Performance Manage People

by Paula Newton

In a nutshell

1. Defining performance management

Individual performance management is the management of people to ensure that targets are achieved in a timely and efficient way. Performance management is not limited to appraisals alone. Performance management is an ongoing part of any manager’s job, every single working day, and includes

  • Setting objectives
  • Establishing expectations
  • Coaching staff to improved performance
  • Giving feedback effectively.


2. Why is performance management important?

The management of staff performance is critical to organisational success. If performance is not managed and if there are no standards, then individuals, teams and organisations will not perform to their highest abilities.

  • It gives teams, departments and companies something to work towards and a sense of achievement on completion.
  • It effectively helps individuals, teams and companies achieve great things and provides them with the energy to go on and achieve even more.
  • It an effective tool for managing employees who are not meeting the required standards.
  • It is also an essential part of succession planning.


3. Individual performance and company targets

Individual performance is intricately linked with overall company performance. Managers must set objectives that tie into the end-goals of the company – it is critical to establish a clear line of sight between personal objectives and company targets.

  • Effective performance management is all about leading teams in the same direction as the company so that they can make a significant contribution and drive success.
  • If departmental objectives have not been set, managers can define what they think the targets should be for their team, based on their understanding of the company mission.


4. The toolkit you need

Managing a person’s performance requires a wide range of skills, from the inter-personal through to process skills. These include

  • Goal setting
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Delegation
  • Empowerment
  • Feedback
  • Listening and questioning
  • Time management
  • Motivation
  • Assertiveness.


5. Goal setting is crucial

Setting objectives effectively is a key part of performance management. Making a poor job of this, or leaving goals open to interpretation will make it much more challenging for you to guide your team towards great results.

SMART is a useful tool for goal setting – goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and have a Time frame attached to them.

As well as being smart, goals should be stretching and have some level of challenge, so that a sense of achievement is felt when they are met.


6. Setting and managing expectations

People are different. Everyone has different ideas about what is acceptable and what isn’t. This applies to behaviour in the office, just as it does to any other area. It is therefore critical to effective performance management that you set clear expectations, so that staff work to standards and within set guidelines. Areas where confusion (and hence resentment) may arise, unless expectations are made clear, include

  • Illness – so keep records and make it clear that constantly taking time off for minor ailments is not acceptable
  • Appointments – are people expected to make up the time taken off for the dentist and so on?
  • Are staff expected to turn up on time?
  • What are the rules about applying for annual leave?
  • What about lunch breaks, the dress code, remote working and so on?


7. Meeting your own set objectives

In addition to managing the performance of other team members, you also need to manage your own personal performance. To meet your set objectives effectively, you may need to manage upwards.

  • You may have to find ways to communicate to your manager that the set objectives are unreasonable.
  • If you don’t understand what is required of you, then it is important that you ask questions until you do.
  • If you can’t meet an objective, give as much warning as possible and have a contingency plan.
  • Coach your own team to follow this style of behaviour, so that everyone is working in the most constructive way that they can.


8. Recognising poor performance

Poor performance could be defined as not meeting the objectives and targets laid out. However, recognising whether this is so is not always simple:

  • First, you must have set targets in order to evaluate performance
  • Targets may have been set, but not all targets are easily identified; you may have to look for signs such as absenteeism, complaining or avoidance
  • Your values and prejudices may affect your perceptions
  • We tend to like and over-value people who are like us
  • A past event may have made you biased
  • You also need to look for what is going well.


9. Correcting poor performance

If someone is genuinely performing poorly, you need to act, and act now. First, you need to ask yourself some questions to check the situation: look at the objectives that you set for the person; consider the person and how they see things, and also consider the environment within which they are working.

  • Next, talk with the person to check if their view is the same as yours.
  • Assist the person to see the effects of their behaviours from other perspectives, including your own and any other people immediately affected.
  • Create an action plan with the person to help get them back on track, making sure they have any training or other resources they need.
  • Ensure progress is monitored.


10. When to ask for HR Assistance

If a person simply will not change after you have made significant efforts to improve their performance, then you may have to seek the advice of an HR professional. Disciplinary action may need to be taken in some cases.

  • It is important not to take disciplinary action with individuals too early in the process. This can appear to be extremely heavy-handed and unfair.
  • Equally, you must not let things drag on until the team is affected.
  • When approaching HR about a performance management issue, it is important to have the evidence at your fingertips.