Is It Really So Hard?
Remember why you are managing employee performance—to build a well- functioning organization. As you would expect, building requires some tools. Performance management tools vary in complexity and ease of use. Sometimes simple tools can be effective, and sometimes not so much. Most all of you now are using some sort of performance management tools.
Some of you are using rudimentary tools and having good success because you are adept at using them. Some of you are using complex tools but may be having limited success because you are still learning how to use the tool. I think the basics you will read about now will help in both cases.
Here’s why performance management basics are so important. Remember the ratio of 80:20 that seems to affect so many things? In economics, they called the Pareto Principle. It basically also holds true in performance management. Twenty percent of your employees can consume 80 percent of your performance management effort. This is a big over-simplification, but it seems not too far from reality once you integrate performance management into your organization.
What Are Basic Performance Management Tools?
Lots of books you see in a store tell you the basic tools you need for house or apartment maintenance - hammer, screwdriver, pliers, wrench - that kind of thing. I am going to help you figure out the tools you need for performance management. Let’s start to fill our toolbox now.
Ever heard the phrase that “You can’t measure against standards using a rubber ruler”? This is a good phrase to remember for performance management. I look at performance management as having lots of moving parts, but there are basically two mechanisms at work - the employee and the organization. This is another over-simplification, of course, but this is a blog post on basics and over-simplifications help get us started. We can “drill down” later into more details.
- Ruler - So, at the basic level we need a straight ruler made out of material that does not stretch. When we get more adept at using the ruler we will realize it will need to stretch in unique circumstances, and we will learn to recognize them.
- Standard criteria - The ruler needs lines on it that are equal distances apart. That way we can measure different things the same way. These lines can be thought of as criteria. For instance, if you attain the third criterion level you have more of a thing being measured than someone who has only attained the second criterion level. The levels cannot fluctuate from employee to employee, or situation to situation.
- Means to reach and hold higher criterion levels - Since performance involves people, it is organic and dynamic. Depending on conditions to which it reacts, it grows, shrinks, and stretches. It can also be contagious, both good and bad. Managers need to encourage employee performance to improve and stay at high levels.
- Consistent reaction to performance and standardized ways to assess performance - Who decides on the levels? Is it the manager? The group of employees called “management”? Is it the employee? Or is it the Board of Directors? At complex levels, the answer is “all of the above.” At complex levels, the answer is “all of the above.” At basic levels, the answer probably is limited to “management.” You know that “management” is subject to the same organic and dynamic factors that we know affect performance. Consistent reaction to performance and standardized ways to assess performance help managers stay consistent in how they decide levels and how to apply them.
Some of these tools have much in common. Some may serve the same purpose so much that we can consider them as being the same, at least at this basic level.
To review, a good basic performance management toolbox includes:
- Standard criteria
- Means to reach and hold higher criteria levels
- Consistent reaction to performance
- Standardized ways to assess performance
Now that we have these tools we can begin to build a basic performance management system. That is, after we acquire the tools.
Let’s Go to The Store
So, here we are at a hardware store and we begin to look around at all of the tools available:
“My, my, look at all those different kinds of rulers. I thought I could just buy one in a few minutes, but after a little looking I can see that the ruler has to be fitted to needs of my organization.”
“Holy smokes! There are aisles of means to reach and hold higher criterion levels; tools to help reach consistent reactions to performance; and standardized ways to assess performance. And look at where I am, back to where I first came into the store. I can see how developing a performance management system is not an easy or quick thing to do.“
In fact, building a performance management system is like house or apartment maintenance. The better it gets, the more precise your tools need to become. Sometimes you need a couple of tools to do pretty much the same thing, but in different ways to suit the circumstance. As long as we understand that, we’ll get started by taking small steps.
Our first small step has been to identify our tools. In coming blogs I will talk about each of the tools and the way you can use them to develop a performance management system that is flexible enough to meet needs of many organizations.
HR & Policy Solutions, PLLC
Note: Even though I have worked with employment laws for over 20 years, I am not a lawyer. Nothing in this blog should be taken as legal advice or interpretation of laws.
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