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…So this morning I had the opportunity to read an interesting piece on performance management from Deloitte (check it out here). Framed up as a debate, it asks reader to consider if the traditional annual performance review process – in place at most companies in some form for decades – is so fundamentally broken that it needs to be replaced. Leveraging some powerful anecdotes and citing a 2010 WorldatWork survey in which 58% of HR leaders rated their performance management process as no better than average, the piece makes a compelling argument that the process is broken.

And yet it also offer up two compelling counterpoints:

A. People don’t like giving or receiving negative feedback

and yet:

B. People need to be performance managed

…I think that one reason the traditional performance management process has been dominant for so long is because it forces leaders to have difficult conversations with their reports. I will write more about this later, but two critical components of execution are clarity and accountability. Or, put another way, to be successful the people in an organization must know what they are trying to accomplish and what they will be held responsible for. Even in today’s work environment – where project work and teamwork often rule the day – people have to know what their part is in the bigger picture. And if they aren’t hitting the mark there has to be some mechanism in place to deliver that feedback and allow for them to take corrective action (and the underlying performance message here doesn’t always have to be “or else”, by the way).

…So I am all for a performance management process that is more fluid and frequent – what most companies have in place is surely not ideal – but to put something less regimented in place we have to give managers the tools to have candid (and at times difficult) conversations with their team members around performance. Most people don’t develop the interpersonal skills or competencies to deliver such messages before moving into people management roles. Ergo, expecting strong, organic performance management from managers without coaching may be a bit much (which is what I think Deloitte was saying in its piece as well).

With that said, I am an internal optimist. And I’ve seen (and led) training programs that gave managers the tools they needed to coach around performance in a healthy, free-flowing way that made the year-end performance review more of a year-end recap (and formality) than the exercise is conventionally thought of to be.

But the big question is… how to standardize (and customize) such a process so that managers at all levels receive the tools they need to succeed?

What are your organizations doing around performance management? Are there any enterprise wide trainings for new managers? How effective have they been? What worked? What didn’t?

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

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