Posted on August 21, 2013

Get the Most Out of Your Talent: 5 Practical Performance Management Tips

Managers today are facing many pressures and time constraints. Your phone is ringing off the hook, hundreds of unread emails are piling up in your inbox, deadlines continue to get even tighter—how can you get it all done? What’s more, how can you find time to manage your team?

One way to survive the chaos of today’s management demands is to focus on performance management. Although it may seem counterintuitive at first, finding time for your direct reports will actually ease your workload by improving their performance and and increasing productivity.

Why should managers prioritize performance management? Recent studies have shown that managers are spending 17% of their time (one full work day per week) on poor performers, instead of nurturing top performers. In addition, 70% of employees do not believe their employer’s performance management programs are effective.

Talent management expert Becky Falvey presented a webinar with her best practices for performance management, including these five practical tips for increasing your team’s performance:

Tip 1: Focus on “must-have interactions”

Performance management can be thought of in terms of manager to direct report interactions, such as one-on-ones, team sessions, performance reviews and in-job observations. Managers should strive to have 2-3 of these types of interactions per month. It’s important to:
* Schedule them ahead of time
* Communicate a standing agenda
* Set expectations for what employees need to prepare in advance
* Include a variety of interaction types

Tip 2: Coach forward

Coaching and feedback are essential elements of any good performance management effort. With feedback, it’s often tempting to just review what the employee has done in the past and offer suggestions for how to do it better. But it is more impactful if your feedback is future-focused and positioned towards the next opportunity. This challenges the employee to think about how they will use the new behavior the next time they are faced with a situation. You can increase the effectiveness of your coaching by reviewing expectations, talking about what success looks like and even role-playing potential scenarios to increase the employee’s comfort level.

Tip 3: Consider the cloud

As you think about implementing performance management techniques, remember that the right technology plays a key role in ensuring the success of the program. Make sure the HR system you choose aligns with your organization’s culture and values.* Consider using cloud-based solutions so future upgrades are delivered seamlessly, meaning less work for you and your HR team.* Also keep in mind the scalability of the system: while you may not need some features now, you might need them in the future as you grow.

Tip 4: Ask, don’t tell

When you want to share an insight or drive a new behavior, it’s important to allow employees to arrive at the correct conclusion on their own. Instead of just telling them the insight, lead the employee to it by guiding them through open-ended questions. Once the employee understands the insight, reinforce it by giving examples or demonstrating how to apply it in a real-life situation.

Tip 5: Write it down

No doubt you and your direct reports discuss many important and actionable topics in your interactions—but unless you write them down, your chances of executing them are significantly reduced. It’s a simple fact that people are more engaged when they have to take notes. At the end of an interaction, ask your employees to summarize:

* Discussion points
* Action items going forward
* Timelines
* Expected results

Some managers will complete the first summary themselves, and then ask the employee to complete them in the future. This sets a good example for the employee to follow and makes the summary more of a collaborative effort.


These five tips are just a few ways you can improve performance management at your organization. Making a commitment to improving the performance of your direct reports will make for a more engaged team and a less stressful schedule. Watch the full webinar recording to learn more about performance management best practices.

Sources: SHRM, Gallup, Watson Wyatt