Performance Management FAQ

Performance Management

I want to be a better people manager. Can you help me?

Our entire focus at TGS is to provide managers and supervisors with the training and tools they need to implement the key drivers of Employee Engagement, thereby managing people more effectively and ensuring increasing employee contribution to company results. We believe that the vast majority of people who go to work want to perform well and contribute. It’s been our experience that the barriers to superior performance are generally created by management; not setting meaningful goals and objectives, not providing coaching, mentoring and feedback on a regular basis and not appraising performance in a way that’s meaningful to both the employee and the company. Complete our Employee Engagement Certification Course and bring the learning to life using the HR Power Centre and you will become a better people manager.

What is meant by Performance Management?

Performance Management is comprised of four components; setting objectives, coaching, providing feedback and appraising. In other words, we want to make sure our employees know what our expectations of them are, we want to help them meet or exceed those expectations through coaching and feedback and we want to let them know how they performed against those expectations and how we can improve in the future. If all of this is accomplished, the chances are good that the company will meet its objectives. The seven modules of the Employee Engagement Certification Course cover Performance Management comprehensively.

How do I sit with an employee and set objectives for the coming year?

Objective setting should start at the top of the organization with annual corporate objectives being set by the senior management team. Once the corporation knows where it is going, objectives that support the corporate objectives are established by the various levels in the company until finally, managers sit with their employees and work out individual objectives for the year. If done properly, all employees should understand how the accomplishment of their objectives contributes to the company achieving its objectives. The “Clarity in the Job” module of the Employee Engagement Certification Course covers this in detail.

How do you do a performance appraisal?

There are many approaches to the performance appraisal process but here’s the one TwoGreySuits favors. Our Employee Performance Review form (EPR) is comprehensive and easy to use. It covers the three major review areas, performance against objectives, performance against competencies and personal development needs. Both the Manager and the employee complete the form separately. They then review each other’s ratings and comments and discuss their differences. There usually aren’t many as long as the feedback process has been working well during the year. A final EPR is prepared, the manager and employee sign it and it is placed in the employee’s personnel folder.

What if the employee disagrees with the appraisal?

This doesn’t occur very often, particularly if your Performance Management Process is working. It does happen occasionally, however, and that’s okay. The employee has the right to disagree and record his/her comments in a separate section of the Employee Performance Review. The employee should also have the right of recourse, that is, to be able to discuss the situation with his/her manager’s superior.

Is performance management and performance appraisal the same thing?

No. Performance appraisal is only one component of a performance management system. Performance feedback should occur on a regular basis throughout the year with a formal Employee Performance Review being completed on an annual basis. If the manager is diligent about providing the employee with regular performance feedback, the annual formal review should contain no surprises.

What is the value or purpose of doing performance reviews? Are they really necessary?

We think they are necessary. People naturally enjoy feedback on their performance, both positive and constructive, and most are anxious to improve. The formal performance review process only works well, however, when the other aspects of the Performance Management system are functioning.

How is performance linked to pay?

Some companies try to divorce performance and pay but, at TwoGreySuits, we feel this is almost impossible. While consideration for rewards is not the only reason for performance reviews, it is generally the dominant one in most employees’ minds. So let’s call a spade a spade but make sure that the other important aspects around performance reviews including personal development needs are looked after as well.

Who should do an employee’s performance review?

The employee’s immediate superior should complete the Employee Performance Review.

Is letting an employee appraise their own performance a good idea?

We think this is an excellent idea and is a common part of the process in many companies. Employees will tend to pay more attention to meeting objectives and performing to the key behavioral competencies for their position if they know they are going to have to rate themselves at the end of the period. Interestingly, it’s been our experience that employees tend to rate themselves more critically than their bosses do at review time.

Why does everyone get so uptight about performance reviews anyways?

We think the major source of stress is fear of the unknown. People generally get uptight when annual performance appraisals are the only aspect of Performance Management that is observed in the company. The Manager has to complete the review based on an entire year’s performance, none of which has been discussed on an ongoing basis and the employee has no idea how he/she has been performing in the eyes of the company because they have received little if any feedback. If the process is followed correctly, the annual performance review should be an event to which employees and managers look forward.

Who in the company should have access to performance reviews?

The person responsible for Human Resources obviously has access to employees’ files including performance reviews. Management and the employees themselves also should have access to the files but on a controlled basis.

How frequently should reviews be done?

Employee performance should be reviewed regularly on an informal basis and certainly no less than quarterly. The formal Employee Performance Review should be completed annually.

If an employee has a few bad reviews in a row, what would the next step be?

Performance management also includes the management of poor performance and progressive discipline. The first goal should always be to coach the employee back to acceptable performance. There will be cases, however, where this is not successful and other, more serious, steps must be taken. The Progressive Discipline process can be found in our Performance Management module

How can I recognize an employee’s performance financially during the year, outside of the normal increase time, without other employees expecting the same?

This is difficult to do. Unless you have made special, formal arrangements to review an employee’s salary at a point during the year, you are playing with fire. While compensation is supposed to be confidential, these things invariably get out and you are then faced with having to defend an action that, in your other employees’ eyes, is unfair.

Tell me about performance review panels.

The purpose of Performance review panels is to calibrate performance ratings across the company. Review panels are made up of managers led by a facilitator. Each manager discusses his Employee Performance Reviews and suggests ratings. The proposed rating is discussed and it is up to the rating manager to adequately defend his/her ratings. There is a much better likelihood of assigning an accurate performance rating when goals and objectives have been clearly defined at the beginning of a performance review period. Performance review panels are helpful in dealing with the problem of subjective ratings. Managers often take performance reviews more seriously if they know they will be reviewing their decisions with their peers and superiors.

How do I prevent managers from either appraising too soft or too hard?

This is an ongoing problem in Performance Management. Our Employee Performance Review process includes a one-over-one approval mechanism. This means that the rater’s superior reviews and signs off on all EPRs. This is one way to monitor rating practices by a manager. Also, Managers who implement and practice the action plans around coaching and providing feedback to their people on a regular basis will tend to appraise their employees more objectively.

How long should a good review discussion take?

Assuming good performance management practices are being followed, the discussion should be positive, development oriented and take no more than one hour.

Should we talk money and performance in the same discussion?

Ideally, performance and personal development needs should be discussed separately from compensation. It makes it easier to focus on the real issues if the employee is not preoccupied with compensation. This is hard to do and most companies deal with both in the same discussion.

How do I set standards and challenging objectives for my employees?

Understanding that employee involvement in setting objectives is a key driver of Employee Engagement is a good start. The “Clarity in the Job” module of the TGS Employee Engagement Certification Course covers this in detail and is an excellent starting point for understanding. The actual process for setting performance objectives is outlined in detail in our Guide to Setting Performance Objectives found in the HR Basics module. Following the process will result in employees agreeing to objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented and time-bound and, most importantly, relate back to the organization’s objectives.

I want high personal standards of performance and professionalism in my company. How do I achieve this?

This is what Leadership is all about and there are some proven methods for achieving it. When setting standards of performance, you must take into account individual’s abilities and corporate requirements. You have to find a balance between what is challenging and what is achievable. You need to express confidence in your employee’s abilities and determine what support may be needed. And, finally, you need to set long term as well as short term goals. The Employee Engagement Certification Course together with the tools and direction in the HR Power Centre provides everything you need for effective implementation.

I want to have better relationships with my employees, not as their good friend but at a respected professional level. How do I do this?

We don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. The trick is to know where to draw the line, from both the employee’s and the superior’s perspective. Employees respect managers who help them set goals, coach them to improved performance and provide feedback including rewards for good performance. We believe the vast majority of people come to work to contribute and they will respect managers who help them accomplish this goal. The “Building People Management Skills” module of the Employee Engagement Certification Course is an excellent starting point to develop these skills.

How do I involve employees in setting their own objectives that are linked to our company’s direction?

This is a cascading process from top to bottom. Corporate objectives are set first, followed by successively lower organization levels until the process reaches the individual employee. The employee’s performance objectives relate directly to his/her department objectives which in turn relate to the Division’s objectives and ultimately back to the organization’s objectives. TwoGreySuits has designed our Employee Performance Review to record all levels of objectives, from corporate to individual. This allows employees to readily see how their personal objectives have an impact on their company.

I want to recognize and reinforce employees’ good performance but I don’t know when this occurs on a day to day basis. How do I get this info regularly?

Recognizing and reinforcing good performance when it happens is a very powerful tool that will go a long way to improving performance levels in your company. The best way to go about this is to “catch your employees doing something good”. A tried and true way to accomplish this is to “manage by walking around.”

How do I properly reward and recognize employees for innovation and risk taking?

First you need to define innovation, calculated risk-taking and areas of freedom for your employees. Then, you need to be open to new ideas and alternatives and be prepared to recognize innovation when it occurs within the boundaries outlined. Sign up for the TGS Employee Engagement Certification Course and learn not only how to recognize employees for innovation and risk-taking but other valuable strategies to engage employees as well.

What are some non-monetary rewards I can use to recognize my employees?

Positive reinforcement, particularly when it comes soon after the performance itself, remains one of the most powerful non-monetary forms of recognition that managers have at their disposal. Other commonly used types of non-monetary rewards include; letters of recognition to the employee’s file, lunches, dinners for high performers, plaques, certificates and other symbols of achievement, briefcases, luggage and other personal items, desirable assignments, time off, tickets to sporting events, changes in title, company sponsored trips, airline club memberships, training and other development opportunities.

How do I go about setting team goals?

As a manager, you need to reinforce collaborative behavior and stress the benefits of teamwork in your environment. You should include your employees in decision-making when appropriate and provide a foundation for them to work together to resolve conflicts. Team goals should be used to focus the work unit effort. Once again, by completing the Employee Engagement Certification Course, you can improve your overall people management skills including your ability to engage your employees in setting team goals.

How do I increase trust among my employees?

This is a tough and important question. Essentially, trust has to be earned. Stephen Covey, in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, talks about making deposits in the emotional bank account. These include understanding the individual; attending to the little things, little kindnesses and courtesies; keeping commitments; clarifying expectations and showing personal integrity. Integrity includes but goes beyond honesty. Honesty is telling the truth, integrity is keeping promises and fulfilling expectations. One of the most important ways to show integrity is to be loyal to those not present. When we do that, we build the trust of those who are present. If you work hard at making these deposits, it becomes much easier when you have to make “withdrawals” because you have built high levels of trust with your employees. These are skills that can and should be learned but to achieve true employee engagement, they have to be practiced as well.

How do I get employees to initiate projects on their own without always having to be directed to do so?

This behavior has to be encouraged. Managers need to show interest in gathering and developing employees’ ideas. They need to encourage employees to identify problems in the way things are currently done and provide support when an employee tries something new.

How do I explain the importance of being persistent in meeting our goals?

We would say it’s more a case of demonstrating rather than explaining. You need to demonstrate ongoing, personal involvement in goal achievement. You should consider sharing your personal goals and your progress toward achieving them. Act as a role model for others and be positive about achieving goals.

How do I discipline an employee?

The important issue of Managing Poor Performance is covered in detail in the HR Power Centre’s Performance Management module.

When is job performance bad enough to consider employment termination?

There are no hard and fast rules when to make the decision to terminate someone for performance reasons. There is, however, a process that TwoGreySuits recommends be followed. When an employee is exhibiting unsatisfactory performance, the first management action should be to coach the individual back to acceptable performance using the tools and techniques contained in the Performance Management module. In most cases, the situation is resolved in this manner. If it isn’t, then the process of Progressive Discipline begins. The objective is still to correct the performance issue, if possible, but the groundwork is now being laid for termination, if necessary. The rule of thumb is to proceed with termination when management is convinced that performance improvement is not possible. In our experience, it is best not to delay the termination once the decision is made as the performance problem is almost always having a negative effect on other employees.

Can I fire someone for poor job performance without paying any severance?

Poor job performance is an acceptable reason for firing an employee for “just cause”. “Just cause” means that you are not required to pay severance. Unfortunately, it is difficult to prove “just cause” dismissal for performance reasons in a court of law and many companies simply pay appropriate severance to avoid the time and energy that could be expended on a court case. However, if the situation has been well documented and the company feels strongly about the situation, by all means proceed with a “just cause” dismissal.