Managing Performance: Foundation for Success

Most business owners start out with a solid strategic plan.  Where things often fall apart is in translating the plan into objectives for employees and managing their performance.

Done right, performance management is a valuable communications tool for the organization and between the manager and employee.  It is a way to connect tasks and responsibilities of an employee’s job to the desired outcomes of the company’s strategic plan.  It directly links the employee’s performance—to the organization’s ability to achieve its goals.

Performance management through the life cycle of an employee

Effective performance management starts at the beginning when you make the job offer.  Communicating expectations starts with an up-to-date job description.  The job description describes: the purpose of the job and the tasks and responsibilities; the knowledge, skills and abilities required to do the work; how the job connects to other positions; the challenges and types of problems the employee may face; and, the authority and decision making expected of the employee.

Performance management continues through the probation period.   Don’t make the mistake of hiring someone and then leaving them to fend for themselves.  Meet regularly with the new employee to make sure they understand the requirements, are getting the support they need, and have the necessary training to do their job effectively. Identifying gaps in knowledge, skills and abilities at this stage is essential to minimizing pain later.  Determine whether you can bridge any skill gap easily and quickly, or if you need to extend the probation period, or choose to find a new resource.

Managing performance of staff is not an annual event.  Employees need to know what your expectations are and whether they are being effective in meeting them.  Developing open, honest and consistent communication with employees is essential.  Tips for doing this are listed below.

Even at the end of the employment relationship, managing performance is still important.  How you manage this last meeting and the communication that takes place will significantly impact the reputation of the organization and the well-being of the employee.  Being fair, respectful, and thoughtful goes a long way.

Tips for effectively managing performance:

  1. Plan — Performance management begins with the strategic goals for your organization, which flow down to operational goals for your management team, and then down to objectives for each individual team member. Make sure they are all aligned and focused on results.
  2. Objectives — Set and agree on measurable objectives that are tied to the operational and strategic plans.  Objectives should be clear and reasonable and indicate how its going to be measured.  Review objectives and performance (individual, team and organization) at least every quarter and update as needed. While these are often set at the beginning of the year as part of the business planning process, they will need to be revisited and adjusted throughout the year as circumstances change.
  3. Expectations — Be clear about expectations: do you have a job description? Is it up-to-date?  You need to be clear about what is to be done and to what standard.
  4. Assess — Take the time to gather information on how each employee is doing.  Speak to people they have direct contact with (peers, other supervisors, direct reports, clients). Make notes in your file regularly.  When using a scale, clearly define each rating (Excellent, Very Good, Satisfactory, Fair, and Poor).  What do each of these levels mean?
  5. Feedback — Talk to your employee about what he/she is achieving (or not) throughout the year and the importance of these outcomes to the organization. Have clear examples of what they are doing well and clear examples of what needs to be improved. Feedback should take place regularly throughout the year. There should be no surprises for an employee. Give praise when an employee does something well and note it in your file; likewise, give feedback on how performance can be improved on an as-it-happens basis.
  6. Support — Be consistent and fair in holding employees accountable for performance. Identify what the cause is for employees not meeting their goals. Help employees with problem solving. Your job as a manager is to support your employees in doing their job—making sure they are trained and removing obstacles for them.
  7. Training and Development — As a business owner, you are responsible for providing certain training for employees.  This includes on-the-job training as well as legislated training, such as health and safety awareness , workplace violence and harassment, and AODA. Providing training and development to employees is not only a good investment in your human resources, but is also motivating for employees.
  8. Reward — We’re not just talking money.  People of all ages like to hear positive things about themselves.  We all like to be appreciated.  “Please” and “Thank you”, and a sincere “good job on that _____” don’t cost anything and are worth a lot.

Managing performance in this way will increase the likelihood that your company will succeed in meeting its strategic objectives and building a great culture.

Caerus HR Consulting provides HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. For more information on creating an effective performance management strategy through organizational culture and leadership, contact Ramona Packham, President & HR Business Partner, at 613-220-9005 or at People Business for Business People.

Caerus HR Consulting Inc.

Ramona Packham CHRL, MBA