• Performance Management needs to adapt to new ways of working

    Michelle McDonagh, Consulting and Client Relationship Manager, Adare Human Resource Management

    The fundamental changes most businesses have experienced in recent years has meant there are some organisational processes still catching up. One of these processes is Performance Management. It was always difficult to get this right but now the way we manage employee performance needs to change to ensure it effectively fulfils its intended purpose.

    The implementation of hybrid and full remote working and an increased use of contract work means that traditional performance management is no longer fit for purpose.


    Our most recent HR Barometer Report, which is due to be published in the coming weeks, highlights that while most Organisations have a formal performance management process in place, nearly a quarter of those believe their process is either not very effective or completely ineffective. This is quite startling and begs to ask the question, why?


    Many Organisations are still relying on performance management processes based on an annual cycle of reviews, where employees receive feedback from line managers and are often given ratings against a set of objectives or goals that were most likely established at the previous year’s annual reviews. But there is much more flexibility in how we work today and how we manage performance needs to reflect that.


    So how should we assess employees’ contributions to the organisation while also supporting growth and development?


    Performance Management is about all individuals being clear about what they need to do to achieve expected standards, and how that contributes to the overall success of the Organisation; receiving regular, fair, timely, accurate feedback and coaching to stretch and motivate them to achieve.


    An effective performance management process should be built upon a number of basic principles including:

    · Sharing an overall understanding of the Organisational strategic priorities

    · Joint establishment of goals and objectives

    · Clarifying expectations – this makes it easier for Employees to be aware of what they are working toward

    · Support should be provided in the development of capacity to meet expectations

    · Continuous assessment and the provision of honest feedback

    · Focus on learning and development.


    While employees may now be working in a different way, they still want to improve, learn, be challenged and know that they are a valued member of the team. To meet this expectation, organisations shouldn’t look at Performance Management in isolation; there should be a more holistic approach that incorporates both learning & development and employee engagement. Obviously assessing past performance is important but this conversation is an opportunity for managers to offer appropriate development and training as well as empowering employees to set their own goals.

    In the context of remote/hybrid working, managers must be clear on setting Employee expectations of their role and provide clarity regarding setting goals and a pathway to achieve these goals provides encouragement and engagement with employees; they become an intrinsic part of the overall process. It puts the employee at the centre of their own performance and development management planning process, which ultimately will be of benefit to the Organisation as well as the employee themselves.


    How those goals are then monitored and managed, the frequency and format of meetings needs to be agreed with employees. Regular communication is critical with remote/hybrid employees to go through work plans and to understand any challenges that might be faced by employees. Frequent communication will prevent employees from feeling isolated, promote employee engagement, and keep employees up to date with any changes within the Organisation. Employees must also be responsible for communicating effectively especially when in need of support. Employees may not always reach out, so management must encourage daily interactions and follow up with those who are withdrawn. It is important that Managers receive training on how to effectively discuss an employees’ strengths and weaknesses during a performance management online meeting.


    One of the key changes in recent times is the focus on the outputs or outcomes and measure accordingly, not on the activity or time taken to do specific tasks. Modern successful workplaces are not built on employees simply fulfilling and being assessed on a specific role; new ways of working require employees to be more fluid, open to new challenges and a willingness to learn new skills, as gaps are identified to help achieve business objectives that also feed personal success.

    Follow this link to download a Template Personal Improvement Plan which we have developed to support members manage incidents of poor performance. Gain the clarity, agree an action plan, monitor progress and feedback.

    Over the past couple of years, we’ve asked HR Professionals about how they would improve their Performance Management processes. “More Regular Reviews” and “More Input from Colleagues” have been the top two answers for some time, clearly demonstrating the value employees put on, not only the feedback from their line managers, but also the value and importance of hearing from their colleagues. What do peers expect from each other? Is that clear so employees know in advance.


    It is time to challenge the traditional Performance Management process and really assess if they are truly benefitting employees and the Organisation. Does the process provide encouragement and empower employees to do the best they can and hold them accountable? Does the Organisation’s approach to Performance Management help nurture an innovative and collaborative culture, where every employee believes they are contributing to the overall vision? Or is it simply a box ticking exercise that offers no real value and is treated as such by both managers and employees?


    Adare Human Resource Management is a team of expert-led Employment Law, Industrial Relations and best practice Human Resource Management consultants. For more information go to www.adarehrm.ie or call (01) 561 3594 or email adarechambers@adarehrm.ie.