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Performance Enablement: Redefining Performance Management

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Why you should enable performance, not manage it

Have you ever left a performance review feeling frustrated, surprised, and unmotivated? If the answer is yes, then you have fallen victim to the common pitfalls of performance management. According to SHRM, only one in four companies in North America say their performance management processes are effective.

So if we know performance reviews don't work, why do we still approach them the same way? The truth is: it's complicated.

To get to the root of the problem, we should address this simple truth: Employees don't want their performance to be managed. The term itself implies that someone else is in control of their development. Traditional performance management is often reactive, Employees typically only hear about their superiors when they have done something wrong - which undermines employee trust. Additionally, this system focuses largely on annual reviews, which can stagnate employees' year-round development.

Traditional performance management often leaves employees feeling controlled rather than empowered. There is a solution, but it requires the cooperation of every company employee and a paradigm shift from annual performance reviews to ongoing performance empowerment.

Definition of ability to perform

Performance enablement is a people-centered practice that decentralizes feedback and empowers employees to take ownership of their development while empowering leaders to deliver peak performance. Consistent, real-time feedback empowers employees to learn, make mistakes, and grow in their roles. Timely feedback is combined with meaningful resources, coaching from superiors and regular goal checks: This means employees can fully exploit their potential on their terms.

Feedback: the catalyst for empowerment

We're here to tell you that feedback isn't a four-letter word - at least it doesn't have to be. Consistent feedback creates the conditions necessary for optimal performance. Here's how consistent feedback (both positive and constructive) can impact your team:

1.Improve motivation: Recognition in the workplace motivates employees to continue doing good work.

2.Increase psychological safety: When employees are regularly recognized for their contributions and reminded of their value, they feel more confident about taking risks and learning from mistakes. Regular recognition also makes constructive conversations easier.

3.Improves performance: Feedback, both positive and constructive, creates clarity for employees. Employees are made aware of the behaviors they need to start, stop, and continue in order to be successful at work. This investment in feedback also pays off for your company. According to Gallup, employees are 3.6 times more likely to agree that they are motivated to do great work when their manager provides daily (as opposed to annual) feedback.

4.Strengthen relationships: Public recognition programs highlight achievements and successes and help teams feel unified in their goals and priorities.

5.Empowers Employees: With traditional performance reviews, only 21% of employees feel their performance metrics are within their control. Additionally, 96% of employees surveyed said they want timely feedback. By fostering a culture of continuous feedback, employees receive helpful and forward-looking feedback that they can immediately implement. Additionally, companies benefit from being able to correct unproductive behaviors immediately instead of waiting for annual performance reviews.

How to Drive Performance: 9 Ingredients for Effective Feedback

To drive performance, you need to create a culture of trust and transparency that allows for both positive recognition and constructive feedback. We looked at how to give effective recognition; Let's now go through the most important components of effective employee feedback.

Ingredient 1: Continuously

Feedback should be immediate, highlighting strengths before addressing areas for improvement. This is important to give the recipient the opportunity to implement the feedback to promote motivation and growth.

Let's illustrate this idea with a scenario:

A single employee just presented an update to the entire leadership team. The presentation is thorough, well-prepared and data-backed. However, he rushed the presentation, making it difficult for the audience to respond to and ask questions.

  • For the feedback giver: Make sure your feedback is immediate and starts with everything the recipient did well in the presentation. Then talk directly about the things the recipient could have done better. To ensure that this feedback is motivating, you should give the recipient the opportunity to put the feedback they receive into action. In this case, you should give him another opportunity to present his presentation to the leadership team so that he can take more time with his presentation and pause for questions and comments. Then make sure you pay attention to the next presentation and give them credit for any improvements they implement.
  • ‍For the feedback recipient: The feedback described in the scenario above is motivating because it is easy to digest, straightforward and actionable. This feedback also allows the recipient to take control of their growth and decide how to implement the behavior change.

This scenario also avoids the typical pitfalls of performance management, which is that it occurs once a year and comes as a surprise to the recipient. Since the feedback is real-time, the recipient has time to make improvements and even mention them in their performance review.

Component 2: Future-oriented

Feedback should be future-focused and focus on improvements rather than dwelling on past mistakes. As mentioned in Part 1, you want to make sure that the recipient feels like they can act on the feedback you give them. This growth mindset will increase the employee's ownership of their development and improve trust between the direct report and the manager.

Component 3: Effective coaching, training and tools

Equipping employees with the right resources is critical to their success. Providing coaching, training and tools ensures they have the support they need to be successful. Of course, employees should be empowered to obtain supplies themselves, but it is also important that your company provides resources to all employees and managers. The resources provided should be linked to the skills the employee wants to develop based on their previous feedback.

Ingredient 4: Balance

If your employees only hear constructive feedback from you, they will be less motivated to improve their performance. Imagine every employee has a feedback bank: positive feedback is like deposits, constructive feedback is like withdrawals. Although both are a gift for the recipient, they have different effects on the employee's emotional balance (pun intended). Constructive feedback is more effective and better received when balanced by consistent “deposits” of positive recognition.

Component 5: Objective and fair

Feedback should be impartial and fair to promote employee trust. To avoid performance bias, it is important to understand the ways in which we are not evaluating performance fairly. So let's talk about some of the key biases to avoid when giving feedback:

  • Recency Bias: Recency bias is the idea that managers give greater consideration to employees' recent achievements (or shortcomings) when evaluating performance. Instead of considering the entire appraisal period, perhaps six months, our brains tend to focus on what happened most recently, which distorts our perception of performance. An always-on recognition tool like IceHrm can help combat recency bias by allowing managers to review feedback for the entire appraisal period, rather than just what happened recently.

Two key ways to mitigate identity bias in feedback are to:

  • Train employees, managers, and leaders on how to avoid unconscious bias. We like that!
  • Make sure feedback requests are objective and evidence-based.

While performance enablement doesn't solve all biases, it reduces the incidence of bias by forcing managers and employees alike to respond to performance in real time and focus on positive ideas for future improvements rather than forced retroactive evaluation.

Ingredient 6: Clarity

As the ever-wise Brene Brown says, “Clarity is kind.” Clear, straightforward feedback allows recipients to interpret the cues and apply them to their advantage. Don't waste a learning opportunity with unclear feedback, because bad feedback can be just as damaging as no feedback at all. Be specific about how you think the person could improve and what impact it would have on you or the team if they implemented the behavior change.

Ingredient 7: 360°

A single perspective on a person's performance is inherently biased. By gathering multiple perspectives, employees can look for patterns of what is most important for them to spend their time improving and what behaviors they should maintain.

Ingredient 8: The right time in the right context

This ingredient is actually self-explanatory. Make sure the recipient of the feedback is in the right frame of mind to receive constructive feedback. One way to find out? Ask him! The question can be very simple and doesn't have to seem scary, e.g. "Hey, I loved how you approached the new messaging project and used data to guide your decisions. I have a few ideas for how you might structure the user interviews next time. Would you be willing? Listen to my feedback in a 15 minute call today?"

This works because you're asking the recipient to opt-in to receiving feedback, not blindsiding them with a calendar invite with no context. This way, the recipient has time to collect their thoughts and has the context they need to be receptive to what you have to say. The end of a project or initiative is also a natural time to provide feedback, and employees expect it. Leverage existing workplace cadence rather than reinventing the wheel.

Ingredient 9: Emotional Intelligence

Giving good feedback and making it reach the recipient requires emotional intelligence. Although emotional intelligence is a soft skill and therefore difficult to teach, there are some questions you and your employees can ask yourself before giving feedback:

  • Does the feedback I give relate to a current situation?
  • Is the feedback recipient able to review my feedback?
  • Am I able to give respectful feedback?
  • Is this an appropriate framework for constructive feedback? (Remember that positive feedback should be given publicly and constructive feedback should be given in private).
  • When was the last time I gave positive recognition to the feedback recipient?
  • Do I have a trusting relationship with the feedback recipient?
  • Am I emotional or upset? Can I control my emotions while giving the feedback?

The conclusion

These are the nine ingredients that make up effective feedback. We hope you've learned that performance enablement is the antidote to the frustrations of traditional performance management. If you do it right, your employees will be empowered, you'll foster a culture of continuous feedback, and your teams will perform like you've never seen before. By recognizing achievements, providing effective feedback, and encouraging a forward-thinking mindset, you can unlock your employees' full potential and create an environment where performance flourishes.

Unlock your team's potential with performance enablement. Embrace feedback, empower your employees, and watch your organization thrive with IceHrm.

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