When many leaders think about performance management, they imagine handling performance-related problems, such as tardiness, loss of productivity, or something similar. Those are accurate, but they are only one part of the equation. Performance management also encompasses employee development and growth when properly interconnected with coaching, one-on-ones, accurate feedback, and recognition.
Many managers find it difficult to help employees move forward. Most of their focus is on handling problems in the here and now, and contemplating a promotion or a lateral move is to think about the disruption of current business processes. That disruption, no matter how beneficial for the employee, is often seen as a negative for the department. This guide will help overcome that negative thinking while providing important guidance to support continued performance improvement through career growth and development.
When you get right down to it, performance management is more about performance monitoring when done correctly. Ideally, you’ll do less active managing and more passive monitoring – it leads to reduced time and financial costs, but also indicates a better employee/position/employer fit. Simply put, employees who are well suited to the position and the company will require active interventions less frequently than those who are not so well-suited.
With that being said, monitoring is a critical aspect that enables a more active approach when necessary. If you are not monitoring employee performance closely, it can be all too easy to miss the initial signs of impending trouble. Ultimately, that leads to more time spent trying to correct negative behaviors and handling the fallout from those behaviors. For instance, if you do not monitor employee performance in the customer service department closely, a single negative interaction between a customer service representative and a customer could cost you not only that customer, but every person that customer might have recommended, and every person that customer tells about the negative experience.
However, by keeping a close eye on employee performance, you can nip incorrect, unwanted, or negative behaviors before they become true problems. When you notice that behavior, move on to the next step, outlined below.
Coaching and Growing Employees
When you notice negative or unwanted behaviors, take action. However, take a moment to discern the correct action. A knee-jerk reaction could cause more problems than it solves – punitive action rarely achieves positive development or growth, which is the goal here.
For too many managers, the goal of performance management is to quash unwanted behaviors. That’s just too simplistic a view. In reality, you must halt those behaviors, but do so by providing a more positive example, encouraging employees to adopt the new model, and then helping them grow and develop.
You achieve this manifold goal through coaching. However, the right approach is necessary. Skip the annual performance review (or relegate it to a position of less importance) and take a more active hand in coaching and growing your employees. This can be done through sit-downs and one-on-ones scheduled as needed.
However, it is also important that you use a modern performance management system to record the details of these coaching sessions. Why was the coaching necessary? What was the goal? What outcome was desired? Later, connect the dots to make outcomes more visible – did the employee’s behavior change? Did the employee have any feedback for management?
Over time, this type of tracking allows you to build an accurate picture of employee growth and development. You can see:
- New behaviors learned
- New skills mastered
- The growing convergence of employee interests with on-the-job skills
- Improved outcomes in the role
From that, you can begin to help chart the employee’s overall career path. Make sure to involve them in the discussion, though. An unwanted promotion may feel more like a punishment if it doesn’t align with the employee’s goals.
Working with the employee, determine an appropriate (and desired) career trajectory. That can include any of the following.
A lateral move is not necessarily a promotion and may or may not involve an increase in compensation. It usually involves moving from one position to one that has similar benefits and pay, but may have duties and responsibilities more in line with an employee’s interests or career goals. For instance, an employee might move from customer service to social media marketing if they have good people skills but want to work on building the company’s audience rather than solving customer problems.
Transfers can be positive events and may be upward or lateral moves. In general, transfers involve employees moving from one department to another, or even from one branch of the company to another. They can help employees deal with life changes, be tailored to help them explore their interests and how they dovetail with the company, and for many other reasons. Transfers also help build employee experience and create well-rounded professionals that have the skills and abilities to handle many different positions. Such employees are very valuable, usually feel deeply engaged within the organization, and are less likely to leave to seek greener pastures.
Finally, we have promotions. Often, this is what’s pictured when people think of career development and growth. A promotion can be within the same department – a team leader moving to a management position, for instance – or they can be across different departments. Accurate skill development tracking is important when it comes to promotions, as you only want to promote candidates with the required skills for the new position.
Managing Growth and Development
Managers should stop thinking of performance management as a reactive process to negative or unwanted behaviors. While those are part of the process, performance management is so much more. The goal is nothing short of helping employees learn, grow, and develop to become their best selves.
When that happens, you create an engaged, loyal, highly skilled workforce. You also close skills gaps and may even become an employer of note. Look beyond the aspect of handling problem behaviors and how you can help your team grow and thrive.