The performance management system is not the problem
I read an article on LinkedIn the other day, which has prompted the writing of this article.
The essence of the article was that according to research, managers and employees do not like, value, or think appraisal systems work, and are a waste of time.
The research statistics sited are correct, however, the reason is not that these systems do not work, it is that in many companies, the people using the systems are not trained well enough, through no fault of their own usually, to be able to know how to develop their people meaningfully, and the system although written in policy, is not prioritised and role modelled by the leadership team down.
People state all kinds of reasons for their belief that the appraisal is a waste of time including:
I don't have time - there is no more time, we prioritise things that are important to us, or have serious consequences within the time we have available. Who doesn't have time to brush their teeth? Why do we brush our teeth? Because we (most of us) have been taught from an early age that it is important. There are serious consequences to not doing it, such as pain, gum disease, dental bills, bad breath, social embarrassment and what others will think of us etc.
We have developed a habit of brushing our teeth from consistent repetition, each and every day, a process in which the responsibility was transferred to us over a long period of time by our parents. We don't have anymore time, we just prioritise it everyday (twice or more). If it wasn't important, we would do something else in the morning and evening.
It doesn't work - This is usually because the people do not really know what they are trying to achieve. Many companies don't invest in, and then prioritise and practice consistently, the skills required to develop people properly.
Skills such as emotional intelligence, empathy, active listening where people seek to understand first before then seeking to be understood, the effective and collaborative process of 'creating' meaningful objectives together, the importance of effective leadership where the leader knows they are there to invest in their people as an important part of their job.
Even if they are done, the tick box attitude follows a process, ticks boxes, and often results in the appraisee getting another 'to do' list, and feeling devalued, rather than feeling developed or important.
It is also seen by many as something they do once a year, but to develop someone well, it is essential that people are keeping in touch through routine development sessions, but in addition, through everyday interactions.
The bits in between the structured sessions (phone calls, desk chats, corridor interactions, good mornings, as well as the plethora of other opportunities to engage with people are even more important than the scheduled sessions.
Because of this and other reasons, it is seen as a waste of time, but it is nothing to do with the system or policy.
I know many policies (as I help companies to write them) state things like: 'performance conversations form a critical part of developing and supporting staff, and ultimately to the success of the business'.
I have yet to find a policy that says anything like 'treat this as a tick box exercise', or 'use this as another opportunity to tell your staff what to do'.
If you think about it, how can prioritising an individual, really getting to know them and what they want to achieve personally and professionally, helping them to create a plan of how they could achieve those things, supporting them to achieve them, and holding them and yourself to account to do the things that you both agreed they wanted to do, ever be a waste of time, or not work?
It doesn't make any sense.
That's because it's not true.
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