Stop horsing around
I recently found myself unintentionally listening to a divisive radio DJ who was telling the story about a horse who had been sacked from South Yorkshire police for not ‘excelling’ at his job. I would normally switch this particular DJ off, however he had grabbed my attention. How and why do you sack a horse? Tommy Tankersley was described as a “beautiful, gentle horse” but had not reached his full potential and therefore had to go. Can we draw any workplace parallels to this tale?
Well, I know very little about horses and much more about humans in the workplace, and it is not so easy to sack an employee or to get yourself sacked. Many people in the workplace do not reach their full potential, and yet are very wonderful to work with. Is that good enough for your business?
Performance management and all its tools and systems has long been a drain on line managers who see it simply as a process and not as a way of driving productivity, employee engagement and growing their business. Performance management does take up valuable time and resources but the output when you get it right far outweighs the effort.
Many people struggle to define what performance management is. Put simply it is taking action to ensure outcomes are better than they otherwise would be. The most common performance management tool is the use of the plan, do, review model which has been around since the beginning of time – because it works. Plan (and ask your employees to do the same), do what you planned to do (and ask the same of your team) and then review it. The review stage is often missed or poorly executed. We tend to shy away from giving constructive feedback and telling someone they haven’t done a good job. Some managers find it hard to look people in the eye and be honest or they focus too much on what is great and mumble the tough bits.
Failing to manage performance and allowing employees to not do the job that you need them to do (and pay them for), can cause irreparable damage. If you don’t tell someone that they are not doing what you want them to do, you cannot expect them to improve. If you do not explore training needs and fail to support employees to be trained in the role, you are failing them and your business. An essential element of performance management is two-way communication, the conversation that goes something like “this is what I want you to do and what do you need from me so that you can deliver it?”
In the current socio-economic climate, both individual and organisational resilience is key to personal and business success. There are 5 main resilience drivers – recognition, feedback, connection, manager effectiveness and culture alignment. All of these drivers can be reached with a robust and simple performance management process and the outcome of attaining these drivers is an increase in productivity. The more resilient your team is to changing business needs and the difficulties facing individuals and businesses alike, the more likely your success.
Performance management is not just about the employees in your business who you feel are not doing their job properly or who aren’t productive. Managing everyone’s performance, whether your staff are setting the world on fire or just plodding along in their role, should be a priority. Reaching peak performance in a job role is a goal of many employees – the place where you feel highly skilled, highly challenged and work in an organisation that values you and rewards you for the work that you do. Peak performance for athletes is where you hit optimal levels of physical and mental health – convert that to the workplace and you will have employees who are engaged and engaging, highly productive and resourceful, committed to your mission statement and driving your business forward.
Managing performance and the tools to help you are embedded in most HR processes – recruitment, retention, appraisals, target setting, reward & benefits, job descriptions, leavers…the list can go on. At each of these points, well-oiled, robust HR policies will enable performance management to happen in the round and result in positive outcomes. In the majority of cases, performance managing an underperformer, or someone who is just coasting along, will result in better performance for them and a more positive workplace for all. Sometimes, unfortunately, the employee decides that they don’t want to continue and they will leave. In even fewer instances, dismissal for poor performance is necessary, or demotion as an alternative.
If you and your business needs support with performance management, I can help either put the processes and policies you need in place, or review current ways of working and suggest improvements and different methods.
Do you have a tricky colleague who you need to discuss and want some expert advice? Or a difficult performance issue that has been troubling you for some time?