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Creating a high-performance culture

By Hawley Kane


The way we engage with work today has changed. Constant advances in technology, multiple generations and cultures

working together and the emergence of project-based work environments are all factors. A growing number of organizations are questioning the value of longstanding HR processes, including the annual performance review. Increasingly, they’re taking on a different approach: the next generation of performance management. This focuses much more on personalized ongoing learning, performance coaching, employee engagement and goal alignment – instead of traditional, episodic, HR-driven programs.

When it comes to performance management, annual reviews and competencies simply don’t cut it anymore. Focusing on, for example, informal performance check-ins is a great first step, but it’s not enough. As performance management continues to evolve from an isolated HR-driven process to an intrinsic part of everyday business rhythms, organizations should emphasize increased engagement through employee satisfaction and contribution.


Why performance management needs to evolve

In the work world, there is an increasingly recognized link between employee contribution and satisfaction. Both need to feed from each other (not be treated separately) if organizations want to realize ideal business outcomes. Addressing contribution or satisfaction alone is not enough to drive excellent results. Traditional performance management has focused largely only on contribution – taking a company-centric perspective that focuses on what the organization can get from its workers, rather than what its employees need to be – and feel – successful (e.g. culture, fit, learning and development).

As performance management evolves to an intrinsic part of everyday business rhythms, organizations should consider five essentials for success.

1. Develop dynamo managers

In the next-generation of the performance management model, the role of the manager continues to change from “command and control” to “coach and mentor.” Although managers require an entirely new skill set to excel, most organizations do not focus on building leadership skills for their frontline managers.

For managers to go from good to great, they must develop and practice these skills. Even individual contributors have an important responsibility to develop their leadership abilities, particularly in organizations that require collaboration to achieve objectives.


2. Set outcome-driven goals

The connection between an employee’s work, their value to the organization and their impact on an organizational outcome is a key driver of employee satisfaction and engagement. When employees know what is expected of them and clearly see the impact they have on the organization’s success, they are motivated to deliver results.

To make this work, organizations need to move toward more collaborative and simplified goal setting, including designing goals that motivate and play to an employee’s strengths. Employees should be able to link individual and shared goals directly to organizational goals to identify alignment and be reviewed and revised frequently to ensure continued alignment.


3. Create a culture of feedback and recognition

Organizations that nurture a feedback rich culture and encourage all employees to share feedback have more highly engaged workforces. Building an engaged workforce through ongoing feedback and recognition is the entire organization’s responsibility and should no longer be viewed as an HR priority, but rather an overall business priority.

The stronger the recognition practices, the stronger employees feel their relationship is with their direct manager. True success is creating an environment where all employees are comfortable giving and receiving feedback about performance. By receiving continuous feedback, employees will better understand what behaviours they should continue to demonstrate, and which do not support their development.


4. Focus on continuous development

Today’s employees expect their organizations to invest in their development and provide them with the skills they need to succeed. Without a commitment to developing employees, companies risk losing key talent and not having the skills they need to compete.

When it comes to staff development, direct managers have the largest role to play in providing employees with an opportunity to apply and grow their skills and abilities. Managers must proactively facilitate employee development by enabling employees to learn though stretch assignments, team collaboration and regular coaching and feedback.

Managers can also build engagement through strengths-based development. While focusing on strengths does not mean ignoring weaknesses, being aware of limitations provides a great opportunity for collaboration to further develop and learn.


5. Hold open and ongoing performance dialogues

Employees want their managers to be open and approachable. Consistent two-way communication helps employees feel safe and supported, and it builds a productive workplace in which people feel comfortable enough to experiment, to challenge, to share information and to support one another.

Frequent, regular one-on-one meetings between managers and employees are an ideal opportunity to discuss organizational priorities, employee challenges and manager expectations. Meetings should be scheduled and committed to, occurring as frequently as once a week to cover feedback, goal review and revision and development and recognition.


Connecting the dots

A strategic shift in performance management takes planning, thoughtfulness and skillful change management. The best performance management programs incorporate these five essential elements, while also forming a foundation for an organization’s overall talent programs. This means that as companies adopt new performance management practices, they must consider whether changes will support other talent management functions.

Regardless of where an organization is in its talent management journey, implementing practices that transform your performance management and talent programs will engage and inspire your people – and contribute to overall business success.

Hawley Kane is head of organizational talent and leadership development at Saba Software.





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