Performance Matters

How to effectively link short-term goals and meaningful feedback to help accelerate employee performance.

By Deidre Paknad

Anyone working in HR has heard the statistics around goals, engagement, and performance reviews. Here’s a quick refresher:

• 30 percent of executives achieve their strategic goals (Fortune)

• 13 percent of employees are actively engaged in their work (Gallup)

• 72 percent of employees believe their performance would improve with more feedback (Harvard Business Review)

• $3500 cost per employee of annual review (CEB)

It’s tempting to think these data points are disconnected, but with all of the workplace changes in the last five years, it’s clear that a traditional approach to goal setting and performance feedback is seriously misaligned.

Business is far more complex and distributed. The average manager has twice as many direct reports and more of them are remote workers. Younger employees have different preferences: they expect real transparency, and operate and innovate best in “sprints.”

The volume and velocity of information about markets and customers has exploded. In fact, IBM finds that 90 percent of the world’s information was generated in the last two years. Business leaders now have—and must respond to—exponentially more information every day to stay competitive and responsive. So how fast does your organization need to perform?

Goals and performance conversations should accelerate an organization’s achievement velocity, not gate it. Managers largely view legacy review processes and performance systems as a sidebar to running the business. Performance reviews help HR manage a performance process, but do little to help the business perform.

How can organizations transform their approach? Defining what performance looks like starts with assessing what stakeholders need to do to achieve success and where current approaches fall short (See Figure 1 on page 67).

When goals and performance feedback are disconnected from the work people do, goals aren’t met, employees aren’t motivated, and feedback is meaningless. Traditional systems have exacerbated that disconnect, making the gap between goals, work, and feedback structural.

Design for Performance Instead of Assessment

Companies are rapidly adopting new, more holistic approaches to high performance. These focus on helping the people in the organization achieve high performance and increase agility and velocity. Instead of assessing performance, they enable it. GE replaced its performance reviews with an app for managers to set short-term goals, assess work completion, and have regular one-one-one touchpoints. This gives managers more facility and capacity to achieve great results.

Goals and feedback are absolutely essential, but must be more authentic, immediate, and potent—and they must connect to the work people do. A more holistic approach to high performance focuses on real-time alignment of goals, execution, and feedback, which helps the business concentrate talent on results and build competency more quickly.

Performance solutions need to be designed for executives, managers, and employees in a way that accelerates and aligns efforts in real time. Performance platforms and technology allow managers to:

• Share goals that are authentic short-term motivators and tangible from day to day;

• Align execution continuously with goals to improve performance and the purpose of people’s work; and

• Give frequent, immediate feedback tied to work that builds on strengths and coaches people upward.

Long-range strategies paired with short-term goals maximize results by setting the course then motivating rapid, focused achievement. When goals, work, and feedback are connected, executives can see the results they need while employees have clarity on the purpose of their work. When feedback is continuous, has meaning, and is tied to work as it’s done, it will accelerate people and teams on the path to excellence.

Managers are Pivotal in High Performance

Managers have a crucial role in transforming performance. In fact, McKinsey reports they have the most direct and greatest potential impact on it. The responsibility falls to them to communicate and motivate teams on short-term goals, drive actual performance and business results, and have regular performance conversations. Not only do executives expect their managers to deliver results, 70 percent of an employee’s engagement level is driven from experience with their direct manager.

Next generation solutions help simplify management responsibilities and reduce the effort required to do them. More holistic approaches simplify managing goal-aligned work and provide easy frameworks for accountability and performance conversations. Managers gain greater capacity for leadership, which elevates people and performance.

Business executives want greater velocity and agility. Now is an excellent time for HR to be fast and nimble, and that can start with approaches to performance.

Posted December 14, 2015 in Engaged Workforce

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