Per­for­mance jit­ters

Tal­ent de­vel­op­ment is bet­ter way to as­sess em­ployee strengths

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

JUNE — it’s that time of year again for re­port cards and per­for­mance re­views! And, if your em­ploy­ees are blurt­ing out, “Ugh, oh no, not that time al­ready” and you are see­ing them phys­i­cally cringe, I’d like to sug­gest that you might well be hold­ing on to an out­dated phi­los­o­phy about em­ployee per­for­mance man­age­ment.

If that’s in­deed the case, then you are also more than likely ap­ply­ing out­dated per­for­mance ap­praisal tools. In fact, the term per­for­mance man­age­ment it­self is now con­sid­ered by many lead­ers to be old and worn out.

That’s be­cause in many cases, the con­cept of per­for­mance man­age­ment and the per­for­mance ap­praisal process it­self has more of­ten than not been iso­lated and only loosely con­nected to an or­ga­ni­za­tion’s over­all busi­ness goals and ob­jec­tives. In other words, em­ployee re­views get hung up in var­i­ous de­part­ments and are rarely ex­am­ined from a global per­for­mance im­prove­ment per­spec­tive. Thus, sad to say, the en­tire prac­tice of per­for­mance man­age­ment in many or­ga­ni­za­tions is be­ing viewed as noth­ing more than a use­less ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­er­cise en­gi­neered by hu­man re­source man­agers.

When this ap­proach con­tin­ues to live on in an or­ga­ni­za­tion, em­ploy­ees are dis­con­nected to the larger cor­po­rate goals and they rarely un­der­stand how their con­tri­bu­tions are con­nected to busi­ness suc­cess. The re­sult is that both man­agers and em­ploy­ees alike grow to hate and/or fear this an­nual process. Em­ploy­ees see and re­sent the per­for­mance re­view as a top-down ex­er­cise. Many man­agers on the other hand, of­ten don’t feel com­fort­able in the role of eval­u­a­tors and so they will de­lay and then have to rush through the com­ple­tion of their re­views. In ei­ther case, the re­view process is not a pleas­ant or help­ful ex­pe­ri­ence for all con­cerned.

Thank­fully, the views of per­for­mance man­age­ment have been chang­ing for the bet­ter. We no longer fo­cus on only one right way to do things; in­stead, we en­cour­age em­ploy­ees to be creative, to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo and to rec­om­mend im­prove­ments. We strive to cre­ate self-mo­ti­va­tion and team col­lab­o­ra­tion rather than the suf­fer­ing cre­ated un­der the old-fash­ioned, com­mand and con­trol man­age­ment ap­proach. Fi­nally, we are now turn­ing our at­ten­tion away from the term per­for­mance man­age­ment and fo­cus­ing in­stead on tal­ent de­vel­op­ment.

As a re­sult, lead­ers are pay­ing more at­ten­tion to the im­por­tance of clearly link­ing their tal­ent de­vel­op­ment (per­for­mance man­age­ment) to busi­ness goals and ob­jec­tives. They now clearly see that em­ployee per­for­mance has both ele­ments of risk and re­ward. For in­stance, if em­ploy­ees are not en­gaged in do­ing the right tasks at the right time but in­stead are en­gaged in unau­tho­rized or un­nec­es­sary ac­tions, then the risk to strate­gic busi­ness ob­jec­tives is in­creased.

One of the re­sults of the fo­cus on tal­ent de­vel­op­ment has been the cre­ation of new tools for the per­for­mance ap­praisal process. In par­tic­u­lar, the ap­pli­ca­tion of com­pe­ten­cies within the per­for­mance ap­praisal for­mat has proven to be very ef­fec­tive not only from an ap­praisal per­spec­tive but also from a de­vel­op­men­tal per­spec­tive.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the com­pe­tency model and the old ap­praisal for­mat is that each of the ar­eas be­ing rated are clearly de­fined and ac­com­pa­nied by clear de­scrip­tions. Each com­pe­tency out­lines cu­mu­la­tive pro­fi­cien­cy­ori­ented de­scrip­tions for each job level rang­ing from en­try level to those of more com­plex­ity and of a longer time frame. For­mats typ­i­cally in­clude four to five lev­els for each com­pe­tency.

In my view, the com­pe­tency-based per­for­mance ap­praisal for­mat of­fers a num­ber of ben­e­fits for both em­ploy­ees and em­ploy­ers. First of all, the strat­egy is fu­ture ori­ented and fo­cused on em­ployee de­vel­op­ment. From the em­ployee per­spec­tive, the pro­gres­sive list of com­pe­ten­cies helps them to iden­tify the ex­act be­hav­iours or com­pe­ten­cies they need to de­velop. They can eas­ily see the pro­gres­sion re­quired in skill de­vel­op­ment to move from one job to an­other. They can use th­ese com­pe­tency maps to help guide their ca­reer.

From a cor­po­rate per­spec­tive, a com­pre­hen­sive vo­cab­u­lary list that out­lines the be­hav­iours for each level of each job cat­e­gory through­out the or­ga­ni­za­tion cre­ates a solid, con­sis­tent frame­work for man­agers to work with. It’s a big pic­ture ap­proach that helps man­agers to more ef­fec­tively un­der­stand the role their em­ploy­ees play in over­all suc­cess and to de­velop them for the fu­ture. Now th­ese man­agers can fo­cus on the how of per­for­mance and not just the what. Over­all, the com­pe­tency-based per­for­mance tool al­lows man­agers to do their job bet­ter.

While I strongly be­lieve that the com­pe­tency-based per­for­mance sys­tem is the way to go, there’s work to be done in or­der to get there. The first step is to iden­tify the com­pe­ten­cies re­quired for su­pe­rior per­for­mance in each job in your or­ga­ni­za­tion. This is called com­pe­tency map­ping. There are sev­eral meth­ods for ac­com­plish­ing this task. The first and most thor­ough ap­proach is called job anal­y­sis, which could in­clude a ques­tion­naire, in­ter­views with ideal em­ploy­ees and/or a panel of tech­ni­cal ex­perts who will ex­am­ine jobs and cre­ate be­havioural com­pe­ten­cies for each level of each job cat­e­gory. While this is the most thor­ough and ac­cu­rate ap­proach, it is time con­sum­ing.

A sec­ond ap­proach is to uti­lize an off the shelf set of com­pe­ten­cies that have been de­vel­oped by var­i­ous re­searchers. Th­ese are a gen­eral set of com­pe­ten­cies ac­com­pa­nied by li­cens­ing re­quire­ments that in turn typ­i­cally adds an an­nual rather than one-time cost. Or­ga­ni­za­tions are im­ple­ment­ing the ex­act com­pe­ten­cies out­lined by their ven­dor and/or they are cus­tomiz­ing them as re­quired. Still oth­ers turn to In­ter­net re­search and sim­ply adapt com­pe­tency lists.

The chal­lenge with any of th­ese off the shelf ap­proaches is that the in­ter­nal fa­cil­i­ta­tors rarely test them against the re­al­ity of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. While this ap­proach may quick start a com­pe­tency strat­egy in your or­ga­ni­za­tion, it is rarely ac­cu­rate and so you may well be fo­cus­ing all of your hir­ing and de­vel­op­ment on in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­pe­ten­cies.

Im­ple­ment­ing a com­pe­tency ap­proach is not a sin­gu­lar pro­gram but a jour­ney that re­sults in the in­te­gra­tion of all ele­ments of your peo­ple man­age­ment frame­work. The com­pe­tency-based per­for­mance re­view process will then be­come a pow­er­ful and key in­stru­ment through which you can es­tab­lish your tal­ent de­vel­op­ment strate­gies. Em­ploy­ees and man­agers alike will be able to shake off that old fear and hes­i­ta­tion and wel­come a pos­i­tive dis­cus­sion that fo­cuses on the fu­ture.

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