Performance Management: Is there a gap between good practice and your practice?
I’m sure you know what good practice looks like in performance management; clarity about our expectations of our employee’s performance, monitoring employee performance, feedback on employee performance? And I’m sure you know that ‘good practice’ means that these performance management techniques really work for improving not only employee performance but also employee job satisfaction? You do? Good
But is there sometimes a gap between good practice and your practice? Is there a gap between what we know we should be doing in performance management and what we are actually doing (or, more often, not doing)?
When there’s a gap there’s a vacuum. In the same way that ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ so do our employees. When there’s a gap between what people want from their manager and what they get from their manager they will look to fill that gap – to fill the vacuum
So, what do our employees fill the gap with? In this blog we’ll take a look at the first performance management gap
Performance Management Gap 1: Performance objectives
The purpose of performance objectives is to describe what good performance looks like – for the ‘numbers’ part of the job and the ‘behavioural’ part of the job – so that our employees have clarity about our expectations of them. When we don’t get that clarity here’s what happens
People do what they’ve always done – although what they’ve always done doesn’t actually work anymore
I guess it might be obvious that what we want from our employees can change on a regular basis. These changes come about when:
- the needs of the business change
- the customer requirements change or
- the way we do business changes
When this happens, our view on what good performance looks like also changes because we want and need something different from our employees. We might want them to take a different approach to dealing with clients, or to adopt new working practices, or to change the way they work in the team
The trouble comes when we don’t share these new expectations (by agreeing new performance objectives or in some other way describing what we want) because then, not surprisingly, our employees just carry on doing what they’ve always done. They fill the gap between what you now want (but haven’t explained) and what they are currently doing – by simply doing more of the same
People copy other people – although what other people do is not really working either
When employees (particularly new employees) aren’t clear on our expectations of them they tend to look around and see what other people are doing that seems to work or, in terms of behaviours, seems to be acceptable. They look for someone to model themselves – or rather their behaviours – on. All well and good if our employees are modelling our highest, most effective, most skilled performers (who seem to have worked out what we want through a process of osmosis)
Not so great if they are modelling the clever, charismatic employee whose behaviours are an absolute nightmare
People do what you do – although you don’t want them to (why would they be doing your job?)
If our employees can’t find a colleague to model they very well might choose us. Great if we want ever employee to do exactly what we do (although clearly now quite as well as we do) but do we ever want that?
Performance Management Gaps Summary
I do meet a fair number of people who are struggling because there is a gap in their manager’s performance management practices. They struggle because they really aren’t clear on what their manager expects of them. It’s not hard to see that closing our ‘performance management gaps’ can have a really positive impact on our employee’s performance and job satisfaction.