Many organizations are re-examining the value of the performance management process and their internal policy - and with good reason. The workplace doesn't look the same. Employees are being asked to develop new and different skills. We shouldn't think that the performance management processes that worked a decade ago would still be as effective today.
But the answer isn't to eliminate or decrease performance management. It plays an important role in the organization. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), performance management "drives employee behavior to align with organizational goals and objectives." This is exactly the reason why performance management policy needs to play a greater role within the organization. If not a greater role, then at least an earlier role.
The earliest connection a new hire has with the organization is onboarding. My definition for onboarding is the process in which an employee acquires the knowledge and skills to be an effective employee. Because employees gain knowledge and skills about the company prior to ever completing an application, I include recruiting in the onboarding process. Then of course, when an employee gets hired, they attend orientation, receive initial training, etc. All of these activities are a part of the total onboarding process.
Performance management starts on day one
For employees to perform at a high level, it only makes sense to include performance management in the onboarding process. This means talking about performance management before an employee ever applies. Here are some examples:
On career portals,
we tell employees about office environments, perks and benefits, etc. Also let
employees know before they ever apply that the organization wants them to be
successful, so regular performance conversations are a part of the company
culture. Feedback leads to better performance which allows both the company and
the employee to achieve their goals.
During interviews, we ask employees about their past jobs and work responsibilities. Include in the interview questions about the best way to share feedback or the most valuable feedback received from their boss. It will help the company learn more about the candidate and their preferred ways of hearing performance feedback. The candidate will understand the importance of performance management within the organization.
In orientation, we share the company history, explain benefits, and outline policies and procedures. Add to the list distributing performance appraisals so employees can get comfortable with the form, the process and ask questions. After orientation, managers can review the form in detail with employees so they understand rating scales and how performance is evaluated.
After orientation, give employees a checklist of remaining tasks they should complete with deadline dates. I'm a fan of this for several reasons. Employees have a roadmap of activities they need to learn. They don't have to wonder "Is my manager going to train me on this?" The checklist tells them the plan. The company can schedule these activities at exactly the right time so employee retention is at its highest. Managers can keep track of the tasks that need completion. They can also assign other employees to complete tasks with the new hire.
Making performance a priority throughout the employee lifecycle
Organizations that value the role employee performance plays in helping it achieve its goals and objectives (and that should be every organization), will want employees to understand that performance is a priority. It's not about having performance meetings when employees do something wrong and documenting behavior. It isn't about once a year conversations. Performance management is about developing employees to be their best. That should be ingrained in organizational culture.
As organizations spend more time talking about employment brands, candidate experiences and employee retention, the question should be asked: Are we telling employees that their performance matters and we want them to be successful? If the answer is "yes", then confirm that employees are hearing it early and every step of the way.