The benefits of a good performance management process can be seen across almost every aspect of an organization – from productivity and profits to customer service and employee retention. Equally, the potential risks of an ineffective process are just as great, which is why it’s important to have the right tools and techniques in place to support you.
Top performance management tools and techniques
- Goal setting and tracking
- Performance reviews and evaluations
- Continuous performance management
- Regular 1:1s
- Performance check-in pulse surveys
- Rewards and recognition
- Performance management software
Good performance management starts from day one, with solid goal setting.
There are lots of different goal-setting frameworks you can follow (e.g. SMART, OKRs, BHAG, goal pyramids). Regardless of which you choose, the most important thing to increase accountability – and ultimately, success – is to give the employee a say in their goal-setting, rather than simply pushing it down from above.
Here are some other guidelines for effective goal setting:
- Ensure goals are well-defined and measurable – what constitutes success or completion?
- Set goals collaboratively between manager and team member.
- Make any expectations around management of the goal clear. How often will you check in on progress? What is the deadline? What are the priorities?
- Align goals with company objectives/priorities (this helps the team member see how their contributions fit into the bigger-picture).
- Include a mix of task-based and personal development goals.
- Break down bigger goals into smaller tasks/milestones.
- Check in on goal progress regularly and make adjustments where necessary.
- Recognize and celebrate success once goals are achieved.
- Reflect on the process and set new goals.
Performance reviews and appraisals are often the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of performance management.
Used by more than 80% of businesses to some degree, performance reviews are typically conducted on an annual or biannual basis, and for many large corporations, this cycle feeds into their subsequent cycle of pay raises and promotions. However, an increasing body of research shows that traditional once-or twice-a-year performance reviews simply don’t do what they’re meant to (i.e. improve performance).
Consider these statistics:
- Only 26% of UK workers rated performance reviews as useful, whereas 39% rated them as pointless – YouGov.
- 24% of employees consider quitting due to inadequate performance feedback – Yoh.
- 33% of employees want more feedback – Joblist.
- 95% of managers are dissatisfied with performance appraisals – CEB.
- 90% of HR professionals think appraisals are inaccurate – CEB.
In response to this sentiment, many companies (Accenture, Deloitte, Adobe, Microsoft) have ditched traditional annual performance reviews and rankings in favor of more frequent interactions and feedback – known as continuous performance management.
A continuous performance management approach, characterized by frequent performance conversations and coaching between manager and employee, tends to be a more effective performance management tool than reviews alone for several reasons:
- Employees are encouraged to reflect on their performance and progress throughout the year, providing more opportunities for them to grow and improve.
- Employees feel more supported by, and are thus more likely to build a stronger relationship with, their manager.
- Feedback is delivered in a timely manner, allowing the employee the opportunity to act on it before habits are too deeply ingrained or it’s not longer relevant.
- Managers can act early to address issues and provide support.
If you’re implementing continuous performance management, consider also how you evaluate performance in your regular check-ins.
Performance doesn’t necessarily have to be measured on outcomes alone like KPIs. You can also evaluate and reward inputs like effort, behaviors and ability (check out this post to learn more about how to measure performance using quality metrics).
Whether or not you adopt a continuous performance management approach, meeting with your team members regularly is an essential performance management technique that will help to both foster better performance and employee engagement.
One-to-ones between managers and direct reports are a platform to discuss what your team member is working on, their progress towards goals and to find out how you can best support them. You can also workshop ideas and coach them through challenges.
To get the most out of your 1:1, it’s a good idea to have a plan for what you’re going to chat about (check out our 1:1 template for a guide) and then use open questions to let your team member provide as much detail as needed.
One performance tool that can foster more efficient and effective 1:1 meetings is a pulse survey.
A check-in pulse survey can be used to ask employees to evaluate and make notes about their performance, achievements and experience prior to your in-person 1:1.
The purpose of sending the survey before you meet (about one week prior is sufficient) is to give team members time and space to reflect on their last month (or whatever the time period is between catch-ups) which makes for a more productive conversation when you do meet.
This is particularly important for those employees who like to be prepared or don’t think as well on their feet. It also helps them to identify their achievements, which you can then recognize and celebrate in person.
From a manager’s perspective, receiving this information prior to your catch up gives you time to prepare, to follow up on any information or questions they have, and allows you to plan how to use your time to discuss the most important things.
Conducting regular pulse surveys also helps you build up a history of an employee’s performance that you can refer back on at any time to inform conversations and decisions around payrises, promotions or performance improvement measures.
As is likely already clear from the first five performance management tools and techniques we’ve discussed, feedback is an essential ingredient in supporting employee performance. This pertains to both feedback provided by the manager, which needs to be constructive, timely and appropriately delivered, as well as continuous feedback sought from the employee, which can be obtained through check-in pulse surveys and 1:1s.
Check out these handy resources for giving and receiving feedback:
- 3 Steps for shaping constructive feedback
- Improve employee feedback conversations with the Pendleton Feedback Model
- 4 examples of feedback questions to ask in employee check-ins
- 5 Burning questions you could be answering with feedback
If you’re trying to motivate your people to achieve their goals or reward your high-performers for doing good work, then you might want to look at incorporating rewards and recognition as a performance management tool. As different people are motivated by different things, it’s important to understand how your team members differ and have a range of options at your disposal. For example:
- Recognition such as virtual shout-outs, peer bonus schemes, personal thank yous.
- Financial incentives e.g. bonuses and payrises.
- Perks e.g. time off, healthcare, mental health programs, remote and flexible work, financial counselling.
- L&D opportunities e.g. a training course, conference, learning a new skill from a team mate.
- Stretch projects or increased authority.
- Health and wellbeing e.g. gym membership, nutrition courses, team yoga.
Last but definitely not least, to level up your performance management process, a good performance management software will allow you to manage many of the above in one place (without the manual work). There are a host of different tools out there, but broadly, some things to look out for include:
- Goal-setting and tracking with feedback.
- Performance appraisal tools.
- Performance history.
- Self or role-evaluation tools.
- Peer evaluation or 360 degree feedback.
- Manager log/diary notes.
intelliHR’s performance management software helps HR and managers across the globe to build and enable high-performing teams. If you’d like to see how it can work for your organization, get in touch to see a personalized demo.