Strategies for a Successful Performance Management Program

In many business settings the words “employee performance” strike a chord of discontent among supervisors and employees. Thoughts drift to the annual employee review, where numerous hours are spent completing paperwork, oftentimes at the final hour. Then there’s the dreaded closed door meeting between supervisor and employee, which can be filled with negativity, anxiety and fear. A process that should transpire as a positive and productive experience may result in a situation where both sides leave feeling defeated.

Many employers view the annual employee appraisal as performance management. But it’s only one component, the last task, of what should be an ongoing process throughout the year.

Properly managing the performance of an organization with a well-executed plan can help companies achieve their goals and retain valuable employees. The human resources professionals at Administaff recommend the following strategies as the keys to a successful performance management program.

Update Job Descriptions
A good job description clearly explains the company’s expectations for the job. But it should be more than a mere list of statements; it should include goals. This essential document must continuously be updated to reflect the current situation and future possibilities. Today’s goals are going to be different from last year’s or the next year’s. It is important to redefine and broaden responsibilities, particularly when additional opportunities arise. A job description can serve as a helpful retention tool for valuable employees who may want to carve a career path in the organization.

Align Jobs with Company Goals
Too often businesses overlook the importance of aligning employee job functions with the company’s goals. It is counterproductive for employees to work towards something that is not in sync with the company’s current objectives. When external factors may be forcing managers to make hard decisions, it is imperative to take a closer look and ascertain how the roles of each employee can help the organization achieve its objectives.

Establish and Review Milestones
Putting everything on paper and only evaluating it once a year can be futile. Supervisors and employees should work together to construct a plan and review it intermittently throughout the year. Adjustments and revisions should be made when appropriate, but more importantly, supervisors should help employees determine the best approaches to reach milestones.

Coach Employees
Companies that cultivate a coaching environment understand the positive impact this management style can have on employee morale. During uncertain times, when employees are concerned about holding on to their jobs, supervisors are relied on more than ever. This includes soothing fears and helping employees determine how to achieve the level of performance the company expects.

Training & Development
Many organizations underestimate the value training adds to achieving performance goals. Updating job skills and attaining new ones can help employees perform at higher levels. Supervisors can also benefit by learning how to engage employees and help keep them on track with their goals.

Continuous Feedback
Two-way communication between employees and supervisors is critical to everyone’s success. Long gone are the days when a supervisor spoke and the employee simply listened. Providing frequent feedback and candidly addressing concerns and ideas can build a more productive work environment. An open dialogue can help clear the air and pave the way for an effective performance appraisal with no hard feelings and a clearer perspective on expectations.

When executives champion performance management, it can have a powerful influence on the organization. Updating employees on the company’s overall goals and providing encouragement along the way can be inspiring.

Reward Top Performers
Most employees want to perform their job well. However, rewarding employees who meet or exceed company goals can be a strong motivator for the entire company. Unfortunately, many supervisors don’t always commit to this philosophy.

For example, the 2005-2006 Strategic Rewards survey conducted by Watson Wyatt and WorldatWork reported that while 92 percent of programs are designed to link pay to performance, only 79 percent of employers said their managers are moderately or greatly effective at putting these programs into practice. In addition, only 52 percent of employees surveyed indicated their managers tie pay to performance.

Employee trust and motivation is harder to achieve when supervisors do not hold their end of the bargain. It is not very encouraging to employees who work hard to achieve goals when the company does not follow through on the promised reward. It is one thing if the company is experiencing a bad year and cannot afford to reward its outstanding employees. In that case, supervisors need to communicate this to employees sooner rather than later. It is critical for supervisors to be open and honest, and stay true to their words, especially when it comes to gaining employee trust and retaining valuable workers.

The benefits of a well-implemented performance management program can have a significant impact on any sized business, including:

-¢ Enhanced productivity
-¢ Potential increase in revenues
-¢ Higher employee retention rates
-¢ Improved client satisfaction
-¢ More cohesive organization

A strong employee performance management program can help companies stay ahead of the competition and achieve short and long-term goals. Defining performance criteria, updating and revisiting goals, ongoing communication and rewarding top employees can help motivate an organization to surpass its own expectations.

Kenneth Randle is a regional vice president for Administaf, a leading professional employer organization (PEO), serving as a full-service human resources department that provides small and medium-sized businesses with administrative relief, big-company benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity. The company operates 50 sales offices in 23 major markets.