have about soft­ware is that it is clunky’ and not intu­itive. This tends to be caused by soft­ware that has too many fea­tures’. The more fea­tures a piece of soft­ware has, the more com­plex it will be to use. So before decid­ing on a soft­ware pack­age, think about what are the most impor­tant fea­tures are to you and which ones will add the most val­ue to your users. Then find a soft­ware pack­age that focus­es on doing these few things real­ly well, rather than soft­ware that claims to do everything.

At Clear Review, we help busi­ness­es across all indus­tries move away from bro­ken annu­al appraisals to mean­ing­ful, reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions, using our proven con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware. To find out what we can do for you, book a free per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware demo today.