The Ultimate HR Control: Performance Management or Performance Feedback?

Over the past 15 years, there has been much hrControldebate over the value of the traditional performance appraisal system, annual reviews and those templates with check boxes that tell employees how you think they are doing. Those templates might be the easy way of providing feedback to employees, but does it really provide them with the tools to improve or the praise they deserve?

If we consider why we have a performance management system in place, then perhaps we can think about what value it is really bringing us. For some organizations, the performance review is a habit that coincides with salary increases and bonuses. Some organizations are as bold as to withhold salary increases until the performance review report card is submitted to HR. What does the organization really gain from that? Are they increasing service levels, sales, or production? Probably not.

While there is no question that we have expectations of our employees, they too have expectations of us. Many employees become disengaged or leave workplaces because of the poor relationships they have with their managers or supervisors. So how do we set up a performance management system where we can provide feedback to employees, build our relationships with them and improve our business? We need to talk more. A once a year check in where the employee enters the room very nervous waiting to hear how they are doing, isn’t the way we improve performance.

The idea of performance feedback is a concept that encourages continuous discussion. While most of us experience some type of ‘on the fly’ feedback from a manager which consists of a quick “good job” or “well done”, performance feedback still should be somewhat planned by the supervisor with some intent behind it. This doesn’t mean it is a sit down formal review of an employee’s performance, but it is a conversation with a purpose.

A Performance Log is a fantastic tool used to simply record positive and corrective discussions which have taken place with an employee. It’s not a ‘little black book’ per se, as there should be nothing written on a performance log that was not already discussed with the employee. Using a performance log allows the manager or supervisor to analyze trends in performance. They are also useful for helping remember and acknowledge specific behaviours during a formal performance discussion or review.

A formal performance discussion can be something that is regularly scheduled, preferably more than once a year, and/or a tool used when having to address a specific scenario. During a performance discussion, it is important to look at the overall individual, including their strengths and how they feel they can perform the best. It is also important to remember that when having a performance discussion, as a leader you must provide feedback but also a plan for the employee to develop or improve.

Consider the performance management process you currently have and whether or not it is bringing the value to your employees and organization that it could be. Managing people is hard, and many of us avoid conflict. But by waiting and having one big discussion a year, you could be making the conversation much harder than it needs to be. Providing continuous performance feedback, on a regular basis, opens up communication, strengthens relationships and will lead to positive performance results.