Performance Management

Processes, teams, people, they all need to have their performance assessed and managed in order to improve over time and to add capabilities as they mature.  An unmanaged process like an under managed or undirected employee will soon run afoul of their original goals and objectives and will often change directions and manners that are less than strategic and out of alignment with the rest of your assets.  It is important to review and appraise all of your assets from time to time to keep them sharp and focused in the right direction.

Performance Appraisal Objectives

Performance appraisals for people and processes both involve setting goals, examining results achieved, and creating criteria that can be measured and met going forward.  Objectives are high level ambitions, and will be attained by meeting specific supporting goals.  Objectives should be few, 2 or 3 at the most. 

Clearly define your objectives, and make it understood that the purpose of this exercise is on-going improvement.  Realize that YOU, the person that is responsible for the employee, the process, the department, the team, whatever you are trying to improve, is the one that drives success or failure.  You must be the instigator of change, the one that inspires and encourages, and helps the employee reach the objectives set out in the appraisal.  Others involved will enter into the discussion with their own objectives, their own ideas, and their own concerns.  It is up to you to ensure that agreement and alignment is achieved, and to maintain the relationship that allows improvement to be made.

Focus on 3 main activities when assessing performance:

  1. Assess performance, not personality.
  2. Use valid, concrete and relevant issues rather than subjective emotions and feelings to measure success.
  3. Collaborate on target improvement opportunities, and the manner that they will be achieved.

Setting Goals To Meet Objectives

Goals are the stepping stones to meeting objectives.  Goals should be short term attainable milestones, and there should be 3 or 4 at the maximum to achieve each objective.  Goals can be further broken down into discrete tasks, which should be straightforward, accomplishable steps which produce some resulting output or outcome.  When setting goals and objectives:

  1. Be very clear in your communications.  Attempt to eliminate misunderstandings.  Have objectives and goals written down.
  2. Specifically quantify what is expected, of the employee, service provider, process… that is being appraised.
  3. State exactly when the results and outputs are expected.

These are the basic components of good management communications.  If you execute these basic components well, you will gain the following advantages:

  • Once you realize the role that you play, the steps that you take to manage the process or employee will help to increase productivity.
  • You provide feedback on performance, measuring output and setting expectations.  This enables “lessons learned” exercises to be meaningful and defines the expected performance levels.
  • You recognize and reinforce good performance consistently, and set goals for the future.  Allowing those involved to help set the goals and objectives, motivation to achieve them is heightened.

Needs

When you hire someone, you rent their behavior.  When you manage a person, you direct and modify their behavior to achieve departmental and company goals.  Every employee that you manage has needs.  At a minimum, they need to understand their goals and objectives, and have a clear picture of what their job description and priorities are.  Here are a few of the most important needs for performance measurement from an employee’s perspective:

  • What criteria are being used to measure performance?
  • How is performance being measured, what standard will be used?
  • How is he or she doing relative to your expectations and the company’s goals?
  • What feedback will be given, and when?
  • What assistance does the company provide for improving performance?
  • What are the rewards for above average performance?
  • Who can he or she peak to about:
    • How things are going in general?
    • Specific issues and problems that they are encountering?
    • What management can do to reduce job frustration?
    • Suggestions for management improvement?
  • To feel that someone cares.
  • To be treated with dignity and respect.

Every manager has needs.  Because the employee is considered an asset of the company, the employer needs to review and direct the contributions that its employees make toward achieving the company’s objectives.  Here are a few of the most important needs from a supervisor’s perspective:

  • Constant improvements to quality of output and cost reduction.
  • A system that identifies individual and departmental training needs.
  • Information for input into organizational planning.
  • Measurement and input into employee morale.
  • Operational assistance in attaining tactical goals and strategic objectives.
  • Support in meeting management goals and objectives.

Motivation

What is motivation?  As a security specialist, it is important for me to understand what motivation is, since it makes up one of the most important pillars in Risk/Threat Measurement and Incident Investigation.  Motive, Opportunity, & Means.  In management, motivation ties tightly to needs.

One popular and enduring theory of human motivation (Maslow’s Hierarchy) indicates the hierarchical nature of needs. The lower the needs in the hierarchy, the more fundamental they are and the more a person will tend to abandon the higher needs in order to pay attention to sufficiently meeting the lower needs.  For example, when we are ill, we care little for what others think about us: all we want is to get better.  This basic observation characterizes needs as:maslow

  • Self actualization – To realize all of one’s potential.  Widely considered the master motive — all others, merely manifestations of it.
  • Esteem building –  Reflect a person’s overall evaluation of their own worth and placement, encompassing beliefs and emotions. 
  • Sense of belonging – A fundamental need including love, affection and respect, we first want to join a group, then gain its esteem.
  • Safety & security – The basic need of keeping a roof over our heads, keeping us from harm. 
  • Physiological – To do with the maintenance of the human body. If we are unwell, then little else matters until we fully recover.

Another theory is that people direct their actions to satisfy their own needs.  Once a need has been satisfied, it no longer motivates further action.  One way of looking at selfish employee motivation is using the “Theory X versus Theory Y” concept. 

  • Theory X assumes that people hate work, are not ambitious by nature, are irresponsible and prefer to be told what to do.  Theory X managers believe that people work only as long as they are monitored, must be told exactly what to do, how to do it, and must be closely controlled until the work is done.
  • Theory Y managers push authority down, delegating, assume that employees have a natural interest and willingness to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.  These managers seek out ideas from their subordinates, looking for better ways of doing things.

Doctor Frederick Herzberg researched motivation and identified satisfaction and dissatisfaction factors among workers.  He found achievement to be the strongest motivating factor among employees.  Small achievements act as motivation to achieve more.  The second strongest motivator is recognition.  Unfortunately, most supervisors spend a lot of time convincing employees that the good work that they produce is normal, expected every day performance.  Recognition can come in many forms, from the ever popular bonus, the company, team or individual award, to even a private pat on the back and a kind word.  Remember to not only focus on the winners of the marathon when motivating your team, but think about the runners who ran longer and harder than they have ever run before.  They may have been running just as hard as the “winners”, while also juggling three cats and a chainsaw!

Team Development

The development of a department must reflect the intentions of management as well as the interests, abilities and motivations of the  employees; otherwise, achieving objectives will be very difficult.  A performance appraisal should serve as the basis for strengthening the relationship between the manager and the employee, forming a strong team bond between you.  You become two like-minded adults, working towards mutually beneficial goals and objectives.  Be mindful of your actions and observe what supervision the employee requires for improved performance.  Identify the techniques and tools that could help, and adjust your leadership style to maximize performance.

Leadership Styles

I am aware of 4 main leadership styles.  Each style represents a maturity level in management capabilities, and can be set on a progression chart with the objective of moving from micro-management towards autonomy, achieving directive or participative management.

  1. Authoritative Management – The supervisor sets all goals and makes all decisions.
  2. Benevolent Authoritarian Management – Supervisory has little confidence in subordinates, delegates minimal risk tasks to others.
  3. Consultative Management – Supervisor has some confidence in subordinates.  Solicits input, but makes final decisions.
  4. Directive Management – Subordinates function within boundaries set by supervisor.  Problems and ideas are batted back and forth between the subordinate, the team, and the supervisor.  Allows more employee freedom, builds morale and furthers trust.

Directive Management is usually the desired management objective.  It brings with it the time savings of not having to do or review everything yourself, and the ability to delegate tasks effectively.  Realize first that you cannot get there without a plan, without investing in your team members, and without going through all of the other management styles.  You may go through them quickly, but you will go through them as you build a new team or start with an existing one. 

You will at first need to understand what everyone does, how they have operated in the past, their ability to make sound decisions, and their motivations.  As you and your team build up trust, you will progress through the various management styles, building more trust in your abilities as a manager or supervisor.  Where you stop on the management style scale is your improvement opportunity.  Many supervisors and managers fail to delegate tasks well, have difficulty trusting others, or need to maintain tight control.  They stop somewhere in the middle.

NOTE: There is a distinct difference in providing directive management and leaving someone with no direction. 

  • When you direct someone, you set them up for success.  Their success in achieving goals and objectives is a clear reflection of your management skills and capabilities.
  • When you fail to direct an employee, you set them up for failure.  Their failure to achieve poorly defined goals and objectives is a clear reflection of your management skills and capabilities.
  • If they beat all odds and achieve success without your direction it indicates that they should probably be supervising YOU.

Performance Feedback

When an employee hears feedback from a solid appraisal session, they come away with real information on which to act.  Without this information they are left guessing as to what is desired or required in order to meet expectations.  Their performance record will usually reflect this.  Time spent guessing or strategizing in the wrong direction is time and talent wasted.

If you have negative feedback to give, a commonly used and still effective method of delivery is the insertion technique.  First a positive comment is made, the negative feedback is inserted, and a positive comment finally closes the discussion.  Overall, the effective on the employee is positive while still allowing the negative concern to be aired and addressed.  This technique is particularly effective with an employee that is trying hard, making progress, and perhaps doesn’t take criticism well.  This is not a technique to be used where a stern warning or serious dereliction of duty is to be issued.

Some useful tips:

  • Correct mistakes when they happen.  Don’t allow them to become habits.
  • A performance appraisal should be a summary of the day-to-day realities shared by a manager and an employee.
  • Properly conducted, the appraisal process provides as much relationship as performance improvement.
  • The magic isn’t in the form or the delivery.  It’s in the effort of two people working together to improve the future.

The pace of business today is fast.  The forecast for the future is hectic, and competitive pressures are expected to increase.  As the economy improves, the best and the brightest will tend to gravitate to places and people that treat them fairly and equitably.  Invest now in your staff, and talk about good and bad performance as it happens, when the issues are clear, and not influenced by the rush of historical perceptions.  Employees become motivated when they feel that you are there alongside them, coaching, caring, and understanding the events that they face as they unfold.  Stop bad things early, before they become too large to handle.  You will also avoid festering feelings of being alone and unheard.

Setting Expectations

As a manager or supervisor, you have many tools at your disposal to set, manage and direct performance.  Critical to the employee is the Job Description.  Yes, once your eyes return from that unavoidable rolling motion, and the groaning in the room stops, consider this:

  • The job description describes at the most basic level, the acceptable expectations of the employee.
  • If the employee’s role has changed, document it in the job description.
  • Collaboration on the job description will ensure buy-in and solicit agreement on action plans and improvement opportunities.

When performing a performance appraisal, consider the job description as the foundation, and build up from there.  Since teh job description is intended to outline the basic job function, it should represent a good measure of the core expectations for each employee.  The next task is to set out and examine your own expectations.  Decide what you really expect this person to do on the job in the areas of:

  • Objectives
  • Goals
  • Authority
  • Projects
  • Priority
  • Scheduling
  • Standards of performance

It is important to appraise the employee’s performance, and not the expectations themselves.  What are the employee’s major strengths and weaknesses?  What personal traits or characteristics block greater achievement?  Are there bad habits that get in the way?  What lies ahead for this person?  Why?

Consider how each of the above areas will be presented to the employee.  If each area is going to be addressed, will it be too much for the employee to deal with in one sitting?  Are there key areas of more importance that require focus?  Be conscious of the following tendencies and avoid them as you prepare to assess your employees:

  • Trait Assessment:  Too much attention to certain characteristics that have nothing to do with the job or are difficult to measure can blind us to more important traits.
  • Over Emphasis:  Too much emphasis on favorable or unfavorable performance of one or two tasks could lead to an unbalanced evaluation of the overall employee contribution.
  • Bias or Prejudice: Things that have nothing to do with performance, such as race, religion, age, education, background, or sex do not belong in the evaluation.  Personal feelings, like not enjoying conversations, or simply preferring one employee’s company over another are not generally useful in a performance review.
  • False Reliance:  Relying on impressions rather than facts is unfair.  Just because the popular perception may be that one employee is making more progress in one area than another may not indicate the volume of work or effort being put into attaining results.
  • Misplaced Accountability:  Holding an employee responsible for factors that are beyond their control is unrealistic and counter productive.

Performance and Salary

Often, employee performance reviews are tied directly to their salaries.  When it is time to determine raises and bonuses, the performance appraisal becomes the hinge factor.  On the surface, pay for performance strategies sound great.  They can have hidden “gotchas”.

  • Employees are setup to become adversarial as they battle for dollars rather than seek mutual success.
  • Employees will always want to discuss their stellar achievements, and explain away deficiencies.
  • Budgetary constraints often dictate the total funds available.  This can mean that although individual performance improved and extra effort was made, compensation may be down.  Morale will often follow the same trend.
  • When the focus of the appraisal becomes wealth over performance, the human touch is lost.

The key to making performance appraisals work is to focus on demonstrating a genuine interest in the wants, needs, expectations and goals of both the business and the employee, and developing a plan to meet them.

Checklist for Success

  • Review mutually understood expectations regarding:
    • Role
    • Job Duties
    • Project Involvement
    • Objectives & Goals
    • Standards
    • Other Performance Factors
  • Measure job performance against mutually understood expectations.  Avoid:
    • Allowing bias or prejudice to become a factor.
    • Relying on memory alone, not having a log or journal.
    • Focusing on one facet of the job over other facets.
    • Being overly influenced by your own experience.
    • Evaluating traits rather than performance metrics.
  • Review the employee’s background including:
    • Skills & Skill Level
    • Work Experience
    • Training
    • Past Performance
    • Attendance Records
  • Identify the employees strengths and improvement areas:
    • Accumulate specific documentation to communicate your position.
    • Limit yourself to a few key areas that are most important for development.
    • Prepare a development plan in case the employee needs help producing a plan.
    • Identify areas for concentration for the next appraisal.
    • Provide advance notification of when the next discussion will be held.
    • Allot sufficient time to review and discuss the issues completely.
  • Conduct the appraisal review:
    • Begin the discussion with a sincere, open and friendly atmosphere.
    • Review the purpose of the discussion.
    • Make it clear that this is a joint discussion for mutual problem solving and goal setting.
    • Strive to put the employee at ease.
    • Keep the focus on job performance and related factors.
    • Discuss job requirements, employee strengths and accomplishments, previous goals and objectives, results achieved.
    • Encourage the employee to outline their personal plans for self-development before suggesting your own. 
    • Encourage and allow the employee to appraise his or her own performance.
    • Get the employee to set improvement and growth targets. 
    • Use open, reflective, and directive questioning to promote thought.
    • Discuss specific observations for each point discussed regarding improvements needed, new goals and objectives, plans for achieving new goals and objectives.
    • Reach agreement on appropriate development plans, set a timetable and explain the support that the company and you are prepared to offer. 
  • At closing:
    • Summarize what has been discussed, show enthusiasm for plans that have been made, end on a positive and friendly note. 
    • Follow-up on all action items quickly to maintain the positive momentum, and follow-up on the next review period.

References:

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