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Performance Management – Who is Accountable?

Regular followers of The Armchair HR Manager know that one of my favourite professional topics to write about is performance and performance management. If you read a lot of leadership and/or HR blogs, you typically find this theme permeates into so many facets of organizations. In speaking with colleagues and reflecting back on many employee surveys I have been a part of, a hot topic with employees is always this whole notion of being recognized for differing levels of performance and for organizations/managers to better manage individual performance levels. Time and time again we often see organizations fail at these areas, or at the very least, they demonstrate general inability to differentiate performance. They fall into practices like peanut buttering “merit” increases across all employees, providing “loose” goals with lots of wiggle room, or setting objectives and , KPI’s, etc. that don’t really allow for any type of true measurement of outcomes or abilities.

PerformanceWhen you start discussing solutions on how to better address this performance issue, I have seen organizations and their managers open to the need to better identify work goals and objectives and better define the performance metrics associated with individual jobs and performance outcomes. Here is the thing – in most cases, everything seems to center around what the manager needs to do to better define performance outcomes for their staff. It is all about this middle level “pushing down” on to the front line employees. Don’t get me wrong, this is needed for any type of performance system to work – managers do need to set clear expectations for performance and match KPI’s/metrics with these expectations. Here is the thing – there is one ingredient in this mix that always seems to be missing.

That ingredient is accountability – Sr. Leaders need to be accountable, and they need to hold their management teams accountable, for the performance of their employees. More often than not, I have seen Directors and Managers ensure their front line staff have their goals and measurements in place; however, it is a very rare circumstance when I see these same Directors and Managers have people related outcomes and measurements for their goals! Bottom line, in order to have an effective performance system and for this to all work, these Directors and Managers need to have a people management measurement on their scorecards and/or part of their goals. These measurements could be anything from:

1. % of staff that meet or exceed individual performance expectations
2. % of staff with established performance goals
3. Department voluntary turnover levels
4. Retention of key talent
5. Staff absenteeism
6. % of direct reports with development plans
7. % of direct reports who have received a performance evaluation

There are no right or wrong metrics, and obviously organizations have to identify metrics that are meaningful and important to them. As well, these seven metrics are not meant to be an exhaustive list, but leaders/managers need to have some measure of people management practices as part of their outcomes. As we all know, there is that old adage of “what gets measured gets done.” If people practices aren’t measured, than guess what falls to the bottom of the ‘old manager priority list? Ultimately, even with this people scorecard in place for managers, there needs to be accountability from the top down for the achievement of these results. When companies talk about people being their most important asset, or how they are investing in “human capital” (boy, do I hate that expression, but that is a post for another day) your first question should always be, “What does your manager scorecard look like?” If they don’t have one, I would challenge the fact that they have a “performance” system where managers are accountable for the effective performance management of their people….and that this practice is truly part of the organizational DNA. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of basketman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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