4-step Performance Management Cycle For Team Success In 2021
Performance management isn’t dead. The old way of thinking about it is. — Anita Bowness
Performance Management and Performance Management Cycle are two terms that are generally associated with ambitious organizations; the ones that seek constant improvement in their team’s performance.
I’d like to share an anecdote about the same that I managed to experience while working here at ProofHub. The conversation took place between Aaron, one of the team leads at ProofHub, and me.
“Hey Sandy, I can see the team performing really well, but they have hit a roadblock. I have not been able to witness any performance improvement in the past month or so.,” he exclaimed.
Before I could anything, he further continued –
“This is not to say that they are doing badly. They are doing just fine. But they are not improving — we need to come up with something soon if we want to build a great team.”
I could sense the urgency that Aron had in his statements. It was quite pleasant for me as a leader to see that even though things were pretty fine, we were getting good results, the focus was on performance improvement. Almost all the members of the content team have been meeting their expectations, yet Aron was not satisfied. He wanted them to exceed expectations. This reflected the hunger to grow and evolve, which makes a great team.
“What do you have in mind?” — I asked.
“We need to come up with a plan. Perhaps create some sort of performance management cycle that we can easily implement across the teams to make sure that they focus on continuous improvement. I don’t want them to stagnate, and perform their activities like the run of the mill., ”
Aaron exclaimed these words.
“Makes sense.” I nodded in agreement.
“Let’s start working on it tomorrow, then.” and we both disconnected the call.
The next morning in the office, it was time for both of us to sit together, assess the entire situation, and develop a concrete plan as to how we want our team to improve. After brainstorming for a couple of days, countless discussions, endless cups of coffee, and a few disagreements, we finally came up with a 4-step performance management cycle that we thought was the need of the hour.
I have decided to write in this post, the 4-step cycle that we created, and how it helped the teams from different departments here at ProofHub to boost their performance.
However, before I move to that I’d like to build a little background about performance management and why it matters so much for the growth of a team, and business.
What Is Performance Management System?
The term is quite self-explanatory in itself. Performance management is the process that organizations use to ensure that the activities carried out by teams and team members meet the goals that an organization has set.
Since the goals keep evolving, performance management becomes a continuous process.
The keyword to note here is ‘continuous’. Performance management is not a once-a-year event (if you are serious about continuous improvement in your team’s performance). Not many organizations take performance management seriously and follow the age-old practice of leaving performance assessment for annual review/appraisals. This is perhaps the biggest mistake they make.
Why Is Continuous Performance Management Important?
Wondering why is performance management important for a business?
Well, a business that seeks continuous growth must keep looking for ways to improve its processes. The easiest way to achieve this is by monitoring the progress and performance of your team. That’s exactly what performance management is.
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Besides this, here are some other reasons that will explain why continuous performance management is important –
- It Brings Change
As mentioned in the definition, performance management is the process of keeping teams aligned towards the business/organizational goals. Since business goals keep changing from time to time according to market volatility, the performance metrics also need to evolve accordingly. This can happen only when you have a system in place to continuously monitor and manage employee performance, and bring the desired changes accordingly.
2. It Ensures Progress
Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing towards what will be. — Khalil Gibran
When you are constantly monitoring processes and performance, and looking for ways to improve you are bound to progress in whatever you are doing. This is exactly what continuous progress management helps teams achieve.
3. It Keeps Employees Motivated
When employees witness that the leaders of the business are investing their time and effort to focus on their improvement, they are certainly going to feel a lot more motivated than before. Hence, the biggest benefit of continuous performance management is the motivation it sparks in the team to deliver their best, and improve with every passing day.
Now that we have a clear picture of what this process can bring on the table for the team, let us shift our focus to where we started — the performance management cycle we created for our team.
The 4-step Performance Management Cycle
Here’s a look at the four steps in the employee performance management cycle that we created:
We like to refer to this as the identification stage. Why identification, because this phase will be used to identify what needs to be done, what standards will be followed, and how will the plan be put into practice.
Both the parties i.e. the employee and the management are involved in the planning stage in performance management.
As part of the planning process, the management comes up with long-term business goals. In accordance with those goals, they set the employee performance expectations. These expectations are discussed with the employee and then a plan of action is decided to meet these expectations. This generally involves answering the following questions –
- What i.e. what needs to be done?
- Why i.e. why it needs to be done?
- How i.e. how it should be done?
What we did in the planning phase was to create goals using the SMART methodology. Here’s what we did –
- Created SPECIFIC goals and performance standards, which focused not just on individual growth but were also aligned with the organizational success
- Defined MEASURABLE indicators that will be used to assess the performance
- Ensured that the goals and performance standards were ACHIEVABLE, in which both the management and the employees contributed
- Kept the goals RELEVANT to the job responsibilities of individual employees
- Set a TIME-FRAME to measure the efforts, and also the success of the overall plan
The obvious second step in the cycle, once the plan has been created and implemented, is to monitor the implementation. As part of the monitoring process, managers as well as the employee in the picture sit together at regular intervals to assess how things are progressing.
The results of the changes made in working strategies as part of the planning process are evaluated. The analysis is done on how they are putting an impact on the employee’s performance. Whether they are aligned to not just the progress of the employee, but also with the organizational structure, and the overall plan.
The key to the success of the monitoring step is the frequency of meetings. It is not something that you carry out once in 6 months. Rather weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meetings ensure that the employee is making progress in the right direction.
Here’s a little outline of what we discussed in the meetings conducted with the employees as part of the monitoring process:
- How successful has the employee been to execute the plan?
- Are there any challenges being faced?
- Is the employee on the right track to accomplish the goals?
- Do we need to reset the goals or revise them?
- Does the employee require any additional support?
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The third stage of this process is the review. The review is generally the assessment of everything that has been accomplished so far since the start of the performance management cycle.
Sometimes, the review process is also termed as the evaluation process since a thorough analysis is carried out on every aspect of the employee performance. Here are some important aspects of the review process depends:
- Progress made
- Completion of goals
- Performance challenges/issues
- Future opportunities
The last stage of the cycle is where we work on the improvement that needs to be made for the future. The review gives a clear picture of what’s been accomplished and what’s been missed. Once all that was discussed as part of the plan has been accomplished, it is time to move towards the next step.
That’s how continuous improvement takes place.
Sounds pretty easy, and straightforward — right? You might be wondering — if performance management and improvement were this easy, why are organizations unable to benefit from it? That’s what we are going to discuss below.
Why Do Most Organizations Fail With Performance Management?
They don’t take it seriously
One of the biggest reasons behind organizations failing at employee performance management is because they don’t take it seriously. To them, annual performance review and appraisal are enough to keep the employees motivated. However, that’s not how great teams and businesses are built. Such organizations do the bare minimum to keep employees motivated and strive for greatness. Thankfully the trends are changing, and
They lack transparency
Transparency builds trust, and trust builds teams. However, this is the least thing that many businesses are worried about. Since they don’t prefer to bring transparency in the team, performance management becomes impossible. Employees don’t have any idea how they are performing until the time of their annual appraisal comes. Even during that time, the only thing that matters for such organizations is to find fault in the performance instead of finding ways to improve. Businesses that employ transparency in their processes fail at employee performance management badly.
Performance improvement is the last thing on their mind
One of the reasons why organizations fail to implement performance management is because it’s the last thing on their mind. They are happy with the way things are going, and do not seek employee progress. Although they want their business profits to increase, in order to achieve that their focus on cost cutting rather than investing in employee performance. This is the reason they end up losing their employees, and have high employee turnover.
For organizations that focus on going to the next level, it is important to invest the right amount of efforts on helping their employees improve. This is exactly the reason that performance management becomes so important. Thanks to the evolution in technology, it has now become a lot easier to carry out the 4 steps in the performance management cycle discussed above. Here’s how:
How Performance Management Software Can Help?
- Brings transparency
One of the best things about using technology is that it makes things crystal clear. Take performance management software for instance. Not only does it help keep everything related to employee performance at one place, but it also ensures that the management and the employee always have access to their performance metrics, and all the other relevant stuff. In fact, using performance management software brings transparency that nothing else can.
2. Spreads accountability
Accountability leads to responsibility. Using performance management tools, you can spread a sense of accountability in the team. As the tool keeps everything in the open, and employees know that their performance is going to be monitored thoroughly, it creates a sense of accountability in them. Once they start being accountable, you can witness an improvement in their performance with every passing day — trust me on this!
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3. Automates review process
Another great thing about using software to manage employee performance is that it helps in streamlining the entire process. By automating activities like workflows, project tracking, and time-scheduling, these software eliminate all the laborious work that managers and leaders had to do earlier. Not just this, it also saves all the time that would have been otherwise spent on compiling employee performance data manually and then creating excel spreadsheets for refining it and assessing further.
4. Simplifies everything
In all, using performance management software and technology simplifies everything. It becomes easier to monitor performance, assess how the bottlenecks are leading to a decline in employee productivity, and formulate steps to make things at work significantly better for them.
Looking at all these factors, it is quite wise to say that using a performance management system is a smart idea. Luckily for us, we had all the features in ProofHub that could help us carry out performance management and employ the 4-step cycle that we created for all our team members. Let’s take a look at how we used ProofHub as a performance management software.
ProofHub As A Performance Management Software
As a performance management software, ProofHub helped us immensely in implementing what we planned. Here’s how we were able to do this:
- Goal setting
Goal setting is one of the most important aspects of performance management. With ProofHub it was easy for use to create specific goals for team members, and add tasks pertaining to those goals. We also created their specific custom roles so that everyone had a clear understanding of how they fit in the project, the work process, and the overall business objectives in the longer run. Once the goals were set and clearly assigned to everyone, they could focus on getting things done rather than jumping to and fro to figure out what was expected of them.
- Creating Deadlines
As elaborated quite extensively that everything is measured in a specific time frame in the performance management cycle, so setting deadlines becomes of utmost importance. Since in ProofHub, you can add a deadline to every task that you assign, it was quite easy for us to carry out our 4-step cycle. Moreover, there’s a timeline view that gives you a virtual picture of your progress. Based on how every individual was performing, the management could easily view their progress made, bottlenecks, challenges, and any significant dips in employee productivity.
- Centralized access to all the information
One of the best things about using ProofHub was that it gave everyone a centralized space to store all the information they needed, the performance metrics that were defined, and to view their progress. Instead of relying on countless emails, and face-to-face meetings, this was a lot easier to manage. It saved time, as well as the extra effort that both the employee and the management would have spent otherwise.
- Yet everyone had their own, personal space
One of the best things about using ProofHub as a performance management system was that although everything was centralized and accessible to everyone, yet everyone had their own personal space. Since in ProofHub we can create Custom roles and manage access levels accordingly, we could easily keep things personalized to an individual while sharing all the generic information with everyone. At the same time, everyone has their own personal Me-view, where they get to see everything assigned to them (Events, Activities, Tasks, Calendar, Milestones and so on).
- Progress Tracking
The third stage of the cycle i.e. the review stage is where all the action happens. With Custom reports in ProofHub we did not have to struggle any bit to carry out performance reviews. It was quite simple to track the progress made by every individual. The great thing was that ProofHub gave us the option to define the metrics that we wanted to include in the reports (there’s a reason why we call them Custom reports and this is the reason).
- Celebrate achievements
Last, but certainly not the least thing in which ProofHub helped the entire team here at ProofHub has to be in celebrating the accomplishments that we were able to make. Since we were able to witness a multi fold increase in productivity of almost all of our team members, it was time to share the results with everyone. Again, ProofHub announcements were our go-to partner. We could simply create a team-wide announcement and let everyone know our accomplishments. It was a great way to not only bring everyone together but at the same time celebrate the feeling of being a team. In the end that’s what it is all about it — isn’t it so?
We have survived the lockdown without any layoffs. In fact, I am quite proud to say that during the lockdown period we all were at our productive best. All this has been possible because we realized it in time that performance management is the key to succeed and grow. With the able contribution of our team members and the initiative and forward-thinking vision of leaders like Aaron, we were able to develop a 4-step cycle to boost everyone’s performance, we were able to develop something that’s a lot more than this — the feeling of sticking together as a team.
If you are looking to get the best from your team, instead of expecting something magical to happen create the magic yourself. How can you do it — well I’m sure that I’ve explained that quite thoroughly in the article above. You can learn from it, and create a performance management system for your team — as every team has unique needs and unique individuals and there’s no one-fits-all approach in this.
So, go ahead, do it and don’t forget to share your experience with us.
All the best!
What is the meaning of performance management?
Performance management is the continuous process to ensure that the activities carried out by the employees are aligned with the organizational goals.
When should performance management take place?
Ideally, Performance management should be carried out throughout an employee’s life cycle while working with any organization, with performance management meetings being held at regular intervals.
What is performance management and its 4 steps?
Performance management is an ongoing process for as long as the employee works with an organization. The 4 steps of a performance management cycle are:
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ImprovementP4-step Performance Management Cycle For Team Success In 2021 was originally published in ProofHub Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
ImprovementP4-step Performance Management Cycle For Team Success In 2021