Managing the Performance Management Process
It's often painful but you can use the performance mangement process to your advantage.
The performance management process (PMP) is one of the most important ‘people’ processes in almost every organisation that I’ve work in or for. Right up there with the annual compensation process.
Yet, it is also one of the most time consuming, frustrating and stressful processes ever invented. And often seems to be used to achieve very different, often mutually exclusive goals.
While performance management attempts to maximise employee value by maintaining and improving employees’ performance in line with the organisation's objectives, organisations also use it to;
- Establish agreed objectives
- Reward staff e.g. via salary increases, bonuses, promotions etc. by measuring their success against previous goals;
- Define and agree learning and development plans;
- Hold staff to account where they are not meeting the minimum requirements of the role.
These purposes can often seem contradictory and muddled e.g. why would you suggest development needs when you want to maximise your potential opportunities for higher reward?
Here is my, very personal, take on some of the issues with the PMP and, assuming that you can’t change the process, how you can navigate it.
1. Poor communication: This is the big one and a subject to address more fully in another blog. In essence, be clear about what you want from the process, put yourself in your manager’s shoes and try to understand their world, and keep seeking clarity and confirmation that you’re being heard and you’re hearing them.
2. Lack of clear expectations, either about the purpose of the process or even your role: Mitigate this issue by making sure that you and your manager are very clear about the purpose, even to the extent of confirming it in an email afterwards.
3. Biases and subjectivity: We all have our biases and these can be hard to overcome. When I’ve had issues in my past, I’ve ended up keeping a regular performance log of what I’ve achieved, the good, the bad, occasionally the ugly, and what I would do differently next time. This gave me a more solid foundation to have a bias free conversation as I could refer to my notes which I wrote at the time.
4. Inadequate feedback: Some managers find giving constructive feedback very hard. I always take personal responsibility for getting feedback and would talk to team members, customers and even suppliers about my performance, especially when my manager wasn’t hands on.
5. Inconsistent application: It can seem unfair when your manager looks like they favour someone else over you. However, you do not live in their shoes, you do not know their issues and their strengths, and only see part of what they do for the organisation. Focus on your own behaviour and be the best that you can.
6. Unrealistic goals: Being given difficult goals is one thing, unrealistic is another. Do not accept them unless you have to, and if you have to, make your concerns clear and in writing. However, be very careful not to cry ‘wolf’ – if you achieve your ‘unachievable’ goals in six months, you will lose credibility.
7. Lack of manager training: While it’s important that your manager has the skills to do a good performance management process, it’s also your responsibility to manage your career. Own the situation. Personally, I love it when my manager isn’t comfortable managing the PMP, I see it as an opportunity to write my goals my way.
8. Lack of follow-up: Once-a-year performance meetings are a waste of time for everything except meeting your manager’s competition target and giving them some information to make pay decisions. Own your career. Seek out feedback, play to your strengths, work on your weaknesses. Based on your feedback and self reflection, use of many resources available to all of us, many are low cost or free, to develop yourself.
Yes, I know that the PMP can be painful, time consuming and seems to be only remotely linked to your remuneration. But it’s also a time to shine, to remind your boss why you’re so good, and reset your goals for the coming period. Take the opportunity to make it a kick-start or boost for your career.
Proactively manage your career.