HR Leads Business

Feb 1, 2021 | Clare Chiappetta, MA, HRCI Contributing Writer

Designing a Performance Management System for Today’s Challenges

Distributed workforces and economic uncertainty can make it challenging for your employees to feel connected and engaged to their work. Successful performance management in this kind of environment requires agile processes and tools to keep pace.

Three-quarters of business leaders surveyed for a Harvard Business Review report strongly agreed that higher engagement leads to better performance and that ongoing coaching development will produce better outcomes. Formalizing functional touchpoints between managers and their direct reports into a regular process allows you to set consistent performance standards, develop your workforce and collect performance data.

Here’s how to standardize your performance management processes to meet today’s challenges at your organization.

Address Your Organization’s Specific Needs

Designing a system for managing performance at your organization requires evaluating your specific needs and resources, which may have changed because of the pandemic. You might have shifted from on-site or paper documentation to a cloud-based system, for example. “On a high level, you want to make sure that whichever performance management system you choose, it’s going to work best for you,” says HR manager Phillip Davis, PHR.

Do managers have the bandwidth to offer regular feedback to each of their direct reports, for instance? Will you standardize performance evaluation questions or allow managers to customize them? Do you have the resources to support regular documentation and data collection? Answering questions like these will help you refine a process that is functional across the organization. Be sure to revisit these questions frequently to maintain agility in your performance management processes.

Set a Regular Feedback Cadence

Creating a performance management system requires consistent check-ins. Compared with companies that don’t follow a continuous feedback model, those that do have seen numerous benefits, including increased productivity (66% of organizations vs. 35%), better performance (58% vs. 37%) and higher engagement (58% vs. 37%), according to research from Betterworks. To increase compliance, set a cadence that acknowledges today’s challenges and is realistic for everyone. Consider informal touchpoints on a weekly or monthly basis, and formal documented check-ins at least twice a year, suggests Michelle Griffin, PHR, CEO and fractional HR executive at Griffin Resources LLC. 

Organizations that have the bandwidth and are really serious about performance management can enable documentation and data collection in weekly meetings, too. The more documentation you have, the better your performance data will be in the aggregate. “If you have all the data, then leadership has an insight into what kind of communication is happening within the company, Griffin says.

Integrate Performance Management Software

If you have the resources, performance management software can help managers to document goals and record feedback, as well as help HR to collect and analyze data. Look for extensions of or integration with your primary software so that you don’t have to update employee information manually, Griffin suggests. Depending on the size of your organization, you may be able to manage performance data in a spreadsheet, but software solutions are more intuitive and save HR’s bandwidth.

Whether your employees are on-site or remote, choose performance management tools that are user-friendly, Davis says. “Make sure it’s a tool that empowers employees and managers to use it right to its full potential,” he says. “If they're only using 60% of its usability, then the company's losing money because the remaining 40% isn’t being utilized.” User-friendly performance management systems increase manager compliance and support healthy communication between managers and their teams, no matter where they’re based.

Take a course on performance management.