The ultimate guide to running a performance management process

Follow these 7 steps to have a simple, scalable and science-based performance management process that will make your business more profitable.

There are 7 elements of a great performance management process. They are, in order of importance:

1. Team goals
2. Manager one-to-ones
3. Praise and recognition
4. Ask me anything
5. Ad-hoc feedback
6. 360 feedback
7. Pulse surveys

The most important thing when it comes to each of these processes is to stick to the "3S" rule:

Simple

If the process is not easy to understand and not easy to follow on a daily basis, then employees won’t engage with it.  Rigid, top-down processes don't drive continuous performance.

Science-based

If the process goes against known behavioural psychology principles, employees won’t benefit.  Psychological safety is key.

Scalable

If the process is a pain for team and business leaders to manage, then it won’t last.  Google Docs are not your friend here.

Here are the essential employee performance processes for your people to do their best work.


1. Goals

First, set direction. Create and agree the reference points for future performance feedback. Goals are the ribbon that tie together an employee performance management cycle. But the focus should be on team goals rather than individual goals.

Here's why team goals are better than individual goals:
1. It’s easier get started vs cascading objectives all the way from CEO to intern
2. It focuses people on group achievements, encouraging teamwork over personal glory
3. It’s easier to adapt and change course when the world changes (as it so often does)

Start by defining the four most important health metrics for the team. Have someone in the team update the metrics on a regular basis and share the progress with the rest of the team. Rotate the person who updates the metrics to get more buy-in from the whole team.

It's OK to report on these metrics on a daily or weekly basis, but don't get caught in "short-termism".  Building things that last the test of time takes patience. More guidance and advice on goals here.


2. Manager one-to-ones

The best performance management happens one person at a time, by managers listening to their people.

When one-to-ones don't happen, employees feel disconnected and isolated. A small concern or frustration can turn into a complete team breakdown.

Sometimes the damage is too hard to overturn and good people end up quitting.

One-to-ones only need to be twenty minutes long.  Managers just need come prepared with good, open-ended questions.

Don’t fall into the trap of using 1:1s to distribute more work -- there’s enough time in the week for that already!

And don't fall into the trap of relying on Pulse surveys to see how your people feel.  Pulse surveys are helpful to get a quick top-down lay of the land, but they lack tone of voice and body language.

Surveys don't build trusting relationships. Consistently good conversations do.


3. Praise and recognition

When people feel underappreciated -- their motivation decreases and they become less engaged.

Reinforcing positive behaviour with recognition is a simple, cheap and powerful way to improve employee performance.

It also reduces employee turnover by 30%.

Praise is most potent when it’s public and tied to specific actions, rather than a private email that just says “thanks!”.

So make sure you have a public space for all employees to view and interact with praise and recognition.

Howamigoing has a product dedicated to public praise and recognition, called Good vibes.


4. Ask me anything

An "Ask me anything" (AMA for short) is a simple but overlooked performance management tool.

With AMA, people can send burning questions to management while remaining anonymous.

When people don’t ask questions or raise concerns, leadership have blind spots.  Management end up making decisions based on incomplete information.

The 2nd biggest reason people don’t raise questions is fear of being seen as a troublemaker. Anonymity is key.

AMAs are often done during a “Town Hall” meeting or team offsite.  

This is a great start, but AMAs are more insightful when people can send questions any day at any time.  Doing it this way also reduces the admin for HR and team leaders.


5. Ad-hoc feedback

Quarters, half-years and years work well as accounting periods.

Work is much more fluid than that though. Few people want to wait 12, 6 or even 3 months to know where they stand with their team.  

Employees should be able to gather feedback online from any colleague at any time.

Feedback should be semi-anonymous. Anonymity ensures you get honesty.

When we asked 600 people, the two biggest reasons given for gathering feedback were:
1. "I was in a new team, new role or new business, learning new things"
2. "I felt like everything was going OK, but wanted to check"

Howamigoing has helped thousands of companies offer their employees an ad-hoc feedback tool.  The most commonly used performance feedback templates are:
A) Presentation feedback
B) Post-project/ sprint feedback
C) Mid-project feedback
D) Leadership feedback
E) Communication feedback
F) Probation feedback
G) Remote work feedback

Give your people a way to get feedback from multiple people at the same time after these key milestones.

You'll find that it becomes less about performance "management" and more about enablement.


6. 360 feedback

360 feedback means getting guidance from a few people on the same things at the same time.

360 degree feedback fills the gap that manager one-to-ones leave.  Most people work in a team so it makes sense to know where you stand with your whole team, not only your manager.

360 feedback isn’t only for big corporates or for comprehensive year-end reviews.

They are often most effective when done:
- Every few months,
- Independent of pay discussions, and
- When focusing on 3-4 key performance management areas

For example, having everyone choose 4-5 colleagues to answer these questions:
1. What have I done recently that you liked and that helped you do your best?
2. What have I done recently that you didn't like or that blocked you from doing your best?
3. Thinking about my strengths and the teams goals, what would you suggest I focus on for the next few months?

Create an account at Howamigoing to see some 360 feedback templates.


7. Pulse surveys

Pulse surveys are great for giving employees a voice and identifying cultural cracks.

But, they don’t improve employee performance nor do they increase employee engagement.

Think about performance management cycles like this:
- Feedback and goals are the fitness regime
- Pulse surveys are the visit to the GP

Like individual performance feedback, pulse surveys are usually more effective when kept short and done on an ad-hoc basis.

Send a short pulse survey to each team every 1-2 months, followed by one-to-ones.

Questions like the below help to identify performance management cracks:
1. In 10 words or less, how would you describe the last couple of months?
2. Did you feel excited by your work?
3. Did you grow your knowledge base or skill set?
4. Did you feel recognised by others?
5. Did you feel blocked by another person or process?
6. How stressed or anxious were you?
7. Did you think about leaving the business?
8. In 10 words or less, how would like to you describe the next couple of months?
9. What one thing could we do to communicate better and work smarter?
10. Anything else you want to mention but haven't had the time or courage to say in passing?

Annual engagement surveys are usually very long and too infrequent to be helpful.  They can lead to a focus on "vanity metrics" such as employee NPS, along with the analysis paralysis of all that data.

Remember, the goal is to quickly and easily identify any cultural issues and resolve them.


Getting started with performance management

Remember the 3Ss -- Simple, Scalable and Science-based!

If you'd like some comms, feedback or conversation templates to help you get started, send an email to hello@howamigoing.com. A friendly Howmie will respond soon after :)




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