Reviewing Performance

Performance review meetings are the means through which the five primary performance management elements — agreement, measurement, feedback, positive reinforcement and dialogue can be put to good use. The review should be rooted in the reality of the employee’s performance.

Every individual should be encouraged to assess their own performance and become active agents for change in improving their results. Managers should be encouraged to adopt their proper enabling role coaching and providing support and guidance.

There should be no surprises in a formal review if performance issues have been arising during the year. The true role of performance management is to look forward to what needs to be done by people to achieve the purpose of the job, to meet new challenges, to make even better use of their knowledge, skills and abilities, to develop their capabilities.

This process also helps managers to improve their ability to lead, guide and develop the individuals and teams. The most common practice is to have one annual review and twiceyearly reviews. These reviews lead directly into the conclusion of a performance agreement.

It can be argued that formal reviews are unnecessary and that it is better to conduct informal reviews as part of normal good management practice to be carried out as and when required. Such informal reviews are valuable as part of the continuing process of performance management (managing performance throughout the year as discussed in the previous chapter).

Performance Review Difficulties                          

In traditional merit rating or performance appraisal schemes, the annual appraisal meeting was the key event, in fact in most cases the only event, in the system. Line managers were often highly skeptical about the process, which they felt was imposed on them by the personnel department.

A typical reaction was: ‘Not another new appraisal scheme! The last three didn’t work.’ Managers felt that the schemes had nothing to do with their own needs and existed simply to maintain the personnel database.

Too often the personnel department contributed to this belief by adopting a ‘policing’ approach to the system, concerning them more with collecting completed forms and checking that each box has been ticked properly than with helping managers to use the process to improve individual and organizational performance.

The following are the three main sources of difficulty in conducting performance reviews −

●      The quality of the relationship between the manager and the individual − unless there is mutual trust and understanding the perception of both parties may be that the performance review is a daunting experience in which hostility and resistance are likely to emerge

●      The manner and the skill with which the interview is conducted

●      The review process itself − its purpose, methodology and documentation

Performance Review Issues

The following are the main issues concerning performance reviews −

●      Why have them at all?

●      If they are necessary, what are the objectives of reviewing performance?

●      What are the organizational issues?

●      On whom should performance reviews focus?

●      On what should they focus?

●      What criteria should be used to review performance?

●      What impact does management style make on performance reviews?

●      What skills are required to conduct reviews and how can they be developed?

●      How can both negative and positive elements be handled?

●      How can reviews be used to promote good communication?

●      How should the outputs of review meetings be handled?

●      To what extent is past performance a guide to future potential?

●      When should reviews take place?

●      What are the main problems in conducting reviews and how can they be overcome?

●      How can their effectiveness be evaluated?

Organizational Issues

To have any chance of success, the objectives and methodology of performance reviews should either be in harmony with the organization’s culture or be introduced deliberately as a lever for change, moving from a culture of management by command to one of management by consent.

Performance management and review processes can help to achieve cultural change, but only if the change is managed vigorously from the top and every effort is made to bring managers and staff generally on board through involvement in developing the process, through communication and through training.

In short, when introducing performance management, you cannot work against the culture of the organization. You have to work within it, but you can still aspire to develop a performance culture, and performance management provides you with a means of doing so.

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