As reported in an earlier post, a growing list of companies have changed the way they manage employee performance. They're revising, revamping, or replacing their performance management processes with a more progressive approach to productivity.
It seems that the emerging approach to performance improvement is not so much an innovation as it is a formalization of a previously sound management practice.
In every training session on performance evaluation that I've ever attended and in every article or book on the subject, there is a line that says something like, "The annual evaluation system is a summary of activities and it must be combined with ongoing feedback from the supervisor."
Ongoing performance management is where it's at
Now we've finally come to the realization that the ongoing feedback is where the action really is, and the annual review process is really just a formality.
The old formality documents performance, it does not manage performance.
The script has been flipped, and progressive organizations are now formalizing the proven management practice of providing ongoing feedback.
Many names for ongoing performance conversations
The semi-formal method of giving and receiving information and feedback is called coaching by some. This process has many names and it carried out in many ways, nonetheless the elements are the same.
In every organization, there is a need for managers to have robust, ongoing conversations with staff members about how they're performing.
Here's a brief list of companies that are innovating in this space or using some sort of ongoing performance management: Adobe, Expedia, Motorola, Kelly Services, Microsoft, Juniper Networks, New York Life.
If news reports are accurate, all of the new approaches have one thing in common: a series of performance conversations or employee performance check-ins.
There are a number of styles, names, formats, and timeframes that are used to describe the practice of a planned series of meetings to provide periodic feedback. Some are called one-on-one meetings, ongoing feedback sessions, employee performance check-ins, and even trip tickets. Here's what some organizations call it:
Regardless of what they're called, the magic in them is their ongoing nature and the content discussed.
Google expects such conversations to happen weekly, Adobe lets the unit determine the schedule, and Kelly Services requires at least two per year.
In my own Performance Conversations® method, I advocate for a half hour meeting every four to twelve weeks.
Deloitte is now requiring one-on-one meetings at the end of every major
project or at least quarterly.
Author and consultant Jamie Resker suggests the novel approach of a ten-minute performance conversation at the end of each regular operational meeting between a manager and subordinate.
The length of time, the schedule, and the content of the conversation may vary, however the proof is in the process. Any system of ongoing feedback is necessary to manage and improve performance.
Halogen has a tool called Halogen 1:1 Exchange™ which makes organizing, running and documenting these conversations simple.
Use performance conversations to build relationships
In addition to the discipline of holding periodic conversations, emphasis should also be placed on the relationship. Establishing good rapport between the manager and subordinate helps form a partnership wherein the employee knows that he or she is being supported. Therefore, the conversation's quality is nearly as important as its content. Relationships matter.
Some advice to making the most of performance conversations
Finally, I would offer some advice to making the most of these performance conversations.
There must be some structure.
My suggestions are to make sure that the ongoing performance management conversations are scheduled, the results of the discussions are documented, and follow-up activities are tracked and discussed at subsequent meetings.
These 1:1 meetings can be further enhanced by ensuring that both the manager and the employee prepare. As such, the use of journals, notes, or evidence from the work will make the conversations more robust.
Ongoing performance management is the latest innovation
There is no substitute for ongoing feedback. It matters less how often "ongoing" is defined than the fact that conversations occur.
Additionally, regardless of when and how these 1:1 meetings occur, the focus should be on the most important performance and productivity challenges.
Keeping the focus on the narrow priorities of the work and providing coaching support for the people will serve organizations well.
Formalizing the good practice of ongoing feedback is the latest innovation in performance management.