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Performance Management


A cornerstone of continuous improvement philosophy is “we improve and maintain what we measure.” Minimally, measuring the performance in an organization informs leadership of the outcomes of efforts. Much more than that, however, a thoughtful performance management system – developed specifically with and for the organization – will result in a better developed strategic approach to business through a meaningful culture shift of increased understanding and engagement at every level of the organization’s enterprise.

Worthwhile performance management systems result in three critical outcomes for every organization:

  1. Meaningful, intentional dialogue between employees and leadership.
  2. Increased and maintained employee engagement.
  3. Ability to measure and improve and maintain performance and accountability.

Effective performance management systems include the development and maintenance of HR assets such as job descriptions and performance standards, the executable plan of regular and consistent review meetings with each employee / contributor, and the training and communications required for clarity and excellence in achieving results. Often, organizations desiring continuous improvements employ a learning organization theme by including resources for training and development of staff managed with the use of individual development plans.

Performance Management:

Establishing the venue for a consistent, open, clear and meaningful dialogue for every employee is at the heart of performance management systems and processes developed by Emergent.

  • It all starts with HR asset development and a date:

First the date:

Our approach involves reverse engineering the entire development process from the “go live” date. Establishing a reasonable launch date will be one of the first steps towards ensuring a meaningful and productive process.

For an organization of 20 +/- employees, a six-month lead time is adequate; a 50-employee organization requires 12 months.

  • Next, HR asset development:

Performance standards are at the center of performance management systems.

To arrive at accurate, role-specific performance standards, we must have accurate and up-to-date job descriptions for every role. Unique to Emergent’s HR approach, job descriptions are developed with the use of a tool called a Job Questionnaire. The JQ asks the manager of each role essential and important questions that feed the development of the job description and, ultimately, the performance standards.

Performance standards should consider performance, accountability and employee engagement in three fractals: Individual in each role, team or departmental goals/metrics, and organizational outcomes and effectiveness. Each fractal is best served with measurements in some type of metrics or units in concert with descriptions, verbiage, explanations, etc. Again, the goal is a meaningful dialogue, a shared understanding in conversation around expectations, direction, performance and accountability.

Establishing the performance management assets is an obvious step; however, ongoing maintenance is where these types of systems often fail. Disciplined commitment to an annual review of the job descriptions (JDs) for each role in the organization will indicate if the process of reviewing the JQ and performance standards is necessary. In addition, any time a new role is developed or an existing role is changed, the process from JQ, through JD to performance standard should be executed.

  • IDPs

Individualized Development Plans (IDP) dovetail well with performance management systems and are part of Emergent’s best practice recommendations.

An IDP is a document that focuses on the required development and training of a given individual. The IDP is more personalized than a JD, and provides the opportunity to track required trainings (required in a learning curve as well as reactive to fill knowledge and skill gaps or deficiencies), elected training and education opportunities, and longer-term education trajectories considering progressive growth, readiness of the organization and potential promotions and succession planning.

Pay for Performance Considerations:

An important concept is to consider whether compensation will be associated with the performance management system.

It is very common for compensation adjustments to tie directly to performance management systems, but it’s not true for every organization. A series of facilitated conversations around cost of living and merit increases as well as bonus programs (and any other compensation mechanisms in use and/or desired) will occur between Emergent and your organization to arrive at decisions strategically aligned and culturally relevant for you.

  • So … then what do we do?

After we develop the HR assets, we eventually wish to employ them in the organization. Emergent recommends a facilitated process where managers who will be leading performance dialogues receive coaching and training before actual employee meetings take place.

Employees are brought into the process with communications and staff-style meetings toward the introduction and launching of the performance management process/culture. These communications are strategically placed along the development process and unfold with more of the “story” as we arrive closer to the launch date. The intention is to provide information, a real sense of inclusion and to “ramp up” to the actual employment of the process in the organization.

It is best practice to provide quarterly reviews utilizing the performance standards as the primary tool. Emergent suggests this process should be shared since employees are scoring themselves in a very similar, if not identical, way that managers are scoring the employee. In the most progressive models, employees lead the process and take accountability for their performance review by initiating the scoring process and meeting the manager in dialogue as a partner. The employee would also be provided tools which encourage their growth/learning and goal tracking/setting, and to identify any changes in the role toward the maintenance of the JDs and performance standards. When the tools and program are designed this way, the employee feels more empowered and less “victim-like.”

A typical schedule for a program would be as follows (assuming a Jan-Jan cycle):

QTR1: Performance review & goal review. IDP review (if selected)
QTR 2: Performance review & goal review with salary adjustment opportunity
QTR 3: Performance review & goal review. IDP review (if selected)
QTR 4: Performance review & goal review and setting new goals for the next year

Essential decisions:

  1. Is performance management right for your organization now?
  2. Are the best practices provided by Emergent right for your organization?
  3. Assuming 1 and 2 are answered with a resounding “Yes,” what do we think about Pay for Performance concepts?
  4. When do we start? (Best timing for organization’s desired outcomes)

The preliminary understanding of the basic building blocks of Emergent’s best recommendations for performance management in your organization is intended as a first step in a process. Emergent looks forward to customizing the best processes and systems for your organization by continuing this dialogue with you, so feel free to reach out and give us a call or email to discover more about developing or improving the performance management system in your organization!

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