Performance management has been around for a long time. During that period, it has evolved a great deal. Many long-time concepts have fallen by the wayside, such as the value of the annual employee review. One change that has caught many unawares is the rise of agile performance management. It differs greatly from other forms of PM and can offer a great deal to your organization. However, to determine if this is the right approach, you’ll need to know more about it, its pros and cons, and the capabilities it offers.
What Is Agile Performance Management?
While agile performance management might sound similar to conventional PM, those similarities are only superficial. It is a very different system, although the ultimate purpose – improvement of performance within an organization’s teams and employees – is the same.
Agile performance management is a collaborative, ongoing practice that focuses on feedback and development. With conventional performance management, leaders ultimately tend to focus on employee shortcomings and failures, which taints everything with negative connotations. An agile approach changes the paradigm by focusing on both shortcomings and achievements to create a more holistic picture of employee performance.
Within agile performance management, three key aspects play central roles. These are:
- Regular feedback
- Ongoing communication
- Regular coaching
The point here is to bridge the gap that usually exists between goal setting and performance evaluations.
The Features of Agile Performance Management
To really understand the benefits that agile performance management can deliver, you need to know a bit more about the various features here. They are broken down into four distinct sections.
Ongoing Conversations Surrounding Performance
With conventional performance management, there is only a discussion about employee performance once or perhaps twice per year. That’s far too little for anyone to make actionable changes. With agile performance management, the discussion occurs regularly. Not only that, but the format of the situation changes. Rather than being a one-way flow of information from a superior to a subordinate, it becomes more of an equal conversation with natural give and take from both sides.
The result is that it becomes easier to stop unwanted behaviors quickly and simpler to set goals for improvement and monitor those changes. There is also the fact that employees are encouraged to provide feedback to managers, ensuring that their thoughts, experiences, and frustrations are known and that managers have the opportunity to improve, as well. It comes down to two-way information sharing.
Traditionally, organizations were structured rigidly, and information tended to flow in one direction only – downward. With agile performance management, the work environment becomes more collaborative. The focus is on creating something more level than the traditional hierarchical structure, and this is reflected in peer-based feedback being worked into reviews and ongoing performance-related conversations.
This method allows those around an employee, or on the same team with the employee, to provide their feedback (both to the employee being reviewed, and to management). A peer-based feedback system can be an invaluable solution that offers significant benefits that go beyond what is possible with a manager-employee review. Often, employees value the opinion and feedback of peers more than they do those of leaders. Peers are also often better able to put suggestions for improvement in different terms that help an employee grasp the importance of the changes as applied to their daily responsibilities.
Less Reliving the Past
With conventional performance management, the focus is almost entirely on the past. This is natural, as the conversation surrounds failures in the past. However, it must be understood that a backward-facing stance ultimately drags the entire company down. Not only that, but many times, employees find it challenging to apply lessons from past experiences to a new one, particularly if those two experiences are very dissimilar.
With agile performance management, there is a focus on today and tomorrow, rather than yesterday. This is in part due to the increasing focus on regular conversations surrounding improvements. Rather than taking a look back once or twice a year, weekly check-ins allow the conversation to turn toward how lessons can be incorporated into situations the employee is facing today and might face tomorrow.
Coaching Is the Norm
Traditionally, coaching is seen as a negative thing. That is partly because coaching is not the norm. With agile performance management, coaching becomes routine, rather than the exception. Also, new ways of coaching give it a less negative connotation. For instance, eLearning levels the playing field, making coaching accessible to all, plus providing the means to up-skill the entire workforce.
The Benefits of Agile Performance Management
We’ve touched on many of the benefits offered by APM in the sections above, but they deserve more scrutiny.
- APM makes coaching simpler, easier, and more effective.
- Employees can give their feedback and feel both heard and valued.
- APM dovetails with eLearning, helping move your organization into the 21st
- APM is present and future-focused, rather than focusing solely on the past.
- APM turns performance evaluations into conversations.
- Recognition is given to employee achievements, not just to failures.
- It becomes possible to create a more positive corporate culture.
- Changes take dramatically less time and are easier to make.
- It makes setting measurable, actionable goals simpler.
- It ensures that you’re easily able to measure progress toward targeted changes.
Ultimately, agile performance management should be seen not so much as a different method of performance management, but the next step in PM’s evolution. Just as organizations have evolved, just as the world has become more competitive, so too has the need to give actionable, direct, compassionate coaching increased. Agile performance management works within any organizational culture, fosters necessary changes, improves your ability to compete, and also helps ensure that your employees have the support and means to improve themselves and their environment.