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Masha Masha is a content developer at IceHrm. You can contact her at masha[at]

Revolutionizing Performance Management: Beyond Tick Boxes

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Two words, six syllables - pure bureaucracy. The cumbersome and unwieldy term “performance management” reveals the opportunity that many companies and nonprofits have to help their employees do better work.

Our complex world and evolving employee needs require HR teams and managers to move beyond checking boxes and moving away from obsessing over tasks and processes.

Eight guidelines for a more human path

Meaningful changes in performance management have nothing to do with new technologies or processes, but rather with a cultural change. We ask our employees to think in new ways, behave in new ways and achieve new results. The focus must be on people, everything else is secondary.

So how can we move from a bureaucratic process to a ritualized dialogue where the focus shifts from assessment to enrichment? Here are eight suggestions to get you started.

1.Clarify the value you are looking for

What is it about? If you're not clear about the value you're trying to create with performance management, your employees will remain confused and/or disinterested. Nowadays no one wants their performance to be “managed” anymore, so a new approach is needed.

There are three reasons for routinely studying how people work:

  1. To achieve better results for the company or the beneficiaries
  2. Creating a more effective workplace
  3. Improving the employee experience

Each of these goals is about improvement, making performance management a means to an end rather than a worthwhile process in itself. This already represents a departure from previous thinking and practice.

2.Find good words

It may seem like a small thing, but given the reputation that performance management has and the tired cynicism that the usual charade inspires, a compelling description of the effort is in everyone's interest.

Think about what value you want to create; involve the teams to put this into language that captures the essence. Maybe your colleagues care about growth or innovation, well-being or creativity, customers or the planet. You need to be able to say, "We engage in this ritual because we want to [do one or two things besides manage your performance].

3.Examine outcomes, values, and strengths

The options available depend on the industry and role, and most importantly, the type of interactions a person has with others.

In general, however, it is helpful to examine three facets of work experience. What is the quality of the results the person achieved? How do his or her behaviors align with agreed-upon values? And how well does the person demonstrate other strengths and competencies required for the job?

4.Choose numbers carefully

People do not obey the laws of physics or chemistry in their behavior. People act on a whim and in unpredictable ways, and they do so for complex, often hidden reasons. As I explain in Spreadsheets, seductive fantasy about the real world, numbers paint a reduced picture of social reality.

Quantitative surveys in the style of 360° or pulse surveys can reveal strengths and problems, but they provide more questions than answers. Their value lies in finding a way to have a holistic conversation: Managers and team members shouldn't worry about whether a person has a 3.4 or a 3.8 on a particular scale: that means next to nothing.

Switch from numbers to dialogue as quickly as possible.

5.Consider the environment

Individuals' performance is influenced by environmental factors, a complexity that is neglected in the traditional approach. When thinking about how a person works and what results they achieve, you should examine the manager's actions, available resources, immediate team and workplace conditions, etc.

Events in a person's personal life also impact work, so culture and practice should encourage a fair conversation about this. Without this, it is not possible to understand what promotes or hinders performance.

The goal is not to stop at the assessment, but to take steps to improve the situation. Good decisions come from understanding the broader landscape of performance.

6.Ensure managers take action

A major criticism of performance management processes is that very little happens after the assessment - the exercise is forgotten for six months or a year. One role of HR is to ensure that managers are held accountable for implementing performance dialogue by ensuring they support and challenge their team members.

Processes, even good conversations, that do not lead to practical progress demotivate individuals and question the sincerity of management. Don't ask employees to give or accept feedback or have one-on-one meetings if commitment to follow-up is low.

7.Provide resources

Any dialogue about improving business results, workplace effectiveness, or employee experiences will highlight the need for various investments. This could be money, time, training or other facilities.

When you ask employees to evaluate their own and each other's performance, have a meaningful conversation, and agree on a development path, only to be told, "We don't have a budget" or "No, you don't have time for that ", then the whole initiative will backfire.

8.Ritual trumps process

It's time to rethink what we mean by "performance" and also what we mean by "management." The trick to achieving better results for the company, workplace and team members is to move from a tedious process to an empowering ritual.

Shift from bureaucracy to empowerment in performance management. Elevate dialogue, values, and action for meaningful growth. Explore IceHrm for modern HR solutions.

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