PWC’s 2017 HRD pulse survey made for interesting reading. One of the findings was that most organisations polled have changed, or are set to change their performance management, model. This is nothing new, in my 15 years working in Multinational organisations, changing the ‘model’ was a constant; generally underpinned by the rollout of a system that promised to be the panacea to managing performance. The thinking was that if you improve the system, you improve the process. And in theory, that should work. But here’s the thing. Performance Management systems don’t work. Good managers don’t use them and bad managers hide behind them. They don’t foster positive performance discussions but rather hinder them through clunky platforms, multiple passwords, and mandatory fields.
Managing performance is crucial to an organisation’s effectiveness, but it doesn’t need to be as complex as we have made it. The best leaders I have worked with had real, regular conversations with their teams. Expectations were clear; robust when necessary, and followed up with emails to confirm. But these were in the minority. The more common scenario was a quarterly or twice yearly meeting bookended by reviewing objectives set in January that nobody remembers or cares about come June, let alone December. And as custodians of a system that people don’t like, don’t trust, and don’t use, this all reflects badly on HR who are trying to embed this culture of performance management in the organisation.
My heart used to sink sending unwanted reminder emails to people to enter their performance objectives, or to managers asking them to arrange meetings with their teams. Those great leaders that I refer to never understood why they had to bottle their productive conversations into ‘the system’. The stick just doesn’t work.
So, my advice to organisations is this: Get rid of the magnificently expensive systems and upgrades and rollouts, and invest the money in developing great leaders. Work with them on how to have constructive performance conversations, to give real and regular feedback and coach them on the difference between the task orientated 1:1 and discussions about performance, development, and achievements, and, crucially, how to keep the 2 separate. In an era where organisational agility has never been more important, the tools and processes to support it need to reflect this.