Performance Management: Traditional and Progressive Approaches

Sections of this topic

    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Adapted from Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development

    Suggested Pre-Reading

    Overview of Performance Management Process for any Application

    Sections of This Topic Include

    Traditional Performance Management Process

    Whether for organizations, teams or individuals, the traditional process is a top-down, linear-structured  and static process. It includes establishing objectives early in the year and presenting them to the employees who are responsible for achieving them. (If the goals are for organizations or teams, it still is the employees who ultimately are responsible for achieving them.)

    Then management monitors the performance against those objectives during the year and shares their evaluations near the end of the year when it is time for the annual performance appraisals. Evaluations are against some types of specific performance standards established earlier in the year, for example, below expectations, meets expectations and exceeds expectations.

    In the performance appraisal document and meeting, the manager shares his or her conclusions about the quality of the employee’s performance against the standards. If it is below expectations, then the manager works with the employee to develop a performance improvement plan. Often, the manager decides the employee’s compensation for the next year based on the employee’s performance for the previous year.

    Problems With Traditional Approach

    In Rethinking Stale Performance Management Practices by Joanne Sammer, she cites the results of research done by Mercer and explained in their 2016/2017 CA Compensation Planning Survey Report. The results indicated that:

    • 90% of heads of Human Resource Departments believed their performance management system did not produce accurate information
    • 95% of managers were dissatisfied with the system

    The research went on to mention that potential root issues included:

    • Poor goal setting because of unclear expectations and un-useful goals
    • Coaching did not focus on career development and lacked transparency
    • Feedback was insufficient and too infrequent
    • Ratings were inconsistent
    • Performance reviewed were inadequate

    Additional issues were explained by Bradford S. Bell and Christopher J. Collins in The State of the Art in Performance Management: Learning from Discussions with Leading Organizations. They mentioned:

    • Managers are less likely to give lower ratings when they know those ratings will influence the employee’s compensation.
    • Managers tend to focus less on effective feedback and coaching when they know that compensation is a key result of the performance management process.
    • In large and complex organizations, especially those with global operations (and thus, diverse cultures and values), there are can significant inaccuracies and biases in the process.
    • Neither the manager or employee feel comfortable in discussions about performance when they center around rating scales.
    • Performance appraisals near the end of the year are often rushed to completion and not done accurately and thoroughly.
    • Because appraisals are done near the end of the year, managers tend to focus primarily on performance near the end of the year.

    Bryan Hancock and Asmus Komm very aptly describe this situation:

    “The worst-kept secret in companies has long been the fact that the yearly ritual of evaluating (and sometimes rating and ranking) the performance of employees epitomizes the absurdities of corporate life. Managers and staff alike too often view performance management as time consuming, excessively subjective, demotivating, and ultimately unhelpful. In these cases, it does little to improve the performance of employees. It may even undermine their performance as they struggle with ratings, worry about compensation, and try to make sense of performance feedback.”

    Progressive Approaches to Performance Management

    Because of numerous driving forces, organizations are changing like never before. Previously established goals can quickly become obsolete or changed significantly. In addition, new generations in the workforce want more of an ongoing voice in how their goals are established, including how they work toward them.

    Consequently, the performance management process is evolving as well. More progressive organizations are seeing the process as much more of an ongoing and collaborative dialogue that is continually assessing the current situation, and then making adjustments and changing expectations as necessary. They might include the following practices:

    • Continual feedback and coaching during the year, intended to enhance the employee’s learning,
      performance and advancement in their career.
    • Understanding the unique motivations for each employee and supporting the employee’s engagement and ability to motivate themselves.
    • Continually soliciting feedback from the employees about their impressions of the quality of their work and the resources they are using to do their work.
    • Using more flexible and adaptable goals focused on the current needs of the organization and the employee.
    • Use a more collaborative approach between manager and employee when establish goals.
    • Using more flexible styles of leadership, for example, the VUCA agile style that is better suited to today’s dynamic and often ambiguous workplaces.

    What was traditionally viewed as three general phases (performance planning, performance appraisal and performance improvement) would now occur as one or a few real-time conversations. In the progressive approach, the phases and the steps within them might still occur, but they would be viewed as a framework within which the continuing collaboration and dialogues would occur. The progressive approach to performance management requires a progressive approach to leadership and management, as attested by the kinds of practices listed above.

    NOTE: Thus, the reader is encouraged to strongly consider this new and more progressive perspective when reading information about

    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Performance Management

    In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to Performance Management. Scan down the blog’s page to see various posts. Also see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar of the blog or click on “next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.

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