Lifting council performance
A McKinsey Quarterly article, The fairness factor in performance management, noted that performance management systems have a much better chance of being perceived as fair when they do three things.
They must be clear about what is expected from employees and specific about how their work links with the overall business priorities, while maintaining a strong element of flexibility; there needs to be an investment in the coaching skills of managers so they can become better “arbiters of day-to-day fairness”; and standout performance needs to be rewarded in some roles.
The article said companies should embrace the “power curve.” That is, 20 per cent of employees generate 80 per cent of the value in most companies. It also noted when working in a collaborative team environment it’s risky to have sizeable differences in compensation among team members. “Creating a perception that there are haves and have-nots in a company outweighs any benefit that might be derived from having granular pay differences.”
The survey rating of performance management systems across a host of factors identified that the above three factors really stood out. Companies having none, one, two, or all three of those factors rated their performance management systems as seven per cent, 27 per cent, 43 per cent and 84 per cent effective respectively.
While the article was focused on companies struggling with implementing effective employment performance measures, it is also very applicable to council in several ways. One of the council’s key KPIs is to improve the internal culture of the organisation. This means, amongst other things, that we must have effective performance management of staff. Given the McKinsey findings it would be important to ensure that the same three factors are included in our internal performance management system.
Specifically, council will need to have clear overall objectives it wishes to achieve, and the long-term plan is the main document for defining this. Staff performance objectives will then need to be linked to these objectives.
Managers need to be given training to improve their coaching skills. Coaching is multi-faceted — being good at listening, showing empathy, willing the questions, providing constructive feedback, but specifically encouraging, building up and motivating your team to achieve specific goals and solutions. Great coaches build high-achieving teams.
We also need to recognise hardworking and effective teams, and individual high-achievers, and reward them in a manner that is fair and equitable.
If we are to lift the performance of council, we must change to a positive culture, focused on delivery results and building teams. Both councillors and staff have that collective responsibility. Only then will we see an improvement in council’s overall performance.
"If we are to lift the performance of council, we must change to a positive culture, focused on delivery results and building teams. Both councillors and staff have that collective responsibility."