When reviewing or debating whether to roll out Continuous Performance Management, a frequent topic is the mid and/or end of year review. The new trends and research on performance processes lead to further discussions on whether to rate employees. Or whether to implement a three- or five-point rating scale, continuing calibration and the frequency of performance conversations (check-ins). There is an integral part of performance transformation that has been left out: goal management and goal setting.
A common frustration of the performance review process is that goals are usually only reviewed at the end of the year. And not necessarily because of a focus on goals progress and achievement as the right thing to do. As it’s a measure of our business success. Instead, we are often focused on goal achievement purely through the lens to provide a performance rating. So, we follow the process. This leads us to consider whether we are prioritising the process over its purpose.
Does the process often overtake the purpose?
During episode four of #OurTandemTalks, Clare Bonham, CTO of Our Tandem, shared a story from early in her career. Despite performing exceptionally and achieving her goals, but, due to the calibration curve, she did not receive an ‘exceptional’ performance score. Clare was told ‘not to worry, it’s just the process and the budget, we know that you deliver’. This application of the process for an outcome of a performance rating leads employees to have a very cynical view of the true purpose of goal setting. We focus a lot on getting the process right and less about making sure the purpose of goal setting accomplishes the result it was set to achieve. As HR professionals, it is understood that the goal-setting process can have a significant impact on our culture and on employee motivation.
The famous and widely referenced case study from Deloitte found there is an estimated two million hours a year spent on performance management. It is concerning that after two million hours, HR professionals still didn’t have a better understanding of whether the goal process is right. They still ask the same questions:
- Did we set the right goals?
- Why didn’t we achieve the goals that we set?
- How can we improve in terms of goal setting for the next year?
A deadline is helpful and there is certainly a need for this. But giving a ‘goals window’ forces the transactional nature of goal setting. You might have a piece of work to deliver and you receive the ‘final day reminder’ email submitting your goals. Goal setting then becomes an inconvenient task that must be completed. Setting a goal can then be rushed and become detached from your work, instead of aligned to it.
How can we reinstall focus on the purpose in a fast pace environment?
If only there was one simple solution. As every culture and organisation is unique, there are an array of solutions. An idea from Our Tandem is to separate the processes that have different purposes starting with differentiating the performance assessment – assuming your process includes the goal review. One of the ways this can be done is by increasing the frequency of goal review conversations without managers providing the performance rating. These are distinct processes with distinct purposes. The ongoing goal conversations with employees help them stay on track of their top priorities.
Continuous Performance Management brings copious amounts of benefits to the business, and especially the employee experience. However, it may sound exhausting for the employee to have your performance continuously monitored. De-coupling performance ratings and goals allow for moments in the CPM model that are purely focused on your goals. This can be done by modifying the way we communicate the difference between a performance conversation and a genuine interest in how the work is going. Helping the employee to understand the alignment with their goals and the work they do. Shifting greater focus on goal setting in the performance process is the secret to a high performing employee culture.