I’m often asked by HR professionals in my workshops, “how do I get my managers to actually MANAGE employee performance?” I usually probe and ask some questions, and usually the kinds of answers I get are: “our managers just avoid issues…”, “they’re so busy doing email and going to meetings that they just ‘let things go’ with employees until situations get so bad…”, “our supervisors just don’t seem to ‘get’ that we can’t just fire employees without doing our due diligence.”
I could go on here…the essence of the complaints from HR professionals is that managers just seem to be too busy to do good performance management. The question I have is, “what the heck are they workin’ on???” Supervisors and managers are leaders, which means the majority of the time they need to be leading. However, many supervisors and managers are sort of “working” managers in that they have to-do lists a mile long, filled with tasks, of which very few of those tasks have much to do with managing employee performance. Well, now there’s the problem. If the to-do lists are filled up with a ton of tasks–who’s actually managing employee performance and leading the troops? News flash–no one is.
So, in order for leaders to be effective in managing performance they first need to have the infrastructure. What I mean by infrastructure is that a performance management system must first be in place. A system begins with accurate, up-to-date job descriptions, interview guides that include competency-based and behavior-based interview questions, and a performance review process that has aligning competencies and behavioral anchors, and clear performance objectives and standards. Additionally, a good comp and benefits structure must be present, career development and advancement, mentoring, training and development in both technical and soft skills, and a solid one-on-one coaching and feedback process. A one-on-one process means that monthly, each supervisor meets with his/her respective direct reports for a one-hour, 1:1 face time session–without fail. For employees managed remotely, this is done via Skype or simply a conference call. Nonetheless, it is a regular vehicle in which both the leader and direct reports rely on for consistent, two-way communication. The benefits of the 1:1 sessions are enormous, but more importantly it provides a level of accountability.
In the event employee performance simply doesn’t improve, the next step is moving into a documented performance improvement plan, called a PIP, which is a roadmap to performance improvement. However, the PIP is only as good as the effort the leader puts into it to help get the employee performance back on track. Beyond the PIP is progressive discipline and ultimately termination. All of these steps are part of the backbone–or infrastructure of a performance management system. Often, HR points the finger at leadership because performance isn’t managed. Yet, HR has failed to provide adequate resources, or a backbone system, for leaders to operate within. In other words, if they don’t have the right coaching and training skills (via a leadership training program) and they haven’t been taught how to evalate performance, coach and give feedback–or even document a disciplinary warning…whose fault is that? HR must own the infrastructure and ensure the leaders are trained properly and also coached in how to use the process.
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Until next time…