Practice Areas

Effective Performance Management

If you have ever spoken to your employment lawyer about a poor-performing employee, they have surely asked you about the kind of feedback that has been given to the employee.  Performance management matters, and it’s not just to support a termination of employment or performance improvement plan.

When discussing performance management, I am not referring to a formal, annual performance evaluation system, although it can involve such a system.  For the purposes of this post, I am referring to the steps managers can take on an ongoing, more frequent basis to manage employee performance.

Ongoing, frequent performance management not only promotes and improves employee effectiveness, but also identifies and addresses poor performers, disengaged workers, and job roles that may not fit the employee.  To be effective, performance management must establish clear performance goals and generate honest feedback.  Although many managers think that performance management is cumbersome and too time consuming for the value it adds, it’s one of a manager’s most important responsibilities.

So how do managers practice effective performance management?

For starters, at the time of hire and also at the beginning of a new project, it is important for managers to review performance expectations with employees.  This includes both the behaviors employees are expected to exhibit and the results they are expected to achieve. This step is crucial because it lays the groundwork for communication and expectations, and an employee cannot later claim to be surprised.  I am a big fan of this step because it allows the manager to openly communicate about performance in a neutral way.  Laying this groundwork will also make it somewhat easier to have more difficult discussions about poor performance in the future.

Examples of behavior expectations include: how the employee communicates, how adaptable the employee is, how the employee supports the team, how the employee mentors others, etc.  We are all familiar with employees who achieve incredible results, but are extremely difficult to work with.  For this very reason, behavior is an important expectation to communicate to employees.

When an employee is in a new or promoted role, it’s also important to clarify how expectations may differ across various job levels, such as entry-level, experienced, and managerial positions.

Next, managers should provide feedback to employees whenever they observe outstanding or poor performance, but also when they observe smaller, day-to-day successes or contributions.  Managers should provide the feedback to employees in a direct, constructive manner.  Feedback must be given in close proximity to the event.

The feedback process doesn’t have to be formal or elaborate.  Informal feedback that naturally takes place during the daily work routine can be equally, if not more, effective and valuable.

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