Gill Taylor: Why you need a performance-management framework

This is not a bureaucratic add-on, writes our columnist, but should be as regular and as natural as breathing

Gill Taylor
Gill Taylor

Organisations that stand still gradually fail and, because organisational success depends on the performance of its employees, developing individual performance is a logical way to develop overall team performance. No staff member is perfect in their role all the time, so it is important to adopt a policy of continuing improvement. That rarely means simply working harder, but it does mean working more ef?ciently and effectively, working differently, learning new skills, interacting with others more appropriately, learning from mistakes, using more initiative and so on.

Continuous improvement is easier when all staff step back to review how they work, their skills and the way they work with others, and incorporate the results of those reviews into day-to-day activities.

Performance management is a connected process that follows a logical succession of stages. This is the "golden thread" in performance-management system terms. It’s a shared understanding and a shared "buy-in" to the vision, goals and values of your organisation, and making sure that this is mirrored within your strategies, plans and policies and delivered through your actions.

It’s the unbroken link between vision, analysis, systems and people. It’s when what you think and what you say and what you do all line up.

The performance-management process involves clearly communicating to every member of staff the aims and objectives most directly relevant to them, enabling them to think for themselves about how they can make their best contribution, then supporting and developing them, both professionally and personally, so that they can optimise that contribution.

To achieve this, managers must own the performance-management system as something live, useful and essential to achieving performance at your organisation. It should not be treated as a bureaucratic add-on: it’s as necessary and as regular as breathing.

Performance assessment and management should happen throughout the lifecycle of every employee, from recruitment, appointment, induction and probation to ongoing supervision and annual appraisals and performance-management assessments.

Each phase of the linked processes that make up the performance-management framework should have a policy attached to it, managed by both HR and the line manager. Each process after recruitment is primarily carried out through formal and informal meetings between the line manager and the individual member of staff, enabling a clear two-way channel of communication and feedback.

And if you don’t do that, you inevitably poor get poor practice and increased staff turnover. To take an analogy: you buy a car and it has an MOT every year to keep it on the road. After a couple of years it stalls one day and refuses to start in rush-hour traffic, leaving you angry, foolish and stranded. Why? Because you haven’t sent it for servicing, so the engine filters are blocked. This is the learning point: you get out what you put in, and the same applies to managing staff.

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