The field of performance management is constantly evolving as new best practices and software become more readily available to businesses large and small.  However, many business leaders are still relying on old performance evaluation practices that are no longer effective and may negatively impact employee productivity. 

Today’s successful business leaders recognize that you can no longer rely on the most important conversations between managers and employees happening only once or twice a year. In fact, an effective performance management program provides regular feedback in “real-time” to avoid any surprises and to provide employees clear direction and frequent developmental conversations for performance improvement.  

That is why more and more businesses are embracing the continuous performance management approach. 

Implementing a continuous performance management program creates benefits for employees and employers alike. The benefits include a more engaged, motivated and better-performing team.  For managers, regular check-ins actually save time when compared to a laborious annual review process.  

Here are 3 critical elements of a continuous performance management program you can implement with your team immediately.

Provide regular, informal feedback

Offer face-to-face and written assessments throughout the year so there aren’t any surprises. Employees deserve to know if their performance is falling short, and should be working on a detailed plan for improvement, with noted benchmarks that you have shared with them. 

You should also make sure you are taking constant notes on employee performance – especially when there are no formal performance reviews on the horizon. Far too many performance reviews are based only on what the manager can remember from the last few weeks before the formal evaluations are due. 

When discussing areas for improvement or things an employee has done well, make sure you have clear examples to reference. (This is why it’s important to take notes over a long period of time.) 

Remember to provide continuous feedback to your top performers, too. While they may not need as much guidance as other employees, these employees can lose their passion or motivation if they are not occasionally recognized.  A quick ‘keep up the great work’ email, call or text sends a powerful signal to your employee that you are paying attention and value what they do.

Be honest and choose your words with care

No employee is perfect, and there will always be room for improvement. Decide what is worth addressing and don’t hesitate in doing so. After outlining any shortcomings or mistakes, take the time to discuss resolutions to those problems, and push the employee to comment on the issues you raised.

Remember, if someone is a poor performer, everyone else in the office knows that the person is a poor performer. If you don’t address it swiftly, your employees will resent you, or worse think of you as cowardly for not addressing the situation.  Your inaction can seriously erode morale and productivity.

Be clear, be honest and remember that nothing will change if it is not addressed.  A continuous performance management program safeguards against the tendency to delay corrective measures until it’s too late. 

If you need guidance with “how” to express concerns and encouragement, Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals, authored by James E. Neal, contains more than 3,800 professionally written phrases for describing the key performance factors discussed in most evaluations

End on a positive note

Mutual understanding and respect are the cornerstones of a performance review that creates value for employees and employers.  Whether it is a weekly or a monthly “check-in”, employees should never walk away feeling unsure about expectations and timeframes for improving their performance.  

Set attainable goals specific to address performance shortcomings and develop a plan with the employee that can get them back on track.  

Positive reinforcement and constructive feedback can go a long way in giving workers the confidence and drive they need to perform better.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides research-informed and practical guidance for designing and implementing effective performance management practices, with an emphasis on medium and small organizations that may lack the time and resources to implement “best practices” drawn from large organizations. Click here to access the report

Contact the Business Services team at MassHire Cape and Islands Career Center for access to additional resources.

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