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Nick Hindley

Norfolk County Council

Global Learning and Development Manager

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Reflections on performance management


Reflecting on various interventions to establish and inculcate good effective performance management practices I have identified the following critical actions that deliver great results:

Help people to understand the role of being a manager and what it entails before they become one.
Many people look at a management role as a way of making good progression and increased earnings.
If given the chance to explore the many facets of managing people many folks decide it’s not for them which saves them months/years of stress and potentially saves the business they work for the costs of poor people management, namely; absenteeism, high turn-over (often greater amongst high performers) and poor team performance.

Some great ways to provide opportunities to experience management are:
* Deputising for their manager, at meetings, running project teams and when the line manager is away.
* Attending training for line managers to understand the requirements such as difficult conversations, managing ex-friends etc.
* Talking to managers they know, equipped with a list of searching questions about the rewards and pitfalls of management.           

Train and support new managers before and during their initial appointment.  
How many people have been appointed to a management role with little or no training?
Some may argue that training before having experience is of limited value and, in part, I agree. So it is best to provide training before they start and then again after three months, when they can apply the training to real situations.

The training needs to cover the essentials of knowledge and skills:
* Establishing what good performance and effective measures looks like.
* Providing effective feedback when good or poor performance is delivered.  
* Knowing when to manage in detail and when to stand back and coach.
* Motivating people who have a different view of life.    
* How to access support, from their manager, other managers and HR.        

Evaluate the effectiveness of the management training and the performance management process.   
An effective evaluation system will let you know if the training and performance management are being implemented to good effect, or not, and if not, what specifically needs to change.  
The evaluation selected needs to track the on-going application of the performance process so should be probably be issued after one, two and three months following initial training and then at regular intervals. It is important that the questions used provide information that can be acted upon so they need to be designed with care.    

Establishing a robust and regular system of sharing best practice amongst managers.
For some reason managers always seem to resist talking to each other about their management experiences and initially reel off a list of much more important priorities for their meeting time. When they are pushed to reflect on their recent time as a manager and identify one thing they did well and one thing that is worrying them and they share these thoughts I have yet to witness a sharing when at the first disclosure another manager says “Wow I did not know you could do that in that system” or “I have the same issue how exactly did you cover this” and “I dealt with one of those a few months ago, let’s meet and I can take you through the does and don’ts”.
In terms of ROI this is probably one of the most effective “learning activities“ management teams can apply in that it takes about 2 minutes per person and achieves many organisational improvements.

Create the capability to calibrate performance amongst team member and between teams.
Another initially painful process that managers seem to want to avoid at all costs as it entails them telling everyone else in their team how they manager performance.
Providing a clear framework and rules of engagement are a must to enable managers to open up and be clear about their approach.
In a very similar way to the point about best practice, calibration meetings always produce so many breakthrough moments between managers as they calibrate themselves with each other which is the main benefit of such meetings rather than the often assumed focus of reviewing the performance of employees.

It takes two – let the employees know what should be happening and how!
Probably the biggest impact on a good outcome for performance management. Engaging and informing employees about what the system is, how the process works and the reason for the various procedures they are involved in has possibly been the critical element in creating a successful performance culture.   
Employees are often asked to attend meetings, fill in forms, complete ratings and provide feedback but also often not told why they are doing these things or how they should be done.
Providing the “mirror image” of the manager training so employees know what their managers are/should be doing and why, energising the employees and motivating the managers who now have some upward pressure to get things done in the right way.   The employees can then be asked either through skip level meetings or evaluations if the process is happening the way it should be.
The results from the employee evaluation can be used to help managers either generally or individually.

Employee feedback to their manager about the way they manage performance.
Employees who are empowered to provide feedback with the right model, training and encouragement from their management team are initially cautious and then go on to provide invaluable feedback.
Managers who receive feedback from their employees about the way they manage performance are initially anxious and then go on to find that this is the best feedback they have ever received.         


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Nick Hindley

Global Learning and Development Manager

Read more from Nick Hindley

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