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8 Steps to Create a Modern, Engaging Performance Management Process

two women talking

Truth be told, most of the employee performance management processes in which I’ve been involved during my career feel a bit like something out of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Company in “The Office.”

Performance reviews are just a small part of the overall performance management process. But for me, they are a microcosm of the challenges organizations face in improving employee engagement. I wish I had come across this post  How to Make Your Performance Review at Work as Hilarious as Possible – at various times in the past. The post highlights some of the questions I’ve been asked during performance reviews – and some answers I wish I had thought of.

Q: Where do you see yourself going in our company in the next year?
A: Nowhere at all. That is why I've been sitting in the same position for 5 years.

Q: What are some goals you'd like to achieve in the near future?
A: I would like to finally figure out how to download movies on my work computer. I need to do something to kill time at work.

Q: Do you have suggestions on how to improve employee morale?
A: Yes, stop making us suffer from these performance reviews.

Q: How would you rate your job performance at our company?
A: Is this graded on a curve?

Q: What would you say your greatest challenge is at this position?
A: Oh, the usual... showing up on time, not slapping the customers or my co-workers, finding new ways to sleep at my desk without getting caught.

But jokes aside, the truth of the matter is that the performance management process IS important – perhaps one of THE most critical processes in improving employee engagement and productivity.

The Gallup Organization’s State of the American Workplace report defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace:

“The American workforce has more than 100 million full-time employees. One-third of those employees are what Gallup calls engaged at work. They love their jobs and make their organization and America better every day. At the other end, 16% of employees are actively disengaged — they are miserable in the workplace and destroy what the most engaged employees build. The remaining 51% of employees are not engaged — they’re just there.”

Gallup goes on to note “a mere 21% strongly agrees that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work, and just 18% strongly agrees that employees who perform better grow faster at their organization.”

In order to address this, organizations need to do something about both the substance of performance management (what is discussed, with whom, and how consistently) and the process of performance management (how these conversations are documented, secured, and automated).

So how can you get started on this journey? Here are 8 suggestions:

  1. Remember that automation can take many forms. According to Tips for automating the performance management process, by Eric St-Jean, “Automating the entire process — or parts of the process — doesn't always have to be fancy, but if you want to standardize the process, reduce your admin time and take advantage of all the work your employees and managers put into the review process, it's best to take steps to enable some type of automation.” 
  2. Correct bad culture before you do anything. The core focus of process management excellence is constructive, regular and honest conversation with employees. If these conversations do not already occur in some form, stop. Do not pass GO. Understand the weak and counter-productive elements of your culture before moving on to performance management automation.
  3. Set clear and measurable organizational goals. In order to align employee goals with organizational goals, the latter needs to exist and be well understood. If they do not, stop. Do not pass go.
  4. Conduct an inventory of the core documents and workflows that are part of your current process. Performance management at most organizations is a hodge-podge of non-standard forms, documents, and manual processes. Identify what you are currently doing, standardize as much as possible, and simplify.
  5. Identify the connections between the performance management processes and other key processes. One of the mistakes many organizations make is to implement point solutions to solve particular business problems. While this may eliminate short-term process pain, understand whether and how the information and documents in the performance management process need to be incorporated into other key processes, and make sure your short-term proposed fix is not creating a future information silo.
  6. View performance management as an ongoing process, not something that occurs once per year. Frequent and well-documented conversations conducted in a consistent way are key to building an effective strategy for employee engagement.
  7. Create predictable and automated workflows for key performance management processes and documents. One of the things that sucks the life out of many performance management processes is the sheer drudgery of all of the manual processes and paper documents and non-standard documents that detract from “real” work. You can fix this by implement HR automation software.
  8. Apply analytics to standardized documents and processes to create business insight. Before you can draw insight from a process, you need to standardize it. Once you do so, you can better understand how your performance management process improves – or damages – employee engagement.
Evaluating performance management basics
Information security and privacy and process integrity and auditability are the foundation upon which employee engagement rests. Get the basics right. And make sure that your performance management process – and all of the information associated with it – can easily connect to the other key business processes in your organization.

How performance reviews can help you and your employees

  • Goal setting and alignment
  • Boost team collaboration
  • Improve productivity
  • Gain insights
  • Obtain employee feedback
  • Get data on what’s working and what’s not

Get an overall view of organizational strengths and weaknesses

Use the performance review process to identify: 
  • High potential employees for succession planning and leadership development
  • Where you have strategic strengths that you can leverage
  • Areas where you have limited bench strength that needs to be deepened
  • Pockets of core competencies
  • Whether all the parts of your organization have the competencies they need to succeed
  • Opportunities for learning and development programs for the organization, department or individual

Ready to improve performance management at your organization?

Find out how to automate your HR workflow processes in just a few days. Watch the webinar.