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7 Discussion Points to Cover during Performance Conversations

Businessman interviewing female job applicant in office

Mod­ern busi­ness is fast-paced, busy, agile — no two days are the same. In a mat­ter of months, organ­i­sa­tion­al pri­or­i­ties and chal­lenges can expe­ri­ence rad­i­cal change. It is for this rea­son that com­pa­nies around the world con­tin­ue to argue the mer­its of the tra­di­tion­al annu­al per­for­mance review. Meet­ing once a year for an employ­ee per­for­mance catchup no longer seems effec­tive or rel­e­vant in this cli­mate. As a result, more and more com­pa­nies are mak­ing the switch to con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment.

Increas­ing­ly, organ­i­sa­tions are pri­ori­tis­ing ongo­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion between man­ag­er and employ­ee, while doing away with numer­i­cal per­for­mance rat­ings and stack-rank­ing sys­tems. It seems that reg­u­lar per­for­mance and devel­op­ment dis­cus­sions (or​“check-ins”) are one of the per­for­mance man­age­ment trends that are here to stay. Done right, they are an incred­i­bly effec­tive employ­ee per­for­mance man­age­ment tool that has the abil­i­ty to ele­vate moti­va­tion, employ­ee engage­ment and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty while improv­ing rela­tion­ships between super­vi­sor and employee.

Reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions and coach­ing ses­sions sound great in the­o­ry, but putting them into prac­tice is some­thing else alto­geth­er. Organ­i­sa­tions fre­quent­ly tell us that their man­agers lack the knowl­edge of how to con­duct mean­ing­ful per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions. We’re here to help bridge that gap.

Below, we have laid out sev­en pri­ma­ry dis­cus­sion points to cov­er dur­ing these meet­ings to ensure a struc­tured, pro­duc­tive and worth­while exchange.

1. Objec­tives and SMART Goals

Man­agers need to remain up-to-date with employ­ee progress in terms of objec­tives and SMART goals. The more fre­quent the per­for­mance dis­cus­sions between the super­vi­sor and employ­ee, the more relaxed, open and hon­est the employ­ee will be with regards to goal pro­gres­sion and pos­si­ble obsta­cles. This is because with increased com­mu­ni­ca­tion comes famil­iar­i­ty and the sense that the man­ag­er is there to tru­ly help, rather than to judge and evaluate.

It might be that the indi­vid­ual has hit a stum­bling block and won’t be able to achieve their objec­tives on time. If this is the case, the man­ag­er should help the employ­ee to con­sid­er options for over­com­ing these obsta­cles. Objec­tives may also need to be adapt­ed as pri­or­i­ties change, so take the oppor­tu­ni­ty at each meet­ing to con­sid­er whether objec­tives are still rel­e­vant and productive.

2. Per­son­al Devel­op­ment and Career Growth

Man­agers and employ­ees should take some time to dis­cuss per­son­al and career devel­op­ment. Which skills, knowl­edge or strengths could be devel­oped to suc­cess­ful­ly achieve objec­tives, to progress towards a career goal or to help the indi­vid­ual or the team per­form more effectively?

Devel­op­ment is real­ly impor­tant in terms of employ­ee engage­ment. A focus on train­ing and devel­op­ment has been known to boost morale and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty while decreas­ing staff turnover. Every employ­ee wants to know that their com­pa­ny tru­ly cares about their future and is sup­port­ing their pro­fes­sion­al advance­ment. Organ­i­sa­tions ignore per­son­al devel­op­ment at their own cost, as 40% of employ­ees who receive poor train­ing will leave their com­pa­ny with­in the first year.

3. Give Employ­ee Feedback

Feed­back is a crit­i­cal ele­ment of reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions. Man­agers should use this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss what has been going well and what has been caus­ing prob­lems. Deliv­er appre­ci­a­tion and recog­ni­tion for achieve­ments and, where things haven’t gone accord­ing to plan, con­sid­er what could be learned for next time. Always make the feed­back as spe­cif­ic as pos­si­ble and avoid hearsay, gen­er­al­i­sa­tions and per­son­al comments.

It should be not­ed that feed­back needs to be time­ly. This under­lines the need to ensure that per­for­mance dis­cus­sions and feed­back are reg­u­lar. Nobody wants to receive feed­back on some­thing that didn’t go well sev­er­al months ago! The longer a man­ag­er sits on con­struc­tive feed­back with­out act­ing on it, the more ingrained bad habits become with­in an employ­ee and the hard­er it will be to turn things around.

The sta­tis­tics on the ben­e­fi­cial effects of reg­u­lar feed­back are well-doc­u­­men­t­ed. Accord­ing to one sur­vey, near­ly 60% of respon­dents would like feed­back on a week­ly basis. This num­ber increased to 72% for employ­ees under 30. While 75% claim they believe feed­back is valu­able, only 30% of employ­ees claim to receive it. On top of this, near­ly 70% of employ­ees state they would work hard­er if their efforts were more recog­nised at work and com­pa­nies who imple­ment reg­u­lar employ­ee feed­back see a 14.9% decrease in turnover rates.

Of course, feed­back should go both ways. This is an oppor­tu­ni­ty not only for man­agers to deliv­er feed­back but for employ­ees to give their super­vi­sors feed­back on exist­ing work­place process­es and how they might be improved upon — this is the best way for a com­pa­ny to progress, advance and strengthen.

4. Employ­ee Issues and Concerns

If the employ­ee has any issues or con­cerns, now is the per­fect time to raise them. They have their manager’s full atten­tion and they know they have some­one to work with them to arrive at a solu­tion. Equal­ly, if the man­ag­er has any prob­lems they wish to dis­cuss, this pri­vate set­ting is the ide­al envi­ron­ment in which to raise them. Decide on spe­cif­ic actions that need to be tak­en, and set a time frame to fol­low-up and put them into action.

5. Are Employ­ee Skills and Strengths Being Utilised?

Each employ­ee has unique skills and strengths to bring to the table. Accord­ing to a Gallup poll, employ­ees who can use their strengths per­form bet­ter, are less like­ly to leave and are more engaged over­all. Dis­cuss whether or not the employee’s spe­cif­ic skills and strengths are being utilised on a day-to-day basis. If not, explore how their goals or job descrip­tion could be adapt­ed to bet­ter play to their strengths.

6. Per­son­al, Team and Organ­i­sa­tion­al Priorities

Take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss team or organ­i­sa­tion­al pri­or­i­ties for the com­ing weeks and what this means for the employee’s per­son­al pri­or­i­ties or goals. If there has been a change in focus or direc­tion, the employee’s objec­tives may need to be re-pri­ori­­tised or new objec­tives added.

7. Man­age­r­i­al Help and Support

Employ­ees need to know that man­age­ment is there to help and sup­port them in any way they can, which makes the issue of man­age­r­i­al sup­port a key dis­cus­sion point. Is there any­thing the employ­ee needs from their man­ag­er in the com­ing weeks? This may be any­thing from deal­ing with an inter­nal office con­flict to organ­is­ing mater­ni­ty leave. Use this oppor­tu­ni­ty to draw up a plan of how the man­ag­er can help. Man­agers should also sched­ule fol­low-up dis­cus­sions to ensure the employee’s needs are being met.

How Can You Ensure These Items Are Reg­u­lar­ly Discussed?

Employ­ees and man­agers need to be pro­vid­ed with a clear struc­ture for per­for­mance and devel­op­ment dis­cus­sions to ensure that these dis­cus­sion points are cov­ered in detail. We’ve come up with a real­ly effec­tive way of doing this via our Clear Review per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware. It’s pur­pose built to ensure that reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions take place, that they are mean­ing­ful and that action points are cap­tured and fol­lowed up.

Clear Review per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware has been used by more than 160 organ­i­sa­tions to facil­i­tate and encour­age reg­u­lar coach­ing con­ver­sa­tions and improve com­mu­ni­ca­tion lev­els. To join the move­ment and to find out what we can do for you, book a free per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware demo today.

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