It is common for managers to feel that their relationship to the workforce is somewhat adversarial. Managers want their employees to do the utmost to help the company succeed, and it can seem that employees want to do as little as possible to take home their paycheck.
However, this simply isn’t true. Most workers understand that their effort directly contributes to company success, and when the company succeeds, they succeed, as well. Thus, it isn’t employee laziness that is getting in the way of achieving peak performance; it is a slew of performance management mistakes made by those in charge.
Managers need to evaluate their performance management processes for the following mistakes, which can severely interfere with their organization’s ability to operate well.
Choosing to Set Inappropriate Goals
Goals drive an organization. Leaders should strive to make their goals as clear and concise as possible, so everyone in the organization is trying to end up at the same place. Businesses that struggle with vague goal-setting can benefit from the SMART system for generating goals:
- S: Specific
- M: Measurable
- A: Achievable
- R: Relevant
- T: Time-bound
Failing to Communicate the Big Picture
Workers have their own tasks, but if they do not understand how their tasks interconnect to contribute to the overarching goal, they might not care all that much when or how they complete their tasks. It is critical that business leaders empower their workforce by illustrating the big picture. A common mission gives the workforce purpose and direction; employees are more likely to recognize how their performance contributes to the entire organization, and thus they are more likely to engage with performance management strategies.
Neglecting Convincing Employees to Buy in
Communicating the big picture is one thing; getting employees to buy into that big picture is quite another. Generally, vulnerability and transparency are required to convince employees to buy in. Workers want to know more about the people leading them — who they are, how they come to make certain decisions for the company — before they are willing to put their trust into business strategies. When it comes to performance management, leaders need to present their plans to the workforce and receive feedback before employees are likely to buy in.
Forgetting that Communication Goes Both Ways
In some organizations, leadership makes decrees, and the workforce obeys — but these organizations are rarely as high-performing as they could be. Good performance management relies on a dialogue between leaders and workers that takes place more frequently than an annual review. Businesses should schedule performance reviews at least quarterly, and reviews should serve as a space for employees to offer feedback just as they receive it.
Using the Wrong Indicators of Success
The only thing worse than having no indicators of successful performance management is using the wrong indicators. What’s more, it is possible for businesses to collect far too much data on performance. Undoubtedly, trying to manage too much information and focusing on the wrong information are both wastes of time and resources, but more importantly, they can both cause leadership to draw incorrect conclusions about how the workforce is performing. Selecting key performance indicators is an art and a science.
Few managers relish confrontation with their employees, so many choose to ignore underperformance until it causes significant issues. However, this path is bad for everyone involved: The underperforming individual fails to improve their skills and advance their careers; the manager earns resentment from other team members who must make up for a colleague’s underperformance; and the organization which relies on proper performance for success. There is no easy way to address underperformance, but business leaders need to overcome their discomfort and end underperformance as it appears.
Overlooking Excellent Performance
On the flip side, managers often tend to take overperformance for granted. When an employee knows they are going above and beyond to deliver excellent results, they need to be recognized, celebrated and rewarded — otherwise, they will feel demoralized and disconnected from the big picture and common purpose. Business leaders should have a few meaningful prizes on hand to give to overperformers to encourage their behavior throughout the company.
Employees want to want to work, and it is high time that business leaders fulfill that want with appropriate performance management tactics. By avoiding the above mistakes, everyone in an organization can work together to reach success.