The performance management process has evolved quite a bit in recent years. It’s no longer a once-a-year event in which managers look back on their team member’s past performance to provide ratings that often catch the recipients off guard. Instead, it’s an ongoing process that looks to the future, to support and develop team members in their career paths. 

The modern performance management process is more humanized, focusing on employee engagement and enablement to help each team member be the best version of themselves. Progressive companies have found this approach to be much more effective in supporting performance. In fact, Gallup found that companies with highly engaged employees saw 17 percent higher productivity, 20 percent higher sales, and 21 percent higher profitability, among other benefits.

If you want to improve the performance management process at your own organization, here are five tips to create a more humanized, engaging experience for your team members.

1. Set goals with team members from the beginning

Performance management is much more effective and engaging when team members know what’s expected of them upfront. Define objectives and key results (OKRs) for team members during your employee onboarding process, and in regular intervals thereafter. Team member OKRs should map to department and company OKRs, so everyone knows how they’re contributing toward the company’s success.

It’s also important that team members buy into their individual OKRs and feel supported in attaining them. Regular check-ins should include discussions around progress toward OKRs, and managers should provide guidance and assistance when needed. 

This transparent, supportive approach will set the stage for an employee-centric approach to performance management.

2. Map career paths for each team member

Successful performance management needs to be about more than reaching company goals—it should support team members in reaching their own career goals as well. When company and employee goals align, you can see much higher engagement and productivity. Career mapping can help in this endeavor.

Discuss professional goals with each team member during your onboarding process, and consider how those might align with your company goals, planned growth, and product roadmap. Discuss potential career paths that would benefit both the team member and your company, and create a professional development plan to help each team member advance down that path.

3. Provide a variety of development opportunities

Every person learns differently, and needs to adhere to a different schedule for development. For instance, one person might like attending conferences so they can learn in a group setting, get to know their fellow practitioners, and discuss their learnings with peers. Another might prefer on-demand, online learning opportunities that they can squeeze in as their busy schedule allows. 

Providing a variety of development options allows for more flexibility and opportunities for your team members to learn and grow. Some options to consider include: 

  • Online learning subscriptions
  • Conferences
  • Industry certifications
  • Educational courses
  • Leadership coaching services
  • Career coaching services
  • Office lunch and learns
  • Stretch assignments
  • Special projects
  • Mentoring
  • Job shadowing

4. Offer continuous feedback

Performance management should be more than an annual or quarterly event—it should be done continuously. Managers should offer praise when it is deserved, and look for teachable moments in which they may offer constructive feedback. Regular one-on-ones should include time to discuss employee goals and priorities, provide coaching, give and receive feedback, share wins, and overcome obstacles.

This type of continuous feedback and transparent communication can help ensure team members always know where they stand in terms of their performance. This can have a tremendous impact on the employee experience. When managers provide weekly feedback rather than annual feedback, team members are 2.7 times more likely to be engaged at work and 3.2 times more likely to strongly agree they are motivated to do outstanding work.

5. Train your managers

Your People Ops team can’t be expected to execute on an effective, engaging performance management process all on your own—you need your managers’ help to implement it. But your managers may not be well-versed in things like goal setting, career mapping, development planning, or continuous feedback. 

Training your managers to more effectively run the performance management process for their teams can create a more consistent employee experience. Help them understand the process. Run through what a good one-on-one should look like. Discuss the various development opportunities your organization offers. Demonstrate how to use your performance management system. Provide a cheat sheet with a sample script for performance-related discussions with their reports, as well as answers to frequently asked questions. And make your People Ops team available to support managers, as needed.

Final thoughts on the performance management process

As with any process, there’s always room for improvement. Ask your team members and managers for feedback on your performance management process, and for ideas they might have to make it better. This can be done via engagement or Pulse surveys, a suggestion box, or even casual conversations. You want to be sure your team members feel supported to reach their goals, grow in their careers, and be the best versions of themselves. That’s what modern performance management is all about.


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