There is an excellent ongoing series called “If I Could Change One Thing About HR” over on XpertHR. In a recent post by Ian Welsh, he discussed the need to localize performance management. I left the following as a comment on his post (which you really should read, if you haven’t already):
The piece that is missing for me, and I’m speaking of the process more than your analysis, is around the value of the work to the line manager. Too many times HR is the administrative enforcer, telling managers to fill out forms once a year “or else.” I’ve working in companies that canceled merit increases for any manager that didn’t have all their performance reviews submitted on time. That’s a strong signal that the work is important to the company, but it’s also a telling sign that the work isn’t important to the managers. Why?
We’re missing the value proposition on their end. What do they get out of it? Yes, we know there is intrinsic value in doing the work, and engaged/developed employees are more valuable to the organization. But how do we distill that to the line manager who is just trying to meet production quotas?
What’s in it for them? How do we make them care? I have a few initial thoughts that I’ll share here in hopes that we can start an ongoing discussion on the topic.
Some managers are very data oriented. They will be the easiest ones to pull in. We can show them research on engagement, productivity and the impact on bottom line results. Not too difficult. “Softer” managers, the ones that need to feel good about the process, will be tougher. So how do we make the process hum for them?
- Simplify as much as possible. You won’t get any more time of theirs than you absolutely need, so don’t mess about with overly complex solutions.
- Make the decisions easier. Don’t use a ten point scale if five (or three) will do the job.
- Don’t belabor the point with performance review. Have goals and targets that are quantifiable, make it easy to record (or, ideally, have the data ported in from your system of record) and move on.
- Balance the review with forward facing development pieces that help a manager know 1) what the employee will do for development this year, 2) when/how they will do it, and 3) how much budget is needed for it. Make these things hum so a manager doesn’t have to spend extra time on it.
- Build this system in a simple way so the employee can use it as well. Tie it to your Intranet or other internal system so it’s in front of them, and they can add to it.
Those are a few thoughts of how we can make this work for a manager. The system becomes simple, it gives managers the answers they need for employee development, and it helps them move forward instead of spending too much time looking back. Those are my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours!