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Three Critical Lessons in Performance Management

Where organizations are fully performance driven, managing ‘performance management’ is of the highest priority. Difficulties arise if executives in charge of drawing up and implementing performance management practices lack the required skills or outlooks for translating lessons learnt elsewhere on to the instant workplace and organization. Balanced performance appraisal is one of the keystones in designing performance management blueprints and another is the recognition that it’s ultimately the staff that runs the show when it comes to service delivery.

The employee's perception and evaluation of the performance management process is critical for its success. Three lessons learnt from active research in performance management on this angle include:
  • There is difference between what the management preaches and how the employees perceive performance management processes – Often the practice and meaning of performance management do not resonate with the staff. It is necessary to ‘attune' employees through initial orientation and consistent feedback. For performance management processes to be successful, the management needs to educate employees to view such processes as constructive and not as routine low-priority activity. It is also required by the management to periodically assess the perception of performance management processes in employees.
  • Most performance management tools are underutilized – A performance management process is a ‘process' and not an ‘event.' It is much more than an annual performance appraisal meeting. Performance management processes are ‘live' need continual tweaking and adjustments, and need to be exercised continuously and transparently.
  • Performance management cannot work where positive outcomes for the company are sought without accepting positive outcomes for employees as individuals – The entire system is related. Performance management processes cannot succeed if they are taken to be activities from which only the company and management would derive benefits and workers would remain just ‘workers.' Performance management depends fully on the positive growth of employees as individuals and it is during the period of this ‘individual growth' that employee mindsets can be aligned with company objectives. As long as an individual employee is not personally experiencing positive growth in skills, finance, and job satisfaction or at other fronts, it is difficult to engage in effective performance management practices.
Typically, leaders in an organization think of controlling performance by influencing inputs. Performance management tries to fully align individual performance with organizational performance, and align the goals, priorities and expectations of individual employees with company objectives. The need to be humane and establish empathy with the constitution of a live workplace is important because all employees do not react or respond to the same signals in the same manner.

Source: Sally Selden, and Jessica E. Sowa, "Performance Management and Appraisal in Human Service Organizations: Management and Staff Perspectives," Public Personnel Management 40, no. 3 (2011).