Are we getting the performance that we need from employee engagement? Are we engaging fully in performance management?
We sometimes lament silos in organization. By silos, we're generally referring to how departments, such as Marketing may not be in synch with Human Resources, or Finance may be at odds, or “siloed,” from Operations. But you can also see siloes in tasks or functions.
The last few years have witnessed the beginning of silo-busting between employee engagement and performance management. While many seem to be stuck on bashing performance appraisals and ranting that the system is broken, others are working on making it work. One of the most promising solutions is to transform and fuse employee engagement and performance management into everyday actions.
How can employee engagement work well?
In 2012, I wrote a chapter in The ASTD Management Development Handbook entitled, Engaging Management, Put an End to Employee Engagement. I believed we would see an end to employee engagement in the 2020s. My fear was that employee engagement would die as a fad that failed to deliver on its promise. My hope was that it would disappear because engagement would be integrated so fully into how we work that we wouldn't need a special term or concept — breaking the silo between engagement and work, management, and leadership.
I believe for employee engagement to work, we must meld all the functional silos into the greater actions of engagement so that what we do in the name of engagement will achieve the essential ABCs of work:
- Achieve results,
- Build relationships, and
- Cultivate wellbeing.
If we fuse employee engagement with performance management, is the proverbial whole is greater than the sum of its parts?
An early adopter of this approach was Cargill Grain. The Minneapolis food producer and distributor was struggling to engage and motivate its 155,000 employees worldwide. In 2012, it introduced the "Everyday Performance Management" system, designed to incorporate daily encouragement and feedback into on-the-job conversations.
From Cargill Grain: “Our new approach will address not only how we do things, but it will require managers to shift attention from administrative aspects of performance management to the frequency and quality of conversations they have with employees.” This shift will build engagement and ensure employees:
- understand how their roles align to business strategies;
- discuss with their manager how to ensure the efforts are focused on business and customer success; and
- respond with agility to external and internal changes by adjusting performance goals.
I was intrigued to read the January 12th, 2016 memo from Beth F. Cobert, the Acting Director of the United States Office of Personnel Management focused on performance management guidance for 2016 advocating and encouraging performance plus.
The Federal Government understands well-operated performance appraisal systems provide a solid foundation and framework to help achieve excellence in performance; however, the ultimate success of these systems depends on more than the routine and rote implementation of procedures a few times a year. Rather, agencies need to embrace a modern philosophy we are calling “Performance Management Plus” — where the “Plus” is employee engagement. In summary, to achieve a high-performance culture, we need to empower and encourage supervisors to engage their employees in all stages and aspects of the performance management process.
Additionally, Gallup, a major employee engagement survey organization, is busy at work fusing employee engagement with performance management. In 2014 they asked whether managers should focus on performance or engagement. They responded to their own question:
What we discovered is that managers don't have to choose between creating strong, positive teams or focusing on high performance and accountability. High-performance managers do both. They are strengths-based, engagement-focused, and performance-oriented. They develop deep interpersonal relationships with their employees and focus on performance. Managers who emphasize one approach while ignoring the other risk alienating their team members, lowering engagement, and damaging performance.
In a January 2016 presentation by Jim Harter, Ed O'Boyle, and Chris Portera, Gallup declared:
“When you are effectively engaging employees, you are actively working on performance management.” And “When done correctly, driving employee engagement is effective performance management aimed at fulfilling the organization’s culture.”
Citing just one statistic, they found that “employees who work for a manager who helps them set performance goals are 17X more likely to be engaged.”
Questions everyone should ask to fuse employee engagement and performance management
Halogen has previously reported on the work of David Creelman, who outlined five performance management tactics to improve employee engagement. The elements of clarity, support, fit, feedback, and development in employee engagement tie in closely with the performance management process.
- Are you clear about goals?
- Do you have the support you need to reach your objectives?
- Does your job match your skill set?
- Do you regularly get useful feedback?
- Are you given opportunities to develop?
Make employee engagement and performance management everyday tasks
Together, let’s bust the functional silos at work between employee engagement and performance management. Let’s not do it just once as a leadership directive, let’s fuse the two together into everyday actions of everyone at work. I invite you to engage along with me as the best is yet to be.