How do we measure performance?

Written by: Sarah Wilkinson, HR Consultant.

Performance management allows you as business owners and managers to align the strategic vision or long term goals of your business with individual and collective performance through objective setting. This means that it should be embedded throughout the organisation, and form a joined-up approach with learning and development. By focusing on developing our employees, we are continually striving for improvement. This is so important in today’s competitive environment because otherwise you will get left behind.

‘Innovate’ is a current buzz word. So how do we innovate performance management beyond the usual SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound)? Firstly, I feel that I should point out that the improvement that I have just mentioned above should not ever be considered as a performance objective. Why? Because you can improve and yet still not be performing at the required level! What we are aiming for is the BEST, how we can get there and how we can get our employees there (and please no forced distribution curves!).

There are of course, the standard performance reviews and appraisals but this can become a cumbersome paper-pushing, tick-box process which doesn’t have any real validity. What we don’t want is to create an environment where your staff come in, sit at their desks and do some work in between Facebook browsing so that they can say “I’ve been at work today” without actually adding any real value. So, what we need to do is be strategic about the way we manage and embed performance. We need employees to be accountable for their own performance and striving for continuous improvement of business processes, their own skills, behaviours and contributions. Another really important aspect of performance management is feedback, which should always be given regularly and timely i.e. when something has recently happened (this applies to positive and constructive feedback). Have you had any experience with 360 feedback?

Managers can underpin all of this with ensuring alignment to business goals and allowing their staff the opportunity to be stretched and the freedom to do their job (no micromanagement here!). Performance management is a continuous cycle. There’s no single best approach; it should fit in with your company and the culture (or desired culture!) and allow for some flexibility. It’s about support, not control. Trust your employees to use their initiative. In turn, they are likely to get great job satisfaction, be more engaged and committed and this will all affect the bottom line; business profits, and make your company a great place to work because of the culture.

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