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Potential to Perform

October 2, 2011 Comments off

When it came to performance management, one of  the HR Heads I worked with, used to have a simple formula – reward for past performance & promote or provide a challenge for the potential. Also when hiring people especially those requiring some level of decision making, a lot of hiring managers look for attitude & character while allowing for shortfall in the competence (this is becoming more & more true with people moving across industries & borders).  In a nutshell, we are talking about potential and the promise it holds.

It is interesting to note that while many of those who look potential winners go on to succeed and make it big, there are many others, who seemed to be equally promising,but lose their way.

It is quite easy to identify the real “would be Performers” – These are people who are self-sufficient and yet most-loved team players. They would not wait for anything to happen or anyone to support them.They are raring to deliver & perform irrespective of conditions & external factors, not bothered by facilities, comforts etc. They will find their own way out of problems. There could be different factors driving different individuals but a common thread in all such performers is focus on the action & not on the reward. The reward has to come if they get the action right.

Then, there are those who “can perform” – they have the ability but lack resourcefulness. they need to be triggered and encouraged regularly. They need to be shown the direction and instructed. The motivation is external and focus most often is on what-is-there-in-this-for-me ? Push across an attractive contest & these employees will get charged.

Will perform – People with right attitude and energy but may lack the necessary skills. They are willing to venture into the unknown, riding on their confidence and they just don’t want to give up, whatever may be the roadblock.  They can be trained to bring up to the mark and will most often out-do those who ” can perform”

The most interesting people are those who are “waiting to perform” – These are high visibility people. They will have an opinion or two about everything and have lots of brilliant ideas. They impress everyone they meet and would be talked about in senior level meetings. They give an impression of being rightly skilled &  having necessary attitude but it would look as if everyone & everything around, is conspiring against them and therefore they are unable to deliver. They would have seemingly genuine reasons for not meeting their commitments and they have the ability to get away with it. The reasons can range from mundane to the most complex. They have such an aura that unwittingly, the performers would end up sharing credits with them, allowing them to thrive.

Such people drag an organisation back & cause talented performers to move away. The beauty is that it is most difficult to identify this breed of employees.

From another perspective, an organisation which continues to tolerate ” waiting to perform” behavior will end up converting ” would be performers” & ” can perform” people also to non-performers. The worst hit are those organisations, that have such an employee at a senior level position.

Identifying employees in all these categories and nurturing them appropriately can make all the difference between a successful & driven organisation and a laggard. This is more so for a small/medium sized organisation as the scope for experiment and the margin for error is limited. This is where a continuous process of skills assessment and performance management( not just evaluation or appraisal) can be of help.

It might be a good exercise to think of people you work with and see which box they qualify for. It may also be a good idea to do a self-assessment & see where you stand and finally to understand as to what kind of employees does your organisation nurture & support. Do share your thoughts on your experiences with different kinds of performers.

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Training Supervisors to Conduct Performance Appraisals

April 29, 2011 Comments off

One of the critical factors in a fair performance Appraisal is the ability of the Supervisor to assess his team members. In spite of all the tools & data available at their disposal, if the supervisors lack the ability to do a balanced objective assessment, the overall purpose of the exercise is defeated.

What can be some of the ways to train/coach supervisors to conduct proper assessments ?

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Performance Appraisal Process- Getting it Right

March 13, 2010 Comments off

Is it enough if you have done your best during the year, and even made sure that everyone who matters knows how good & competent you are ?

Few days ago  I wrote about simple steps to follow so that one can get ready for the appraisal. While the focus was on helping the employee to get ready, there is no denying the fact that there are a number of gaps in whole appraisal process, the way it is done across organisations & domains.

Across a vast majority of organisation, Appraisals are once a year exercise rather than being a continuous process. Many a times subjectivity and perception-that deadly word that can make or mar a career-take precedence over facts. The so-called Balanced Goal sheets/performance cards are not always balanced and are predominantly tilted towards revenue generation and sales, sacrificing the process and the learning that needs to be encouraged to positively impact the revenue & sales in the longer term.

With this being the case, it might be helpful to talk about the key issues and aspects that are part & parcel of the Appraisal Process. Lets start by asking some questions.

Why do organisations need Performance Appraisal ?

Theoretically, Performance Appraisal is a process driven way of

  • Identifying the best talent that exists in the organisation and grooming them to perform the expected tasks, to assist them in learning new skills, nurturing them to take up higher or more responsibilities and thereby grow
  • Rewarding people for their contribution to the organisation by meeting expectations which were clearly explained to them
  • Encouraging more and more employees to do better and better
  • Sending out signal to future employees about how meritocracy is rewarded & honoured

Any other objective, will more or less fall in one of these categories. If we look at these objectives closely, they cover the entire lifespan of an employee in the organisation ,starting from his first day in any company till the last ( in fact it even impacts the after-life i.e an employee’s career in the next organisation too). This leads us to few more questions

a) Is the Appraisal Process carried out in true spirit of these objectives ?
b) How can the Appraisal process be intertwined in the daily life of an employee so as to lead to the achievement of these objectives ?
c) Is it justified to make the Appraisal once a year exercise ?

It would be wrong to give a generalised answer to the question about the spirit in which the process is carried out. In my opinion, the intention is right when the whole process starts at the top. However as it goes down the ranks, the message, the objective and the spirit, all get diluted. So we may have the CEO expounding the noble goals that are to be achieved through the Appraisal process, however the sales manager may have something else in mind while evaluating his team members.  Therefore, in spite of having a well-defined KRA  or scorecard, a sales supervisor may end up looking only at the Achievement Vs Budget while taking a view on the performance  or an operations supervisor may be unable to justify his department’s performance.

There is , however, a flip side too. I have seen organisations where the whole process is sabotaged by the top bosses, because they have to fit in the ratings/rewards into a pre-decided formula and then there are some individuals who have to be rewarded at any cost.

The problem is three-fold. One, the vision & thinking behind the process of meritocracy is not sacrosanct. The very people who define these policies & rules, don’t mind flouting them.

Two, even if it is sacrosanct, it is not communicated with same energy , Passion & importance & three, the people down the line are not trained enough to handle this.

a mail her & an announcement there is not enough to get the seriousness. The vision & the direction needs to be demonstrated and that too right at the top.

One way to bridge this gap to some extent is to make the performance review a continuous process in form of weekly, monthly or quarterly.  The whole exercise has to be participative and interactive. The involvement of employees right from the goal setting ( More about this later) ensures buy-in. Subsequent feedbacks and informal/formal reviews ensure that every employee knows where he/she stands and where they are headed in terms of year-end performance.

This eliminates 1) the Fear of final feedback and 2) surprise/shock element of the year-end appraisal ( this is more due to mismatch in what the employee feels he has done and what his supervisor perceives)

Even more importantly, this helps iron out the perception and brings the supervisor face to face with reality. So instead of seeing the final score line, they have a ringside view of the match ball-by-ball. And if this process is religiously followed at every level from bottom to top, you can be assured that the intent & seriousness will percolate down very soon.

But then, does it need to be driven by the supervisors alone for it to become a continuous process? Not at all. This is where technology can help. A system, where an employee can see the metrics pertaining to his goal sheet can do the trick. A daily visit to the system ensures that the employee has an eye on the expectations and knows exactly how far they are being met. For smaller organisations, where the cost may not justify the use of extensive technology, simple dashboards prepared on a spreadsheet can be enough.

Some of the questions you need to ask, to streamline the Appraisal process, are

1. Do my employees have the opportunity to participate in Goal setting and are they in sync with the expectations and have clear understanding of each goal?
2. Do they have the skill sets to achieve these goals & if not, does the organisation make sure to fill the gap well in time ? ( this is where training comes in )
3. Do they have tools to know how they are progressing ?
4. Are they provided regular guidance & direction whenever they seem to be losing sight of the objectives & even otherwise ?

If you say YES to these you are right on track.

Getting Ready for the Appraisal

March 1, 2010 2 comments

It is that time again. Everyone from the foot soldier to the top guy, is getting ready to receive their report card. You have done all that you could ( or even more) in last 11 months, and now you will come to know the result of those efforts in terms of the benefits and rewards that you have earned.

But before that,
– have you ensured that your Boss knows what you have done ?
– Does He/She have the full measure as to how well you have justified your role ?
– Do they have all the details of your hard work and contribution ?
– Have they clearly interpreted the results as well as efforts ?

And Most Importantly
– Do you have the full account of what you want them to know ?
– have you done enough to convince them and to form the right perception ?

If you have taken care of these questions and have the appropriate stuff to highlight your achievements, you are done. If you have not however, it may still not be too late to make that last-minute effort. Here’s how you can do it

Step 1: Write down all the Goals/Result Areas that you were supposed to deliver on

Step 2: Make a list of all your achievements/Contribution- however big or small; (ensure all the numbers that you mention are checked and reconciled)

Step 3: Map these achievements to the Goals /Achievements in step 1 and what ever is unmapped is what you have done beyond what you were expected of;

Step 4: Write a note about what new you learnt during the year and how it has helped you in delivering your Goals. Do not forget to mention the contribution of your Appraiser in your Learning ( no, I am not asking you to be a sycophant, mention genuine points)

Step 5: Mention specific instances where you demonstrated qualities which are essential for that coveted next level

Step 6: Mention how you have contributed to development of your team members and those in other teams too

Step 7: Once you have this small document (if you have really justified yourselves, this should be about 3-4 pages long), Ask for a personal meeting with your supervisor and take him through this note. Also send a soft copy (preferably pdf). Remember, This document has to be Objective & Factual and should be in plain simple english, no flowery language here.

Step 8: Keep the focus in the meeting on the self ( no comparison with anyone else) and keep the discussion towards how you can do more & better next year.

Step 9: Ask for specific feedback and DO NOT BE DEFENSIVE while listening to the feedback

Remember, Appraisal process is a opportunity to showcase yourselves. It is also a process of negotiation with your Appraiser. If you do your homework well and have all the facts ready with you, you will have a smooth sail and a tension-free appraisal.

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