If you do a search for “ongoing performance management trend,” you’ll get roughly 1.5 million results going back quite a few years. It’s a theme that continues to catch on from small businesses to global powerhouse companies looking to revamp their approach to talent management, moving away from annual appraisals to something more in tune with the pace of the business.
And this trend towards ongoing performance management is catching on because it works. Consider this excerpt from Willis Towers Watson’s paper, The Power of Three:
“Through our client work and global workforce studies, we can readily correlate high engagement with better financial metrics. For example, in a three-year study of 41 global companies, we found that operating margins improved nearly 4% on average in organizations with high employee engagement levels and declined about 2% in those with low engagement levels.”
Businesses that have made the commitment to the practice of ongoing performance management, rather than the annual performance appraisals, are experiencing improved business outcomes because individual employees at all levels have a better idea of how their work aligns to business goals, which impacts engagement levels. However, establishing a culture of ongoing performance management won’t happen overnight.
So what can you do today to start making a difference?
Here are five ways managers can get in the habit of supporting employee performance on an ongoing basis:
1. Set goals with your employees.
Goal-setting isn’t new, but its importance cannot be understated. Gallup research found that nearly half of all workers know what’s expected of them at work. The key is to collaboratively set goals and commitments. If you haven’t already set goals with your staff, work with them to identify how they can contribute to departmental goals and, ultimately, organizational goals, with their work. They’ll have something to work toward for themselves and gain a clearer understanding of how they contribute to the success of the company.
2. Monitor and discuss progress on goals.
Now that you’ve helped employees set goals that are aligned with the business, keep track of their progress throughout the year. Make it a priority to regularly discuss how goals are progressing in one-on-one meetings so that expectations remain clear even as requirements may change. Having regular check-ins will help ensure things are on track and troubleshoot any challenges early on. In addition, monitoring and discussing goals will help keep staff in the loop on important news that affects them. After all, situations can change quickly and sometimes goals must also be adjusted or completely redesigned. According to research by Bersin and Associates, 54 percent of organizations revise goals once per year or not at all. This collaboration on setting goals and, monitoring progress, and revising commitments as necessary is critical for managers who want organizations to create and support a culture of high performance and engagement because it helps keep employees focused.
3. Book regular one-on-one meetings.
You might need weekly meetings with some employees and monthly with others, but establishing a consistent touchpoint with all staff as part of the rhythm of your business provides the opportunity to keep employee performance top of mind. It sends a strong message to employees as well: You value their time and are invested in their success. Develop a set agenda for your meetings that gives flexibility for employees to bring up hot topics to focus the conversation in the right direction. Make it a point to talk about training and development on an ongoing basis as well. After all, employees have unique learning styles and preferences, so work with them to establish a development path tied to moving their personal and professional career – and the business – forward.
4. Get to know your employees’ needs.
As a manager, it’s important to be a good communicator because it will help you build and maintain good rapport with employees. And the only way to communicate effectively with your staff is to get to know them as individuals. Use one-on-one meetings to find out what motivates the individuals on your team, what demotivates them, what they’re passionate about, what they want to do with their career, and what you can do to support them. This is more about listening and supporting employees than anything else. Actively listen to what your employees say and you’ll be well equipped to help and coach them to success.
Ongoing performance helps keep employees top of mind
The common thread in these actions is continuous, meaningful, effective communication. At its most basic level, the practice of ongoing performance management keeps employee performance and development top of mind. Regardless of your company structure or exactly who makes up your workforce, one simple fact remains: Employees want to know what’s expected of them at work and how they’re performing, not just once a year, all the time.
Truly engaged employees understand how their day-to-day work impacts the big picture. According to the authors of The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce, the combination of satisfaction and contribution creates the ideal alignment for high performance.
It’s no wonder that ongoing performance management helps build a high-performance culture. When everyone is clear on expectations, knows the importance of their contribution and the value they provide to the business, it makes it easier to do a good job. This also empowers managers to recognize and reward their staff. Ongoing performance management isn’t just a trend – it’s good business.
Tim Brien is a Regional Manager at Halogen Software. Tim and his team work directly with human resources professionals to customize talent management solutions to better align their people to help achieve positive business outcomes.