Eight Ways to Prepare Yourself and Your Organization for the Performance Management Revolution

M. Tamra Chandler, CEO & Co-founder, PeopleFirm

Eight Ways to Prepare Yourself and Your Organization for the Performance Management Revolution

There is a revolution coming. Within the next decade, virtually all organizations of note will have swapped out their old-school, ineffective performance management programs for something far better suited to today’s chaotic, multi-generational, fast-changing business world. The vanguard is already shifting, with The Gap, Netflix, GE, and Adobe all tweaking or fully rebooting their performance programs. These early pioneers are already seeing positive results from their new approaches. Conversely, Yahoo has been sued for sticking with an outdated, numbers-driven and allegedly demeaning system. Executives are on the hook — for better or worse. 

Will your organization lead or lag? Are you ready to be an early adopter of this trend, and gain the advantage in the increasingly competitive talent market? Or will you resist the idea of replacing the old, tired rituals with a new approach until it’s too late?

If taking the lead is what appeals, there are 8 ways to prep your organization for a performance management reboot revolution:

1. Step up to your role. A recent Cornerstone article notes that “shaping human behavior is a joint responsibility of HR and the C-Suite.” Indeed, an organization’s success and profitability hinges on an engaged, focused workforce. Further, the article continues, “HR can devise the framework to make this happen, but it is only through the collaboration and support of the C-Suite that it can all come together to create organizational success.” 

To rebuild performance management in your organization, the most important choice you can make is to be actively involved in the process. Work side-by-side with your HR team to launch your new program. The partnership will demonstrate the importance of the work – and help ensure its success.

2. Invest in your managers. No matter what the new approach looks like, your managers will play a critical role in its success. They may have less paperwork, tracking, and fewer forms to hound their people about, but they will now need the skills to engage their people in meaningful performance conversations, to give and receive feedback, and to coach employees in taking ownership of their careers. You’ll need a thoughtful approach to educating and training your managers for these new responsibilities.  

You may also find that you need to make a few changes to the ranks, rewarding managers who are strong people leaders, and moving those who aren’t back to their areas of strength. Just because Bob is a great engineer doesn’t necessarily mean that Bob is a good manager of engineers. Bear this in mind as you design your new solution. The bottom line: preparing your managers is an investment that can’t go overlooked. 

3. Start with strategy. Get clear on how your performance management process needs to align with your strategic objectives. Maybe you need to develop people more rapidly to meet growth. Maybe you want to drive more innovation and collaboration, or reinforce the connection to your mission. Perhaps you’d like your culture to be more team-oriented. All can be influenced by your approach to performance management. Let those strategic needs guide your design.

4. Engage your team. If you’re going to make substantial changes, you need your leadership team with you on this journey. Just one influential foot-dragger clinging to the old ways can jeopardize the new program’s success. By bringing your leadership team along with you, I’m not just talking about sending a memo. I’m talking about building real buy-in and investment in the success of this change. Find ways to welcome their voices into the design process that drive their engagement, and build their understanding of the why you need to change, along with the what and how of fixing it.

5. Pick a strong leader. Select a dynamic captain to spearhead and guide the actual design process. Getting your performance management right requires a clear understanding of strategy, a dose of courage, and a great deal of communication. Make sure you pick a leader who embodies all of those capabilities, and has the experience and skill to engage the broader team early and often.

6. Take a few risks. A new approach to performance management may feel risky, often because our modern designs build in a lot more reliance on trusting our people. If you find yourself becoming concerned about risk, take a look at the possible consequences. First: “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then consider the flip side: “What’s the best that can happen?”We often reap greater benefits when we’re willing to take a few risks.

As the ultimate owner of this project, remember that your design team may need a little encouragement on taking risks as well. Let them know that you’re happy to see them challenge you. Communicate that — in fact — you expect them to.

7. Be the change you want to see. Nothing will mean more to your people than seeing you walk the talk. As your design comes together, be the first to use the new process and embody your new philosophy towards your people. Also recognize others in your organization who get on board early, and recognize and celebrate the wins your team experiences.

8. Recognize that it’s a journey. Don’t expect to have everything perfectly dialed in right away. Building a brand new performance management solution for today’s new world of work is a process. You and your team will learn, evolve, and grow, tweaking and fine-tuning as you go. If you’ve done a good job connecting your performance management program to your strategic goals, your approach will organically evolve to meet the changing needs of your organization as it, too, grows and matures. And that’s a very, very good thing.

About the Author

M. Tamra Chandler is a bona fide people maven. She’s spent the majority of her career thinking about people, researching how they’re motivated, and developing new and effective ways for organizations to achieve the ultimate win-win: inspired people driving inspiring performance.  She’s also the CEO and co-founder of PeopleFirm, one of Washington State’s fastest-growing businesses and most successful women-owned firms. An award-winning leader in her field (she’s been recognized byConsulting Magazine twice as one of the top consultants in the U.S.), she is the author of How Performance Management is Killing Performance — and What to Do About It.