Out with the Old: Performance Management Trends to Ditch in 2020

As long as businesses have existed, there has been a need for employers and employees to communicate, collaborate, plan, and adjust. This ongoing back-and-forth interaction falls under the concept of Performance Management, which at its essence is simply the way an employer uses guidance and feedback to steer their employees toward accomplishing their objectives. As an employee, your performance is being managed pretty much every day, to some degree. And although Performance Management is a vital tool for keeping things moving in the right direction, it’s time to ditch some of the old techniques. Here are a few Performance Management practices that should be reevaluated or replaced as we head into a new decade:

Forget the Formulas

The traditional “annual performance review” has gone out of vogue, and for good reason. It often evokes feelings of a child being sent to the principal’s office, and even if the review is mostly positive, there is a formality and coldness to it. One of the reasons it can feel so clinical is because of the constraints put on the manager delivering the review. They are usually required to follow a certain formula, such as filling out a chart with strengths and weaknesses, and quantifying value with numerical ratings. Summing up an entire year’s worth of work on a page or two of standardized forms just doesn’t work. Employer/employee interaction and feedback should happen continually throughout the year, with communication that is personalized and constructive.

Tank the Ranking

Perhaps the worst performance review tool is the ranking method, where the manager is required to rate someone the lowest, even if that person is a great employee. If you have a team of ten people and they’re all fantastic employees, then they should all get high marks. This concept of limiting the number of high marks and requiring a certain number of low marks – regardless of how good the employees are – is unfair and downright insulting. Creating friendly competition can be motivating and fun when done in a healthy way, but employees should feel they’re all on the same team, instead of feeling like they’re being pitted against each other. If your work environment doesn’t allow room for everyone to thrive and feel appreciated, then you’re doing something terribly wrong.

Halt the Hierarchy

Traditionally, managing an employee’s performance has been the responsibility of the individual’s direct supervisor. You manage the people who report directly to you, they manage the people who report directly to them, and so on according to your company’s hierarchy. This makes sense to a degree; however, one individual does not always see the whole picture, and while you’re busy managing your other direct reports and performing your own responsibilities, you can’t possibly pay attention to everything that everyone is doing. Performance Management is moving away from this compartmentalized approach and more toward a “holistic” method, wherein coaching and feedback may be exchanged among multiple sources, including supervisors, peers, subordinates, and across departments. 

Business trends come and go, and there will always be some “new and improved” way of doing things, but “new” and “improved” don’t always go hand in hand. In the case of the Performance Management practices reviewed above, it truly is time to move on and find a better way. Tune in next time for a follow-up article, where we’ll look at the new trends in Performance Management and see if things are moving in the right direction.

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