It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. And once again, I reflect on the parallels between our personal lives and business well being. In both cases, we can get so caught up with focusing on what is wrong, or what needs to be fixed. We tend to lose sight of the positive aspects, or downplay them. So I wanted to offer some tips on a more positive approach to performance management.
Numbers are important, but don’t tell the whole story
As I’ve talked about in previous articles, it is important to have measurable targets in our performance plans. And this can be very challenging, particularly in organizations that offer less tangible products and services. And while we often think that performance management is only important in “for profit” organizations, it is equally important in non-profit and public service organizations. In fact, getting effective performance measurements can be even more critical when you don’t have the usual financial performance measures. But it can be done!
Often, we do focus on numbers for our performance targets because they are objective. How many sales, referrals, repeat customers, etc. And these are important to the financial aspect of the business. But it may fail to capture important things, such as customer loyalty. In fact, a friend was just venting about how her boss doesn’t recognize the value of the relationships she has developed, keeping loyal customers for several decades! Instead, his approach to performance management was to focus on very narrow aspect in her performance review that he thought we not up to par. How does that really help the organization? In fact, he’s now at risk of losing a valuable employee (and potentially those high end customer accounts!).
Think broader about impact and value
Consider in the example above, if my friends boss had evaluated her on maintaining those long term customers. Rather than focus on her sales for this quarter – what if he looked at the big picture of what she has brought in over the years? And on the potential for those existing customers to continue buying more from her? Obviously it takes more thought to come up with effective ways of measuring these things, but they speak more to the value your employees are creating, and the longer term impact. It is a more strategic approach to performance management.
A one-to-one approach to performance management
In this example, it’s likely that my friends boss was given a performance evaluation template to use for all employees. And while this might seem efficient, it is definitely not effective. It doesn’t recognize the individual strengths and unique contributions of each employee. And often – it’s not even based on the things that really make the organization successful! But if we truly want to get the best out of each employee (which is what the most successful organizations do!), we need to take an individual approach. And we need to involve our employees in the discussion about what they can best contribute and how they will be evaluated.
Be aware of the tendency to focus only on problems
Most important in our approach to performance management – remember that success leads to success. While we do need to bring attention to things that need to be fixed, don’t forget or down play all the things that have gone well. An employee that feels valued and appreciated is more likely to go above and beyond. It can be human nature to focus on the few problems and loose sight of the good things. So be sure to step back once in awhile and take in the full view!
Get more tips on a positive approach to performance management in my previous article 3 performance management techniques to improve employee performance
Wishing you all the best on Canadian Thanksgiving!
Debbie Narver, Instructor at NMC Strategic Manager