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Strategy execution practices – Enable performance v/s Review performance

Strategy execution best practices : Enabling performance Vs reviewing performance

Today we talk about a very important issue, one that can make or derail a business story – How to manage the performance of employees while keeping them happy.

Research shows that production is not going up despite the influx of new technology and businesses everywhere are failing, due, not to bad ideas, but bad execution fuelled by a worse performance management policy.

Times are changing and organizations everywhere are playing catch up- and performance management systems are the ones most under stress. While it was great to have a different set of parameters for judging the performance of your key assets – the employees, things have changed and there’s a clear overarching message looming over us. It’s time to eschew traditional performance management principles like performance reviews based on numbers and bell curves and lean into processes that enable employee performance. We do acknowledge what you have been doing is good, but here is a path to greatness-

Let’s just pause to think about the conduct of the “traditional” performance reviews – A month long exercise where the HR would partner with various business functions to conduct “performance interviews” to assess the contribution of team members, followed by usually “fitting” the performance scores of everyone on to a distribution function (read bell curve).

But what exactly did this style of performance review achieve? A postmortem of one’s contribution to goal achievement focusing rather too much on negatives – who did not “perform”, rather than how can a person who did not perform to the mark, be helped? Instead of a system that enabled the team to reach shared goals, it eroded team confidence and led to overwhelmed staff and exhausted managers after a long, tedious process which no one enjoyed and even worse, was a detractor to business performance.  Furthermore, tools like fitting employee performance in bell curves by managers left many achievers de-motivated, largely because forced fitting found them ‘average’, whereas certain ‘average’ performers found themselves identified as ‘achievers’.

Today, we are living in an age of ‘disruptive’, read ‘new’ businesses. It is not just technology that differentiates old businesses from the new. What really sets the two apart is the way they manage people and projects, and leverage innovation. Being ‘disruptive’ means running your company in a new way, one which enables employees. This is the fundamental reason that performance management is under so much stress and strain.

So, how do you manage your business which is or should be a network of teams and happy employees, integrating quickly, responsive to customer’s needs, aligned to business goals and shared values?

This is what we are going to be talking about next.

We all know that businesses today are populated by a new breed of people. They are different from the average employee in the past. A few organizations call them the ‘millennials’.

The new employee doesn’t   attach herself to employers, for one. She prefers   moving- within companies and between them. And as you know, mobility and change affects business productivity.

So what mindsets should your managers cultivate to enable performance in this new demographic? Here are the top three –

 Frequent check-ins

Most companies are replacing forced rankings or curve fitting with more enabling performance management tools which ensure that the feedback process is more continuous, rather than at defined intervals. These “frequent check ins” help to  provide employees with information when they need it instead of months later when the performance review takes place and it’s already too late. This forces managers to have regular discussions with staff along with more formalized reviews which help them proactively work towards improving results, rather than just for  rating employee performance.

  1. Blow it up and start anew

Cascading, top-down directed organizations are slowly disappearing and the newer ones like Google work using new philosophies which are empowering.  Susan Peters of GE encapsulates it perfectly when she says- we are pushing decision making ‘to empower people to make decisions locally’.

So, the takeaway is that performance management processes should be bottoms up and not top- down like in traditional companies where goal setting and execution were managed in different areas which allowed a lot of time to pass before changes could be made to stay on course. Today we want real-time team –centered ‘smart’ goals that are aligned and available for everyone to see.

  1. Formal learning is important but non-formal learning is key

 More than 80% of all companies rate their business “highly complex” or “complex” for their employees but fact is that fewer than 16% of companies have a programme to “simplify work” or help employees deal with stress. There is no doubt that employees need coaching in the moment, not retrospectively using specific content that will help them do their job.  Hence, your managers should be able to create a continuous learning environment that is self directed and allows employees upgrade skills on the job rather than wait for a specific training programme to launch.

We know that what engages employees is a feeling of progress and autonomy to do their job. So, rather than just rating them, let’s have more discussions, aligned, transparent and agile goals, check-ins and feedback to ensure we get to your business  goals by enabling performance of the entire team.

MCeE - Metis Center for Execution Excellence
MCeE is an initiative that stems from our vision “To create an ecosystem of agile, high performing and sustainable organizations”. Our mission is to be a catalyst for transformational innovations that would aid businesses optimise strategy implementation. MCeE offers researchers opportunity to work on key operational drivers, their correlation and impact on strategy implementation. We have a special focus on addressing unique strategy implementation challenges facing emerging markets like India.
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