It’s about management, not performance management

If an organization has a vision, a mission, a strategy and a business plan, then the 1st priority of all those employed is to help fulfill these. The leaders’ role (as many leaders as there may be) is to keep everyone—including the growing number of part-timers, FTCs (fixed term contracts), vendors and partners—moving in the same direction, and devoting their hearts and minds to organisational success.

I am coming to some conclusions concerning “modern” performance management, i.e. mutually-agreed SMART goals and KPIs/objectives, and annual performance reviews involving forced distributions/curves and calibration meetings.

Conclusion #1: Managing performance is the job of every line manager. If a line manager received a promotion, more money, for taking the job of manager, but does not effectively manage team performance, the manager should not receive a higher rating than his/her team. In fact, if the team is not performing, the manager is not performing. It’s that simple. If the manager was promoted due to being a top performer in a non-management role, shame on HR for failing to match the person to the job of manager.

Conclusion #2: HR should help managers do their job. It is not the job of HR to handhold managers, personally making sure every individual has KPIs, a midyear review, does a self-assessment and gets a manager review that is calibrated and “fair.” This not what employees want! Accenture surveyed their roughly 250,000 millennials and they said they wanted real time feedback (read about it here.) Employees want a real manager who will help them see the big picture, identify their strengths and coach them on an ongoing basis to solve their own problems, stretching them to grow and succeed. We must let (and help) managers do their job, and help their managers hold them accountable for it. But we must stop doing the managers’ jobs for them indirectly by orchestrating the “annual PM process.”

Conclusion #3: Following the herd is not adding value. HR, I am speaking to you. If 80% of companies decide to continue using performance ratings, conduct calibration meetings, etc., this is not to be used as an excuse to ignore the headlines and comfort yourselves. Movement away from ratings is not the point. Dropping the use of ratings is a wake-up call for all of us. What is happening is a movement back to managers managing their people. Back to the way it is supposed to be. If the majority of employers think it’s ok for HR to do the manager’s job (deciding on what salary increases should be given and giving them the talking points to ensure they say the right things and not the wrong things,) that does not mean you should do the same.

Movement away from ratings is not the point. Dropping the use of ratings is a wake-up call for all of us.

Conclusion #4: The best contribution HR can make to performance management is better selection and development of managers. If you have the wrong managers, or if your managers have not been developed into good people managers, our role in HR is not to mainly to be a safety net to make sure everyone gets a fair review. Our main role is to help poor managers become good managers, and if they cannot, to replace them. If we wish to add value, let’s help create good management through good selection and development. Let’s not assume working ourselves ragged in Q1 means we are adding sufficient value. Better if all the managers do their jobs year round. Then, when it’s salary review time, they will know what to do with their budgets.

And more importantly, managers will manage performance. It’s their job as managers.


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