3 Ways Performance Management Tools Can Muddle Performance

Aug 28, 2014 Posted by

As an HR executive, I’ve been frustrated when the organizational performance management process doesn’t answer the basic question: How are we doing? Performance management should also answer the question: How are we performing? Not only should it document performance at the individual level, but it should also facilitate rolling up the data to answer the question.

A few years ago, I faced a situation where the finance department brought in a performance management system that they saw at a conference. Having just spent money on a performance management system, I asked why they felt the need for something else. They said that the HR goals we set weren’t really what we needed to be tracking.

I took that as a challenge and asked them to work with me. They agreed. Here are some things we learned from the exercise:

Performance Management Systems are Not Configured to Provide Dashboards

The CEO and CFO really wanted a simple roll-up of all of the goals that cascaded from the organizational goals. The complexity of setting organizational goals, cascading them, and getting them approved took the organization six months. The system was configured to roll up individual goals, to the next level, and the next level, etc. until it hit the CEO. Oops, he hadn’t input his goals. Eight months later, we still had no roll-up.

The Dashboard Product Offered by the Vendor Was Wholly Dependent Upon the Quality of Available Measurement Data

As we struggled with the performance management system, we went back to the vendor, armed with better information about our organizational goals, and asked them to show us what they could do. I wasn’t crazy about this, because it created technological distance (think: databases communicating with each other), but wanted to see what they had.

We learned that “the product” was ready-to-use — as long as we had good measurement data. If we were not confident in our data, they were more than happy to come in and help us build a cascading goal system.

We had already learned that this was not an easy process and figured the cost of that “help” would be exorbitant. Eventually, we each returned to our silos and kept trying to simplify performance management goals, teach leaders to manage to goals, and concentrate on the quality of the review, while the finance folks created an Excel dashboard that the CEO liked.

Bureaucracy Takes an Organization’s Eye Off the Business

The question then becomes, how much value do all of these systems and processes add, in terms of keeping the data clean, teaching the workforce to use them, and spending time doing “administrative work” that isn’t driving the business? That experience soured me on the concept of spending more time tracking and documenting, than on doing.

Creating business plans at the unit level provides a means of collective planning for the work of the performance period, and a working document that can be used to check and dialogue about progress. Rather than spending time writing goals for every employee, putting them into a system, and updating and evaluating them, would it not be a better use of time to review the well-conceived business plan regularly with the whole team, and with the individual contributors? Would it not be a good dialogue to discuss how the employee’s perspective of their contribution matches the leaders? Could that dialogue be documented to fulfill the documentation purpose of performance management?

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Four Habits of Highly Effective Employees

Aug 26, 2014 Posted by

Imagine you have a team of exceptional employees — employees who consistently find ways to add value and make a difference.  What level of performance would this team deliver? What success attributes would these employees have?

We are sometimes confused that because employees have done a task, job or role before, that they are a good fit for our job. As we look at our existing employees — and at any who we are considering bringing in to the organization — we must be aware of the attributes of highly effective employees. What values and beliefs do they have that will guide them to succeed in their roles and in the organization? Defining these will help us better assess employment candidates and guide management about how to develop each employee to perform at their best.

Make a Choice

As I present what I feel to be the four habits of highly effective employees, notice that each requires choice. Employees who are highly effective choose to be that way. They aren’t bribed through incentives, or threatened into performance. They choose it because it comes from the inside out — it comes from who they choose to be and how they choose to show up to the events of their lives — including work.

Here are four habits of highly effective employees:

  1. They choose to show up. They know themselves — they know their talents, strengths, passions and values. They are self-aware. They pay attention to the details of their world. They are world-aware. They are present and attentive to information. They are always watching, looking, listening and learning. They show up in both body and mind.
  2. They choose to step up. They own their work. They ensure they know what is expected of them. They know their performance expectations and deliver on them; they act. They take charge of themselves, their performance and their results; they are accountable. They don’t need to be told to make things happen.
  3. They choose to speak up. They know what they stand for and use their voice to offer ideas, create possibilities, take advantage of opportunities and challenge things that need challenging. They know and live their values; they are courageous and say what needs to be said. They defend others, commit to what is right and don’t need the title of leader to act like a leader.
  4. They choose to stand out. They don’t settle. They have a personal standard of excellence that is present both in and out of work. When they do things, they go beyond; they encourage and expect the same from others.

The key to success with each habit is choice — the awareness that employees own their performance, impact and achievement. Until we own our habits — until we choose them as ours — simply identifying what makes a habit effective will not translate into performance. We must be performance owners.

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Flexible Hours Work — With Company-Wide Support

Aug 25, 2014 Posted by

With ever-present Internet and mobile connections, employees today are just a click away from work whether they’re at home, on the go, or, shockingly, in the office. Technology and the need to cut office overhead costs mean that many companies offer some version of a flexible work schedule with options for employees to work from home.

New research supports this trend. Work-life conflicts could be eased if employees had more control over their schedules, including being able to work from home, according to a recent study published in The American Sociological Review. But for flexible work options to keep employees productive and engaged, they require company-wide support. 

“Sometimes an individual supervisor may say that it’s O.K. to work from home,” Erin Kelly, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota and one of the lead authors of the study, told the New York Times, “but these kinds of deals are happening under the radar — a signal that they aren’t really accepted.” 

The study, financed by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, examined IT workers at a large corporation. Managers received training in how to support employees’ personal lives, and employees were given the control to work where and when they preferred. Employees almost doubled the amount of time they worked at home, from an average of 10.2 hours to 19.6 hours. They reported feeling happier, less stressed, more energized and more efficient than a control group that did not have flexible work options.

Kelly cautions that while the results support giving workers more control over their schedules, these arrangements depend on sound management policies and practices. Otherwise employees who telecommute more frequently could be unfairly penalized.

h/t: New York Times

[Image via Can Stock Photo]

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Skills Gap or Unrealistic Expectations?

Aug 22, 2014 Posted by

Despite recent rises in hiring, economists, politicians and employers alike are dissatisfied with the labor market for one reason: the skills gap. Companies have jobs to offer, but they struggle to find people with the right credentials to fill them. But the skills gap argument doesn’t always hold water. Annual wage increases would be rising much […]

How To Convert Twitter Followers Into Candidates & Customers

Aug 21, 2014 Posted by

Twitter can’t be beat when it comes to business development. Sure, it’s good for engagement and great for sharing content — that’s what it’s really designed for, after all — but the nice thing about effective engagement and relevant content on Twitter is that you can build up a very targeted, highly segmented base of […]