Performance management – a human approach

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HR people typically over structure. Whether the profession attracts people who need structure, or whether the insecurities of being in HR leads to it is a subject for another day.  But nonetheless, the structure is there and in many cases becomes an incapacitating force against driving business performance.

Nowhere can this more keenly be observed than in the struggle for a performance appraisal or management system that works.  I can’t count the number of times that I have seen and been involved with the redesign, revamp, and yes, restructure of a process that was meant to drive the performance management culture, but ended up being an unpopular, badly used and inhibiting mechanism.  And the reason for this is that the structure that we are trying to apply, in itself is the down fall of the process.

Consider this.  I have two children, both are very different and both are equally as wonderful and as valuable to me.  If you asked me to assess them against a set of criteria, say…academic ability, creativity, helpfulness around the house, sense of humour and ability to pick their pants up off the floor then they would both score very differently (for the record neither would score highly on that last category.  So which is the best child? Well of course, neither is the only answer.

But yet we feel somehow the need to apply such structures to our businesses to try to force “the conversation” normally through a fear that managers aren’t doing it “properly”.  And rather than exploring why that might be and what we can do to facilitate this, instead we structure and apply process neither of which lead to any better conversation.

If you work in HR, you are used to delivering good and bad messages because we spend our time doing both.  If you work in other areas of the business you don’t necessarily have that experience and so it feels like a big deal and no form or rating system in the world is going to help that.  But coaching, support and practice will.  We don’t need a form, we don’t need to compare people with one another and we don’t need a competency framework.  Leave it free form and humanistic and focus your energies on helping people out of their comfort zones.

One comment

  1. shanonwynonna · March 7, 2014

    Neil, what you’re saying is like a breath of fresh air, it’s the right thing that should be automatically done, but how many of us have the skills to speak like this and, most importantly, how many HR people can empathize with the employees? This requires a lot of psychology and both persons’ willingness to open to one another. Second of all, having clear reports with the employees’ performances allows the company to notice those who’re good at what they do and those who need to be motivated more, at the same time.

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