Next-generation performance management is about organizations developing employees to their full potential on an ongoing basis through effective coaching and career management, with an eye toward driving and supporting enhanced business outcomes. In the previous two articles of our four-part series, we examined why organizations should adopt this new approach, and what that looks like on a day-to-day basis.
An essential next step is to ensure that managers know how to give employees effective ongoing feedback, recognition, and coaching—all of which are key to successfully supporting employees in their present roles and as they travel along their career paths.
In the book, The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce, the authors argue that true employee engagement “represents an alignment of maximum satisfaction for the individual with maximum contribution for the organization.” This means a shift from the old way of managing employee performance, which focuses on what the organization can get from its workers, to concentrating on what employees need. Simply ditching the annual appraisal, changing processes, or asking managers to have a weekly meeting with their employees will not drive the change organizations are looking for.
Organizations must also invest in employee satisfaction, which can be nurtured through continuous communication, coaching, and strong leadership. These softer skills are some of the most challenging to learn, but 77 percent of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder believe they are just as important as hard skills.
Embed Feedback in Your Organization’s Culture
The key to giving effective feedback is as much about the quality of the information as the quantity (or frequency) of it. So how do you ensure your feedback is both useful and timely? Here are some tips:
Lead by example. A culture of feedback doesn’t just happen because you tell people to give more feedback. Feedback happens because people see it happening around them. One of the most impactful ways of growing a culture rich in feedback is the role-modeling opportunity that all leaders have, especially at the most senior level. Expressing and demonstrating willingness to give and receive feedback by senior employees is very powerful and takes the risk out of giving constructive feedback.
Work with employees. It’s important to listen carefully to the employee’s perspective without judgment, and brainstorm why something was successful, or how performance can be improved in the future. Managers and employees can then set and track the progress of SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals. Working together ensures employees are invested and have a say in their learning, development, and performance.
Have regular one-on-one meetings. Meeting regularly allows managers and employees to ask questions, clarify expectations and share progress on learning and development. Managers can give employees feedback soon after good or poor behavior is exhibited, so it can be replicated or quickly corrected. Employees should also be encouraged to give feedback to leaders, creating a dialogue that can help build strong leader-employee relationships.
Focus on development. Meeting regularly helps give insight and clarity into organizational and individual goals—and how the individual contributes to the company’s success. Employees can see what skills need to be improved—and why—and progress on those goals can be easily tracked and adjusted as needed.
Give constructive feedback. Everyone loves to give and receive positive feedback, but establishing a balance of both positive and constructive feedback may be the most effective way to improve performance.
A 2014 survey by Zenger and Folkman found that 72 percent of respondents thought their performance would improve if their managers provided corrective feedback. That number rose to 92 percent when the caveat of “if delivered appropriately” was added.
This means that in addition to praising good behavior, managers need to give corrective feedback in a constructive, supportive manner. When giving negative feedback, it is key to:
- Prepare in advance to ensure you clearly convey the issues in a way that is constructive, not confrontational or lecturing.
- Ensure that a potentially difficult conversation like this one is conducted in a private space—nobody enjoys receiving negative feedback in front of others.
- Use a model for providing feedback to structure the conversation. Describe the behavior, let them know what impact that had on you or the situation, and mutually agree on what actions will be taken going forward.
Creating a culture of feedback is just part of the formula for engaging employees and improving productivity. For an organization to truly excel at ongoing performance management, it needs strong leadership.
Develop Great Leaders
In Gallup’s 2016 report, State of the American Manager, researchers found that great leaders shared five attributes, including the ability to:
- Be assertive when facing challenges
- Assume accountability for their actions
- Build trusting relationships
- Make decisions only after careful planning and thought
The same report found that only one in 10 people have that talent combination. If that sounds daunting, it doesn’t have to be.
There are few born leaders, but everyone can work on developing each of these talents. Let’s break them down into more manageable ideas that anyone can practice:
Motivating others: Taking a few minutes daily or weekly to ask employees how they’re doing, thank them for their efforts and encourage them in their challenges is motivating for employees.
Being assertive: Being assertive isn’t about steamrolling over all obstacles in your way. It’s about communicating your expectations clearly, giving honest but constructive feedback, and modeling the changes you want to see in others. Great leaders must walk their talk.
Assuming accountability: Great leaders accept responsibility for both the good and the bad. It helps build trust within the workplace and demonstrates to the team that it’s okay to fail as long as you assess what went wrong, take steps to fix it, and learn from your mistakes.
Building relationships: Connecting with others and learning how to collaborate are skills that aren’t taught in school, but are essential to leadership. Case in point: A 2015 Gallup study found that 50 percent of 7,200 people surveyed have left a job to get away from their manager. Building relationships takes time and effort, but the payoff is immense. Everyone is different, so take the time to understand employees’ differences, preferences and motivators in order to build stronger relationships.
Making careful decisions: Reactive decisions do have a place in day-to-day business; they’re often necessary to course-correct work in a timely way. But there’s also a place for careful decision-making. Managers often think they’re expected to have an immediate answer or solution for everything. Taking time to think things through and understand things before making a decision leads to better and more lasting decisions.
The Engagement Link
Mangers who have the five traits listed above are 54 percent more likely to be engaged, which can be a big boost to your business—and your bottom line. Gallup found that employees who were supervised by highly engaged mangers were 59 percent more likely to be engaged. And just a 5 percent increase in engagement is linked to a 3 percent increase in revenue growth, according to Aon Hewitt. The link is clear: Great leaders who are engaged engage others in the workplace and benefit their teams and your business.
To effectively implement next-generation performance management, organizations need to train managers to give effective feedback, communicate expectations and build relationships. Managers also have a responsibility to develop and practice these skills.
It means a shift from the manager’s role as a command and control position to coach. Making that shift can help create a culture where employees feel challenged by their work, yet comfortable enough to experiment, communicate and support one another.
The old adage is that people are an organization’s biggest asset. Invest in their future, support their development, and give them the recognition they crave, and you could secure the future success of your organization.