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The changing performance management process

Many companies are changing their approach to performance management. While the immediate change employees see is the removal of an annual assessment and/or review rating, the change to the process is the longer-term impact. This means managers and employees talk regularly about the business and employee contributions.

You can see companies introducing new vocabulary: commitments vs. goals, connections vs. partners, continuous approach vs. strengths, contributions vs. achievements, or things to consider changing vs. opportunities or weaknesses. Let me share some examples from my life:

  • commitments: Years ago, a boss told me to minimize my commitmentsbut he knows everyone. This tip stuck with me over the years. This word seems more powerful than setting goals. How many goals have you set for yourself in your annual performance plan and not met for one reason or another? On the other hand, commitments seem stronger and more personal.
  • Presentations: Consider listing your accomplishments at the end of the year for your performance summary. Now, think what would happen if you had to translate that list to contributions. Honestly, I think a few years could have halved my list of achievements, which contributed to the bottom line of my company.
  • Things to consider to change: A sales manager once told me that I should consider changing my focus to developing new customers. She never said I wasn’t good at generating leads (a “weak” term), but I understood what she meant and started looking for successful colleagues and learned a lot from them. Two years later, I led my department in new customer accounts. This director was ahead of her time.

As competition in the marketplace increases, savvy businesses are looking for ways to commits employee, develop those employees and, ultimately, to hold back employees. Changing the performance management process can help achieve all three goals.

  • compromise: When managers talk to employees about performance on a regular basis (instead of a few times a year), it shows an interest in the employee because of the manager’s investment of personal time. As managers spend time with employees, they learn what motivates them and become more effective at keeping them engaged.
  • Develop: Telling employees where they should “continue to focus” helps them know what a company values; and identifying areas where employees should “consider trying to do something different” shows you where you can improve without demoralizing the employee.
  • To hold back: The cost of turnover is high and onboarding new employees takes time and money. Why not invest in your current employees by sharing ongoing feedback and encouraging them to stay?

In short, as a manager, spending time with employees is important, and the words you use are important. Talk to your employees on a day-to-day basis, making it part of your company culture. As everyone knows, an engaged workforce results in higher retention. Become part of the process change and start moving away from an annual feedback loop, even if your company hasn’t made the leap yet.

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