Traditionally, performance management has sucked. Its value was more akin to a corporate compliance process or box to tick rather than a tool for firms to build high-performing teams. Its purpose has been twisted for so long that the concept of performance management has become misaligned, leaving HR managers with a perception battle of what it means today.
What is performance management?
The term performance management has developed a narrative that it’s just a corporate process of letting someone go – essentially a series of steps to fire someone.
It’s not an unfair opinion either, as some organisations used the performance process as an approved tool to shed unwanted talent from teams. But this has cast a shadow over the process and what the goal is for today’s decision-makers – performance enablement.
In a post-pandemic employee-powered world, performance management needs a makeover. Its narrative needs to be flipped to be seen as a process that employees no longer dread. While undoing decades of associations is no small task, HR leaders that take the right approach can take back control and get back to building high performing teams.
Today’s employees are driven by environments that are conducive to success and personal fulfilment. Anything less, will not do. Organisations that don’t get the best out of their staff will not retain the talent and in some cases, might not attract them in the first place.
How are high performing teams built?
Environments for high performing teams are not built through work drinks, footy tipping competitions, and the occasional golf day. Such an approach may (or may not) make for a ‘fun’ workplace, but it doesn’t always contribute to performance. This is driven by a strong culture of personal accomplishment and cohesion. We are seeing a new class of managers approach performance management differently, offering a helping hand, not an iron fist.
This has led to the levelling of the playing field where employer and employee are coming together like any other relationship. Where both parties contribute to the growth of that relationship for mutual fulfilment. Traditional employer/employee kin-ships that are based on a power imbalance are more akin to forced affiliation and do not drive today’s employees.
Analogy time. Let’s try tomatoes. Now, you can’t tell a tomato to grow faster, can you? All you can do is create an environment that will allow it to flourish and grow. Performance managing a tomato plant means providing it with the right amount of water, the right kind of soil, the right amount of nutrients, and the right amount of sun to help it flourish and grow.
Performance in the workplace ought to be much the same. It should be about creating the environmental conditions that will allow your staff members to grow. It should be a continual, unremarkable, semi-casual process – not just this formal, once-a-year thing. It’s having staff motivated for success over external motivations like something coming down on them.
What tips can HR use to boost employee performance?
Performance enablement means:
- Clearing out space in your diaries to check in on, and connect with, your colleagues.
- Asking questions to see if people feel comfortable and challenged.
- Starting conversations just to see where they go.
- Fostering and nurturing healthy relationships.
- Removing roadblocks, resetting goals, reviewing feedback and re-examining processes.
But above all, it should involve valuing people as people – not as resources or subordinates – and trying to understand what is going on in their lives. It should involve finding out what, if anything, you can do to help. And then doing it, day after day. By doing so staff feel supported and engaged, but also have more brain space for work productivity. Employees are human and will always have things going on in their lives that can impact their work.
In today’s world with COVID, global conflicts and the rising cost of living, employees’ minds are rarely 100% focused on their work. A human-centred approach can unburden some of the mental load felt by employees, unleashing more brainpower and potential for results.
Performance enablement is the process of creating an environment that allows employees to feel backed up by a team that’s supporting them. But more importantly, it’s a way to build connected relationships while working on something bigger than ourselves. At the heart of this way of working is not a power imbalance, but a systemic alignment of organisation purpose, employee fulfilment, and client outcomes – you might find it gives your crew mojo.
Mark Lewis is the CEO and co-founder at Crewmojo.