Stone buildings without mortar won’t stand long. A great exercise program is hamstrung without the right diet. Golfers who don’t practice their short game will never bring down their handicap.
Cutting corners in its various forms may get some things done faster, easier, or less expensively, but will more than likely end up costing you in those ways in the long run. The same holds true in the business world. Your success depends on your people, the lifeblood of any company. A continuous performance management process is critical to staying connected with them and ensuring their growth is on track, rather than becoming stagnant.
This management process must be holistic, though. By piecemealing, you create gaps that weaken a system specifically designed to be interlinking. If, for example, you have OKRs but no ongoing check-ins, how are you gauging progress? Conversely, if you have check-ins but no OKRs, what are you even evaluating in the first place?
Let’s take a look at what makes a truly end-to-end performance management system so important for the success of your people and ultimately, your business.
The same employee evaluation trends have been surfacing for a while now. Deloitte research from 2015 revealed that 82% of businesses felt conventional methods weren’t worthwhile. McKinsey corroborated these findings through a 2017 survey in which a considerable number of responses pointed to such approaches as having no positive effect on performance. In other words, there’s no shortage of studies showing that old-school processes make little to no impact on everything from employee motivation to company ROI.
This has sparked a shift toward more of a servant-leadership, a Jerry Maguire help me help you model, if you will. Through tools like check-ins, 1-on-1s, and self-reviews, employers are creating the type of ongoing two-way dialog and development opportunities that employees not only need, but want.
As this approach has become more widespread, it’s hard to argue with the results adopters are seeing. Deloitte has profiled a number of companies experiencing improvements across the board after redesigning their performance management system and process:
• GE removed ratings in favor of ongoing touch points and opportunities for immediate feedback. These steps, among others focusing on development rather than appraisal, have dramatically increased employee engagement and time to market.
• Patagonia re-engineered its communication process between managers and employees. Within two years, higher comfort levels with candid conversations and positive-over-punitive feedback improved individual and financial performance.
• Google, Intel, and other Silicon Valley blue chips have all pointed to proven tools like OKRs as being important factors in their success. Other metrics such as workplace satisfaction also improved, as seen by a 10% increase in Adobe employees recommending their company as a great place to work.
Companies-as-ecosystems is a common analogy in the business world, and for good reason. Ecosystems are completely interconnected, often in ways that may not be obvious. Remove any one part—however seemingly insignificant—and it disrupts the entire balance, sometimes catastrophically.
In business, like in nature, such consequences are potentially far-reaching. Internal gaps in performance evaluation and career development can impact employees in unfortunate ways. This could eventually influence their dealings with your external business partners and customers. This, in turn, could then affect your bottom line.
So, a continuous performance management approach itself is not enough. It needs to be complete and cohesive in order to generate the kind of results you want from your investment. Otherwise, the differences between your workforce and that of competitors employing an all-inclusive process can be stark:
Piecemeal Management Process:
• Haphazard adoption could create confusion
• Incongruent solutions may be counterproductive
• Different goals or incentives can lead to mixed motivations
Holistic Management Process:
• Structured dialog uncovers performance roadblocks quickly
• Consistent goal-setting and tracking facilitates growth
• Systematic application generates measurable ROI
Data from the past decade consistently backs this up. But don’t take our word for it, here are two different studies analyzing various forms of this approach:
Publisher: Harvard, 2008
Key Takeaway: “Motivating employees begins with recognizing that to do their best work, people must be in an environment that meets their basic emotional drives to acquire [rewarding performance], bond [collaborative culture], comprehend [meaningful work], and defend [transparent processes].”
Supporting Data: “A company that falls in the 50th percentile on employee motivation improves only to the 56th by boosting performance on one drive, but way up to the 88th percentile by doing better on all four drives.
Publisher: McKinsey, 2017
Key Takeaway: “[Performance management] practices are mutually reinforcing: implementing one practice well can have a positive effect on the performance of others and leads to more effective performance management overall.”
Supporting Data: “Among respondents who say their organizations perform well on all three practices, 84% report a positive impact on performance management. They are 12 times likelier to report effective performance-management systems than respondents who say their companies have not implemented any of the three.”
Both the Harvard and McKinsey studies clearly identify that separate performance management practices, when done together, have a positive compounding effect. Data shows that cherry picking one or two separate practices will compromise results and hinder your company from reaping all the possible benefits.
We can summarize this entire philosophy with a single line we’ve all heard before: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is true in almost every conceivable instance from sports to science to business, hence the cliché.
That’s why we offer a continuous performance management system comprising a series of interconnected parts, not an à la carte menu of options that lose effectiveness when siloed. Each core feature directly impacts the others on the way to achieving a unified goal:
• Our product suite’s Profile page serves as home base for outlining each employee’s job description and key strengths. Crystallizing these up front clarifies roles and expectations, which are critical to successful performance management.
• This software is a resource for setting reminders and housing information related to Weekly Check-Ins and 1-on-1s. Regular touch points ensure continued alignment on goals, progress in growth and development, and healthy relationships between managers and employees.
• These meetings also provide a forum to discuss calendarized Objectives. Closely monitoring measurable key results—what each person, department, or the company at large is trying to achieve—keeps the endgame in sight and sets the stage for quarterly or annual reviews.
• Meeting and exceeding these objectives shouldn’t just be acknowledged behind closed doors. It should be celebrated with the team in real time, which is exactly what High Fives are designed to do.
• Once it’s time to sit down for more formal development meetings, our Best-Self Review allows managers and employees to have productive, meaningful conversations that are directly informed by the other tools used throughout the year.
Maximizing efficiency can be a wonderful thing for your business, but not at the expense of your workforce. An investment in a holistic performance management system is an investment in your company’s future. By implementing an end-to-end plan, you show your team members that you care about them not just as employees, but as people.
And they’ll thank you for it in more ways than one.
David Mizne is Communications Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360 reviews. David’s articles have also appeared on The Next Web & The Economist. Follow him @davidmizne.