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Performance Management

Performance management is an excellent method of helping organization deliver lasting
improvement. It does this by ensuring individuals, teams, and ultimately the organisation,
know what they should be doing, how they should be doing it and take responsibility for what
they achieve.

It is about placing the emphasis on managing, supporting and developing staff at all levels in
the organization. An integral part of this is the need to monitor performance, reward staff that
perform well, and challenge those who do not.

For performance management to work well it is crucial that senior management can
communicate effectively across the organisation and ensure that employees fully understand
the organization's key corporate objectives and the reasons behind them.

Benefits of Performance Management
Having an effective performance management system has multiple benefits for organization,
ultimately resulting in better, more efficient, services. These are:-

1. It means everyone knows where the organization is going, as there is a clear focus on
key objectives and priorities. This level of clarity helps to correctly direct resources,
which means there are less instances of over and under resourcing.
2. It makes life more satisfying for employees because they know what is expected of
them, and how this fits into the bigger picture, but also that they can call on extra
support to help them to perform well.
3. As the whole emphasis is on meeting set criteria and meeting targets, it is easier to
monitor how services are performing and to take action to intervene and improve
where necessary.
4. It helps organization to meet their legal responsibilities in employment in terms of
health and safety, equality and diversity. Employees and the organization itself will be
bound by implied and explicit contractual terms, such as codes of conduct, the duty of
mutual trust and confidence and the duty to obey reasonable instructions, as well as
health and safety and equalities legislation. Legal issues will also arise in cases where
the organization seeks performance improvement or decides to terminate employment
on the grounds of the employee's incapability to do their job.

Equality and diversity are important aspects of performance management. Not only does the
organization's managing diversity approach impact upon its overall performance rating –
through the Best Value Performance Indicators – it also impacts upon how performance is
managed within the organisation. A performance management approach that recognises and
promotes diversity, while supporting fairness and equity will ensure that people are selected
and developed on the basis of their capability to do the job.
Developing the right organisational attitude
Effective performance management requires an ongoing dialogue with staff. A number of
simultaneous actions are needed to help develop an organisational attitude where
performance is managed well and really leads to service improvement.

It is important to make sure employees know the key organization objectives and priorities,
what they should focus on and how they can contribute. Being given too many initiatives and
plans tends to make employees feel overloaded.

Justify the benefits of making an effort to manage and improve performance, as employees
need to know how it can help them deliver. You may wish to make these benefits service
specific or more general such as ensuring resources are targeted where they are most needed,
improving services and systems, better 'joining up' of activities across the organization or
helping develop employees to perform their roles more effectively.

Ensure that employees who perform well are rewarded and those who underperform are
challenged. It is critical that organization back up what they say about performance by what
they do. Employees are then more likely to feel that the way they are dealt with is fair and
open and will also take the issue more seriously.

The performance management framework
Clear, consistent systems and procedures are needed to support the ongoing dialogue with
employees on performance management and provide feedback on how this is impacting on
organization service delivery. The emphasis should be on developing an approach tailored to
help the organization and its employees to perform well which is not too complex for the
benefits it delivers. Whatever the approach, everyone should know where to find information
about performance management and be able to access it whenever they need to.

Performance management needs to operate at organisational, team and individual level if it is
to be effective. This means that organisational objectives inform the development of team and
individual objectives, and individuals and teams can feedback from the frontline to support
the development of future organisational objectives and plans. Using this approach helps to
ensure that support and development opportunities are appropriate, gives a wider perspective
on service issues, helps to identify any barriers to implementation and can assist with
determining better measures of effective performance.

The performance management process is cyclical, consisting of three stages, which are:

• Defining and planning: identifying what type of performance is required and how it
can be met.
• Delivering and monitoring: providing appropriate support and development and
checking progress.
• Evaluating: assessing whether or not performance is to the required standard,
recognising where standards have been met and seeking improvements where they
have not.

Readiness for performance management
It is generally accepted that performance management is a key factor for achieving high
quality service delivery. However, for many organizations it remains an extremely tough
issue to get right, as there are many factors that contribute to whether the performance
management approach is effective, including senior management commitment, clear
organisational objectives and systems and processes that help rather than hinder.

The Employers' Organisation develops a questionnaire that organization can use to identify
whether or not they are ready for the performance management challenge and whether any
further work needs to be undertaken to prepare.

Organization can decide, against a number of statements related to areas such as
commitment, processes and skills, whether they are ready for performance management,
nearly ready, some way off or a long way off.

From this, organization can identify the priority areas that need to be improved before
performance management can be implemented effectively.

Ten steps to effective performance
management
There are ten basic steps that organization needs to take to develop and implement an
effective performance management system. The emphasis should be on developing a strategy
tailored to help the organization perform well which is not too complex for the benefits it
delivers.

1. Develop business plans

Business planning must take account of what can realistically be delivered with the
organization resources available and consider the people management implications. Once
organization plans and priorities have been established these then need to be translated into
service, team and individual performance plans. This is a highly skilled task that is critical for
the performance management process to work well. It is important that managers are given
appropriate support to carry this out effectively.
2. Establish what aspects of performance need to be
measured

Any national or local performance indicators being used must be clearly communicated to
staff and elected members, along with other measures being used to define performance. The
focus should be on measuring what matters and trying to keep these measures to a reasonable
number.

3. Set up systems to monitor and evaluate

Systems need to be set up to ensure that performance can be monitored and evaluated
throughout the year to ensure that it is improving service delivery. It is therefore essential that
the performance management approach supports the organization's organisational
development and people management strategies, so that it helps rather than hinders progress.

4. Define the general performance expectations of
employees

This may be done through a combination of approaches such as the use of competences,
policies and procedures. Line managers should be given specific responsibilities for
managing performance. Effective ways of doing this are making it an explicit part of their job
role and incorporating how to manage performance into management training programmes.

In return there should be clear and consistent expectations of what is expected of employees
while they are working for the organization.

5. Agree specific performance objectives

Organization plans and priorities need to be translated into service, team and individual
performance objectives.

Agreeing individual performance and employee development needs is normally carried out
using a combined performance appraisal and staff development process. This approach
provides the framework for helping managers to translate service and team plans into
individual plans and objectives and agree how these will be met. Individual plans and
objectives are most effective when both manager and employee agree them. Objectives
should be specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time bound (SMART).

6. Develop an internal communications system

It is normally accepted that to be effective messages need to be communicated in a range of
different ways that really target the group of staff you are trying to reach. There is a wide
range of different approaches that can be adopted to ensure staff is kept in contact with key
performance issues. For example, there are staff briefings; meetings; lunch time seminars; use
of the intranet; mini articles or stories in staff magazines; posters; bulletin boards; email
alerts; line management and supervision meetings.
Conducting regular staff surveys and running a suggestion scheme are also important ways of
ensuring that employees have opportunities to feedback on a wide range of issues that will
impact directly or indirectly on organisational performance.

7. Ensure the performance appraisal system is in place, is
well understood and working effectively

A performance appraisal system is traditionally used to set objectives, identify support needs
and measure progress against objectives. For it to work effectively it needs to be clearly
understood by both managers and employees. This means ensuring that managers have access
to guidance and training to ensure that they manage performance effectively throughout the
year and employees at all levels within the organization have the necessary support, guidance
or training to enable them to actively engage in the performance appraisal process.

The performance appraisal system should also be regularly reviewed to ensure that it is
achieving what is required.

8. Support employees to help them perform well

Effective induction and probation processes for new employees are extremely important in
setting the right expectations for performance on both sides. If this early stage is managed
well it may be possible to intervene to prevent or minimise individual capability issues later
on through personal development or redeployment. Feedback from this process may also
highlight problems with job design or recruitment processes, which then need to be rectified.

Responsibility for meeting staff development needs may be addressed in the team or service
or may be fed back to a central HR function for action. Whatever the approach, the
organization needs an overview of its organisational capability and how it plans to address
any gaps that will hamper the achievement of its objectives. This strategic human resource
management would normally be the responsibility of the HR function.

Developing employee capacity to deliver organization objectives is likely to be achieved in a
variety of ways. All employees, even those who have been in the same post for some time,
should be encouraged to consider how they are performing and what else they could learn or
do differently to deliver better services. In some cases these needs will be adequately met
through attending training courses but there are many other possibilities, such as job
shadowing, mentoring, e-learning, working on projects or reading manuals. Wherever
possible the employee should be given the opportunity to agree the most suitable option.

Performance needs to be actively managed and monitored throughout the year. An essential
part of this dialogue is the giving and receiving of feedback. For this to work effectively the
organisational climate must encourage the sharing of both success and failure. Without this
employees will be reluctant to comply and the quality of the feedback may be lacking. As
well as managers, employees at all levels in the organization may also need support, guidance
or training to enable them to actively engage in the performance appraisal process.
9. Seek performance improvement

Of course, there will be circumstances where performance does not meet the required
standard. At organisational level, this will mean identifying what the barriers are to effective
performance and putting in place a plan to deliver improvement. At both team and individual
level the principles will be the same, but it may be more difficult to manage, as individual
sensitivities and complexities may be at the fore.

Having in place a clear process for dealing with inadequate performance is important.
However, it is essential that the process does not take over from the desired outcome, which
is to seek performance improvement. Identifying the reason for inadequate performance is the
first step. From this the organization can determine further action, which may involve
disciplinary procedures; additional training or support; monitoring and review mechanisms;
redeployment; changing job roles or in some cases dismissal. It is also important that learning
from these actions is taken on board, for example to improve future performance
management mechanisms or selection methods.

Formal capability or disciplinary proceedings take time, effort and resources, which could
otherwise be targeted at more positive interventions, such as recognising good performance.
If performance management is embedded into day-to-day management practice it is likely
that inadequate performance will be managed and improved before it gets to this stage; that is
why following the performance management cycle on an ongoing basis is so important.

Organization should also review job design and work flexibility as ways of improving
performance.

10. Recognise and reward good performance

This is the part that many organisations forget; instead they take good performance for
granted and focus on those who have not met the standard. However, to retain motivation and
continuously improve, it is essential that good performance is recognised and where
appropriate, rewarded. Recognition and reward will mean different things to different people;
for some financial reward in the form of pay rises or bonuses may be important, whereas for
others recognition that their contribution has made a difference will be enough.

When determining what will be the most appropriate reward the organization will need to
understand what motivates their workforce and how they can meet this need. Pay systems and
processes will be important, but it will also be necessary to identify other reward mechanisms
such as opportunities for development and career progression.

Recognising performance is also about sharing success stories across the organisation and
highlighting how good performance helps the organisation as a whole. This may also help
with sharing good practice and learning about what works.

Action checklists
Performance management strategies only work if each group within an organisation knows
exactly what they are meant to be doing:

Members should:

• Recognise the impact performance management has on service delivery
improvement
• Endorse the overall performance management strategy
• Ensure that resources are targeted appropriately
• Be exemplars of performance management practice in the way they
manage the performance of senior managers
• Identify and reflect on their own development needs
• Regularly monitor and review how the strategy is progressing and how it
is improving services

Senior managers should:

• Recognise the impact performance management has on service delivery
improvement
• Ensure that corporate visions, objectives and plans are communicated
down to service, team and individual performance level
• Take a lead role in the development and implementation of the
organization's performance management strategy
• Ensure that resources are targeted appropriately
• Be exemplars of good performance management practice
• Set targets and monitor managers' performance against the strategy's
objectives
• Identify and reflect on development needs for themselves and their teams
• Regularly monitor and review how the strategy is progressing and how it
is improving services

Line managers should:

• Recognise the impact performance management has on service delivery
improvement
• Ensure that organisational objectives are understood by team members
• Select the best people to perform particular jobs and tasks
• Regularly monitor and feed back to employees on their performance
• Seek advice and support in order to improve performance management
practice
• Monitor how well their team is doing against the strategy
• Identify and reflect on development needs for themselves and their teams
• Evaluate the impact performance and development opportunities are
having on service improvement

The HR team should:

• Support the development of the performance management strategy and
ensure that it reflects the wider people management context
• Ensure that all HR activities support the strategy
• Continuously develop their skills and capacity to help people manage
performance
• Be exemplars of good performance management practice
• Make sure that the HR function is able to support and deliver against the
strategy's targets

Employees and their representatives should:

• Be involved in the development and implementation of the strategy
• Ensure that they understand where their individual objectives fit with
organisational, service and team objectives
• Identify and reflect on their own development needs
• Ensure that their job meets service delivery needs and feedback any
issues
• Regularly communicate with their manager.
Reference
www.idea.gov.uk (idea & development agency)