When it comes to performance management, the responsibility falls heavily on managers. They are in the trenches with their team members, evaluating their performance, providing feedback, and offering development opportunities. But each manager’s mastery of these skills falls along a spectrum, as most managers are not experts in performance management.

Support from HR can create a smoother, more consistent process for all involved, leading to a better employee experience, and higher engagement, motivation, and retention. Here are some ways your team can provide stronger support in this key area.

Get feedback on your performance management process

The best way HR can support the performance management process will depend on the company and the people that make up the team. Gather feedback from team members, managers, and company leaders to learn where you might improve your process. You can do this via surveys, informal conversations, or even employer review sites—each piece of feedback is beneficial.

Learn what you can about overall sentiment toward your performance management process, the time commitment involved, and whether the cadence is appropriate for your team’s needs. Then ask how you might improve. Team members might have valuable insights from the performance review process at prior employers, or general feedback around specific sticking points in your company’s process.

For example, 32 percent of managers agree they spend more time on the performance review process than they do on meaningful conversations with their team members. This can be due to outdated technology or manual spreadsheet data-entry. Addressing this feedback can improve the performance management process for everyone involved. 

Train managers to run more effective, consistent performance reviews

Most managers are not well versed in conducting performance reviews. Traditionally, they’ve taken place once a year, and treated more as a one-off task than a strategic project. Managers and team members alike tend to simply endure them, and put them out of mind until the following year. 

This doesn’t benefit anyone, as managers often have a “recency bias,” in which only very recent contributions are recognized in performance reviews. Team members then feel unrecognized and unsupported throughout much of the year. Or, worse, they feel only a recent mistake is highlighted while other positive contributions are long-forgotten.

Train managers to lead more effective performance reviews. This should include the expectation that they provide frequent feedback, coaching, and support to their team members. Provide a script and answers to frequently asked questions so they have some guidance around what to say during a performance review. 

Additional training might include:

  • Unconscious bias training. Unconscious biases could be standing in the way of fair, consistent performance reviews for all team members. Help managers learn to recognize their unconscious biases so they can overcome them.
  • Compensation training. If team member performance is tied to compensation, help managers understand your compensation strategy so they can have productive conversations. Even if they aren’t making compensation decisions, they are likely still fielding questions from their team members. 
  • Technology training. If you use a performance management system, train managers on how to use it. Show them each feature, and explain how it will help them motivate, engage, and retain their teams. 

Provide guidance on team member development opportunities and career progression

Performance management should be more than a review of past work—it should include a discussion of the future. Managers should create career paths and development plans for each of their team members to help them master their current roles, and progress toward their long-term career goals. 

HR can support this endeavor by helping managers understand realistic opportunities that might be available to their team members. Let managers know which roles you anticipate opening up in the future, either based on average turnover rate, retirements, or new positions you will be recruiting for. Then help managers understand the qualifications required for those roles, so they can help their team members develop the right skills and experiences to be eligible for internal promotions.

HR should also organize development opportunities for team members. These can range from online learning subscriptions and tuition reimbursement, to formal mentoring programs and leadership coaching. Training and development can lead to improved performance, increased innovation, and higher employee engagement and retention.

Invest in modern technology

Traditional performance reviews are time-consuming, putting more emphasis on paperwork than on people. In fact, 52 percent of managers and directors say they spend more than two hours on each employee’s review.

A modern performance management system can streamline and simplify your process, placing less of an administrative burden on your managers and leveling up the employee experience. For example, a modern system enables managers to record employee feedback in real-time, so it can quickly be accessed during performance reviews. This encourages year-round performance management and genuine improvements rather than encouraging employees to boost their efforts for their upcoming annual appraisal.

If you’re still using a legacy performance management system, spreadsheets, or forms, take time to see what a modern solution can offer your organization. An investment in technology can reduce time spent on the performance management process and improve the employee experience. This can lead to increased engagement, performance, and profitability.

Final thoughts on supporting the performance management process

Modern performance management is an ongoing process throughout the year, aiming to engage and motivate team members. There are many ways HR can support managers in this endeavor and improve the process, so make it a point to collect feedback and iterate often. 

Four in five employees (81 percent) agree that performance reviews help them identify areas for personal improvement. Nearly as many (78 percent) say performance management could be improved within their organizations. This is clearly an area worthy of your attention and support.

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