Dear Workforce How Do We Manage Performance Year-Round, Not Just at Appraisal Time?

By Staff Report

Jun. 17, 2005

Dear Proactive:

Your question is one of the most important that human resources professionals could ask. The implications for your organization’s return on investment are enormous. Managing performance is a continuous process of coaching and counseling–of giving individual feedback on performance in a constructive, goal-focused manner. In the case of poor performers, it may require the added step of documenting your conversations. Regardless, you’ll have to serve as a coach all year, not simply when doing annual appraisals.

Managing employee performance can’t be an afterthought if it’s going to work. You have to start long before you hire someone. Central to this is examining the critical goals for the job–those things for which the person would be held accountable. This analysis is far more comprehensive than a job description. Rather, these areas of accountability define why you’re creating the position in the first place. This knowledge enables you to identify the most important competencies for achieving those goals, including behaviors, motivators, skills/attributes and values.

You have to communicate effectively and in great detail to bring about changes in individuals. That’s the heart of coaching. These conversations can be at the water cooler or in a closed-door scheduled meeting. No matter where it occurs, make sure your discussion is well structured and outlines a clear purpose.

The Coaching Conversation Model, developed by Dallas-based CoachWorks International, outlines five specific steps for a meaningful discussion with employees. They are summarized as follows:

1. Establish focus. Understand the employee’s agenda and be sure that project goals are understood. Clarify any gaps between the goals and the person’s skill level.

2. Discover possibilities. Quiet your mind and listen nonjudgmentally to employees. Repeat what they say to confirm/clarify meaning. Help individuals draw out the consequences of their suggestions, and share personal experiences that relate to ideas that surface.

3. Guide development of an action plan. Regardless of the situation, always focus on the outcomes desired rather than the problem experienced. Divide large projects into bite-sized chunks and set target dates for completion.

4. Explore resources, uncover barriers. Ask questions to figure out the resources you’ll need. This also uncovers possible business and personal barriers. Determine what’s needed to clear these hurdles. Make note of where a manager can assist by ensuring cooperation with others, providing resources, changing work priorities as needed or delegating authority.

5. Have the employees recap. Ask employees to review what has been learned. Gain a commitment from them on the actions that should be taken before future meetings. Re-emphasize your support and how you will help. Establish accountability and time for follow-up.

In summary, identifying job goals, zeroing in on competencies and coaching employees provide a best-practices approach to managing your workforce.

SOURCE: Carl Nielson, principal, The Nielson Group, Dallas, July 27, 2004.

LEARN MORE: How to Wow Employees with Appraisals.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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