If you supervise people at work, this is for you! If you have a supervisor at work, this is for you! Whether you like or (mostly) hate it, the performance management process and performance evaluations come back every year like the leaves that fall in autumn. Although they are an imperfect tool to communicate what’s important and how work was performed, it’s a feedback tool and that is what makes it important. And younger workers need the guidance, crave the feedback, and deserve to know how much of an impact their efforts have. Established workers also like to know if they are on track to get a performance bonus or the next promotion!
The best managers are those who create trusting performance conversations. They create moments where genuine dialogue occurs, where employees feel their opinions matter and that they are cared about in a unique way. A few months ago, I shared with you some tips on how to rethink performance management in a remote work environment.
Today let’s look at the “mechanics” of better performance conversations. Regardless of your workplace model (i.e. fully remote, hybrid or fully in-person), having better performance conversations benefits us all.
Performance management requires that supervisors guide and assess the work by:
- Crafting jobs that best utilize the talent of your workforce
- Setting expectations
- Checking work completion (quality, quantity)
Building better work processes supports better performance management. Remote work rewards well-established work processes because roles and responsibilities are clear.
Consider the following improvements to your performance management process:
- Have better one-on-one conversations and have them frequently. Create a standard agenda with recurring points covered every week.
- Keep everyone in the loop. Take notes during the one-on-one to capture key points and shoot them in an email so both supervisor and employee have a record of what was agreed to. Refer back to those notes at the start of each new conversation.
- Provide explicit expectations. Most people don’t listen well. Put your expectations in writing. For example, establish the expectation that employees have to keep their managers in the know regularly, rather than the manager asking for an update. This can be a weekly activity report, a daily summary of tasks, or a monthly report of key performance indicators.
- Provide clear recurring measurement and assessment. During one-on-one conversations, take the time to provide an assessment such as “you are on track and doing well” or “this is work in progress and you need to pay attention to this more closely” or even “this is not good enough and needs to be rectified soonest.” Encourage employees to conduct their own informal self-assessment at the end of each week.
- Provide real-time feedback. Don’t wait for the next one-on-one to tell employees who are veering off course. When it comes to problems stemming from workplace relationships or work attendance, address those issues within a day. Don’t avoid uncomfortable conversations. Don’t let it fester and balloon into a stumbling point. When it comes to feedback on work quality and quantity, a weekly conversation can take care of it. If your one-on-ones are less frequent, don’t wait. Act soon and be decisive. It will serve you and your employees well.
A good performance management system builds the capability of your staff. This is where the gold of performance management is for supervisors: do a good job managing your staff and they will get the work done while you can focus on strategic activities, business development, and a better work-life balance for yourself!
No performance evaluation can create great managers and engage employees on its own. By having better processes, it makes performance reviews easier and less of a surprise.
The exact system used for performance evaluation becomes less important when managers know how to have regular and constructive conversations with employees to keep them on track and improve performance when necessary.