Words are these beautiful little gifts that let us share our thoughts, ideas and sometimes gossip. When they're pieced together well, they can paint a lovely picture. But when words aren't clear, concise and arranged coherently, they can be the written version of a Jackson Pollock painting.
Words matter, and so does the way they're paired with other words.
As a writer, I have strong opinions about words (obviously). And the phrase "performance management" leaves me cold. It's long. It's jargon. It's corporate. And it's kinda vague.
Do you want your performance managed?
Everyone in HR knows what performance management is and the good intentions behind it. But when you turn it around and think about how an employee hears those words, it changes the context.
Performance management. Managing performance. Manage performance. Are we monkeys performing for organizations?
No, of course not. And I don't believe anyone in HR looks at it that way.
But if you ask the average employee that only knows that HR as that department that makes sure they get paid and their leave totals are accurate and benefits are in place, not many would say they want their performance managed.
What do employees actually want?
The thing is, traditional performance management has that unfortunate top-down, command and control management style that's given the term a bad reputation. People are used to performance management that consists of that good ol' annual review people love to hate.
But performance can't be managed effectively in a once-a-year meeting that often leaves employees stressed and unfulfilled at work.
That's why people have so much to say about what they want, such as (in no particular order):
- A manager who cares about them and their work;
- To know if their work matters;
- To be able to speak up and know someone's listening;
- Clear expectations of their work and role;
- Opportunities to learn new skills;
- To know the why of decisions made by senior leaders when it impacts them;
- To understand the direction the organization is going in;
- Feedback they can use to do their job even better;
- To be able to advance in the organization; and,
- Recognition for a job well done.
Pretty much all of these wants and needs are covered by ongoing performance management practices.
So, you could infer that people do want their performance managed.
Performance management is a collaboration
Instead of getting feedback once a year that isn't timely, people want to improve their performance by collaborating with their manager and the teams they work with. Organizations and managers that truly embrace this style of work have more engaged employees and that impacts the whole organization. That means the employees stick around longer because they want to. It encourages innovation and productivity, which can contribute to increased revenue. And when employees are satisfied, your customers are happier, too.
Ongoing performance management helps bring awareness to and remove barriers to getting things done. It's about opening the lines of communication to help individuals and teams to be their best. It's a collaborative effort to help individuals and teams so they can achieve their version of success.
No one wants their performance managed but people do want to contribute in a meaningful way. Performance management is a set of processes organizations can use to build that meaning and benefit from having people around that are more engaged and productive.