Performance Management: Adapting to a Changing Workforce

employee performance management

It is not unusual for the professional world to view Performance Management (PM) as a necessary evil. PM has a reputation for being both daunting and intimidating for all parties involved. However, when executed well, it can be incredibly rewarding for both the manager and the employee.

What is Performance Management?

PM is an interactive and collaborative exchange between manager and employee. Simply put, it refers to tracking progress, providing feedback, and evaluating the overall performance of an employee. It should be a continuous process that involves planning, monitoring, reviewing, and developing work objectives and overall contributions to the organization. Ultimately, it focuses on an employee’s overall improvement, growth, and development.

Now let’s throw in the possibility that you may meet your employee face-to-face, at least not in an everyday sense. The pandemic caused work culture to take a radical turn. Remote or hybrid work schedules are the new norm, but that should not hinder your ability to manage your employee’s overall performance in any way. With the help of video conferencing, good performance management remains centered on open, frequent communication, goal setting, and coaching.

Best Practices in Performance Management

For performance management to be effective, it should be tailored to the employee, the organization, and the work environment. Consider these best practice suggestions as you implement or update your current approach.

  1. Set Expectations: Set clear and specific goals for each employee so they understand what is expected of them, and have a path to work toward those goals. Go to lunch, sit down, set up a recurring video conference, and learn about your employee. The more you learn about each other, the easier you can set clear (and more importantly, attainable) expectations.
  2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: This cannot be stressed enough. Routine communication between managers and employees is critical for performance management. These conversations should include feedback, addressing concerns, and discussing progress goals. If you are in the office, face-to-face is preferable, but video conferencing is a great alternative.
  3. Use Data: Data-driven decision-making is also a vital aspect of performance management. Regularly tracking and measuring progress toward goals can help identify areas of improvement and track an employee’s overall success. Data is a great tool and discussion point to keep communication flowing.
  4. Customize: Each employee is unique, so customize their performance management discussions to their specific needs and goals. If you have a hybrid workplace, and your employee is more responsive to in-person meetings, encourage face-to-face meetings. If you are in a completely remote setting, be conscious of how your employee prefers communication. A simple phone call is all it may take.
  5. Encourage Development: Encouraging and supporting employee development can improve performance and increase job satisfaction and retention. Include conversations that include short-term and long-term career goals as part of your overall performance management discussions. Be sure to have this outlined for them to refer to for their own development.
  6. Use PM as a Growth Opportunity: Performance management should not be viewed as a punitive measure but rather as an opportunity for growth and development. Employees should feel supported and encouraged to improve.
  7. Recognize and Reward: Recognizing and rewarding employees for their success can boost morale and motivate them to continue to perform at a high level. This can be a simple email stating your appreciation or sending them their favorite bag of snacks. Feel free to get creative with this.

Performance Reviews/Evaluations

Performance reviews are a significant element of performance management. There are many types of performance reviews, each with its own unique focus and approach. These are a few commonly used types of performance reviews that can be administered both in person and remotely:

  1. Annual Review: This is the most common type of performance review. It is a yearly assessment of an employee’s work over the previous 12 months.
  2. 360-degree Review: This type of review involves input from multiple sources, including the employee’s supervisor, peers, subordinates, and even customers and clients. The goal is to provide a more well-rounded, comprehensive evaluation of performance.
  3. Project-based Review: This type of review focuses on an employee’s performance on a specific project or task rather than their overall performance.
  4. Self-Assessment Review: In this review, employees assess their performance, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and set personal goals for themselves.
  5. Continuous Review: This review is ongoing, with frequent check-ins and feedback from supervisors throughout the year. It helps employees stay focused on their goals and adjust as needed to improve their performance.

Performance Improvement Plans (PIP)

Although performance improvement plans are the most dreaded part of performance management, it is crucial for several reasons. It provides clarity and expectations, typically around what may not be working as expected. The PIP focuses on areas needing improvement, helps hold employees accountable, provides legal protection, helps with the retention of valuable employees, and in the end, can improve performance. 

PIPs are an opportunity to provide further coaching and are best performed in person. However, when that is not feasible, video conferencing may be the best alternative to see a person’s reaction and get a feel for how the conversation is proceeding. This also allows for easily sharable information, such as written documentation, when providing the PIP to your employee.

  1. Be Prepared: Have the PIP written out with specifics, outlining areas of concern and giving direct examples of where the employee is showing performance issues. Be sure to keep the examples objective and tangible.
  2. List Actions: Be sure to list attainable actions and goals with dates the employee is expected to show signs of improvement. These milestones should be realistic.
  3. Walk Them Through It: Slowly go over every concern, and make sure you take the time to hear concerns from your employee’s points of view.
  4. Set Follow-Up Meetings: Once the employee has a clear understanding of the expectations and you have reached an agreement on those expectations, schedule regular follow-up meetings. The first should be no more than 30-45 days after your initial meeting. In the interim, use this time for continued coaching and feedback. It is best practice to proved the employee with a document of what was discussed and agreed to. Email is useful in this scenario.

Making performance management a priority and creating a process for regular interactive and collaborative exchange about expectations and progress toward goals leads to improved performance, better business outcomes, and higher employee engagement.  

Meghan Steinberg

Director, HR Consulting