Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Year, New Performance Management Issues?

Or is it the same old thing….

Many businesses are gearing up to write annual performance appraisals (assuming you’re still doing that after all the recent hub-bub about trashing the appraisal). This is almost always a painful process and many people rightfully wonder what real value it holds. Are you not seeing the results you want to see? Are your employees seeing any real value or positive outcome of their yearly evaluations? These are all good questions to ask to help determine whether you’ll revamp your current performance management process.

Another question to ask and examine the answer to is are you paying enough attention to the people who are tasked with evaluating your general employee population? Are they effective in their management practices throughout the year as well as at evaluation time?

Let’s look at some areas where managers and supervisors fail to hit the mark, and therefore, why the rest of your employees aren’t and why they might not see any value in your performance management process.

Lack of vision
If you’re below the level of a CEO this usually translates to a lack of goals. A company vision is usually an inspirational definition of what a company wants to become and a guide for getting there. At the management level, many problems are due to a lack of clear expectations and goals. You give an employee a job to do, but do they come to work every day not really knowing if they doing it well or not? If it’s the "same old, same old" every day, it doesn't motivate them to excel.

Poor Communication
Some managers seem to think employees can read their minds. Or they are deliberately vague in the mistaken thought that being vague is giving them room to be "creative" or own their jobs. A strong manager will be explicit and specific about what is expected and what needs to happen. They explain how every project and performance will be measured, and intervene only when those measurements indicate the project isn’t going as expected. Working with no direction or at least some guidelines is not providing autonomy, its setting people adrift.

Further, failing to communicate to employees about activities, initiatives or other organization-wide news doesn’t result in "focusing the team on the task at hand"; it simply keeps them in the dark, makes them less effective and fosters resentment. Sometimes, the old excuse "No one told me!" is actually true.

Being Inconsistent
A good way to turn off even your best employees is to keep moving the goal line, or even change the game frequently. While managers and leaders should be looking at the big picture, bouncing from one "big idea" to the next while never thinking through each idea and how success might be achieved won’t work either. If employees are saying "What off-the-wall idea did he come up with now?" you know you need to refocus that manager.  Jumping on the bandwagon of every new idea, initiative and theory du jour and then abandoning it for the next one leaves employees wondering in what direction they’re supposed to be moving.

Failure to Execute
We all take on projects once in a while that just don’t come together for any number of reasons. A manager needs to be able to ensure that barring any unforeseen or insurmountable obstacles, that a job or project is completed – in a timely fashion. If a manager is not doing what is necessary to assign staff, deploy the necessary resources or manage the time commitment necessary for successful completion, and this happens on more than an occasional basis, that manager is not being effective. Corrective action needs to be applied. Allowing such a manager to blame staff for the failure only contributes to the problem.

Avoiding Conflict
Managers who can't or won’t deal with problems, or problem employees, constructively and quickly lose the respect of their teams as well as contribute to lower productivity and overall outcomes.

If managers don’t take the time to tell people how they are doing, how will they know if they are meeting expectations? If they receive regular timely feedback they will have a greater understanding of what they need to do in order to achieve their objectives, whether that’s continuing on the present course, or a correction in their activity. If the feedback is presented in a constructive, objective and calm manner it can be a great development tool to help people grow and improve.

Global, not local
We’ve all heard the phrase "Think global, act local". We can turn that into a failed management concept. You will always have problem employees and good managers will address the problems directly with the problem employee. However, too many managers (and leaders) will make up new policies and make everyone adhere to yet more standards and practices in order to avoid dealing with the few who aren’t performing or behaving as expected. This tactic often alienates the positive, productive employees who wonder what the heck the problem is and resent being made to jump through new hoops. At the same time, the problem employees will usually ignore the new "global" policy and continue to be a problem. Pinpoint the problem and deal with it. Don’t change the whole game because one or two players are screwing up.

No Coaching or Training
Your product or service may be great, but if nothing else is true, you have to know that the environment changes. If your managers don’t know how to coach and train their employees, it won’t matter how great your product is, in the long run, it will fail. Managers need to manage, not spend their time doing all the work. Properly training and coaching employees on job tasks, company policies and procedures and coaching for employee development will add value to your organization.

Ignoring Poor Performance
It’s rare that a manager actually condones poor performance of any kind. What’s more common is that in an effort to be fair and supportive, or simply to avoid causing problems or conflict, they allow poor performers to persist. You see this in the manager who rates everyone as "exceptional", gives all a raise regardless of merit, or "new" positions are created to protect people who have failed – all in an effort to avoid the unpleasant task of actually firing someone. What results is usually pretty obvious. Other employees have to take on additional work to compensate for the poor performer, and they resent it. Work doesn’t get done, or the results are less than desirable. Strong managers know that when someone isn’t right for a job and it’s clear that no amount of training, coaching or incentive is going to help, that it’s time to part ways.

The bottom line is as leaders, you need to make sure that those who manage – and evaluate – the human resources within your organization are also managed and regularly evaluated to ensure they are effective in supporting your mission.

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