Making performance management work for your organisation

by External07 Mar 2016
Performance management expert, Dallas Burgess, is bemused by the current media interest in terminating formal annual performance appraisals and replacing them with ongoing staff discussions. He outlines a more viable option.

Burgess poses the key question: If Managers are not already having regular performance discussions with their staff, then what are they in fact doing?
 
Endorsed by the Psychology Board of Australia to practice in organisational psychology, Burgess has assisted numerous organisations align and optimise their performance management to meet strategic delivery objectives.

He believes the current debate around performance management has to occur within the right context. Firstly, he contends, it has always been a core function of management to regularly talk to their staff about performance. While this is necessary, it is not sufficient to ensure that an organisation is on track to meet strategic delivery objectives.
 
For this to happen, he says, it is also essential to have a performance management system that is equitable, robust, valid and reliable. However, many such systems fail to meet these criteria. This is the prime reason why Burgess believes people are now questioning whether formal performance management is actually effective – many employees, for instance, consider their organisation’s system to be unfair and even detrimental to their career.
 
Based on their extensive in-house and consulting experience, Burgess (and fellow Director, Adrian Peterson) of performance management system, PeopleAffirm®, know it is critical that organisational performance is tracked, assessed and measured - and corrective actions taken at the individual, group and organisation level. This, they suggest, is the missing part of the current discussion around performance management.
 
Burgess and Peterson have identified two primary questions senior and HR management need to carefully address:
 
  1. How does your organisation systematically assess, measure and correct performance at all levels? Is your system equitable, robust valid and reliable? If you believe it is, can you verify it? Does your performance management system link organisational strategic objectives and individual employee positions? 
  2. Do jobs within your organisation comply with tried, tested and proven organisation-job design principles and practices (i.e. is your organisation’s job structure based on a clearly defined standard)?
  3. Are expected performance outcomes aligned with how employees need to function at each standard level of work complexity? (e.g. if the job is at a new graduate level, does the position description reflect that level of functionality)?
  4. Does the assessment and measurement of individual employee performance optimise the opportunity for valid, reliable assessment and measurement outcomes? Can the process reveal, for example, any bias in how managers assess performance?
  5. Can the performance assessment process identify positive performance and enable the organisation to affirm employees who succeed in their job?
  6. Does the process easily identify performance gaps and show where development is required?
  7. Finally, can performance assessment and measurement outcomes across the organisation be easily consolidated to enable a clear picture of workforce strengths and weaknesses - within the context of how the organisation must perform to meet strategic objectives?
 
Burgess believes that a performance management system that meets these criteria will have both immediate and long-term beneficial effects on an organisation’s capability to achieve the expected ROI from its workforce.
 
He cites the example of his work with a multinational in the business services sector in aligning and optimising their performance following the acquisition of a number of smaller businesses. Because of competitive pressures it was necessary to quickly ensure that longer-term and new employees were “on the same performance page”. This was achieved through developing a consistent, robust multi-level job structure based on standard complexity levels of work covering both the existing and new businesses, so that job grades and pay were aligned across the whole business.
 
This provided the platform for development of an equitable performance management system for the entire organisation, focused on achieving the expected ROI from the acquisitions.
 
Performance management in Australia’s NFP sector
 
Dallas also assisted leading not-for-profit organisation, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, in implementing a contemporary performance management system. The system needed to adhere to the principles of equity, robustness, objectivity, transparency, valid assessment and measurement, and reliable assessment results.
 
Through his allied HR consulting firm, PeopleAdvantage, Dallas deployed the ‘Role Requirements Framework’ methodology to provide the foundation for transparent and robust job structure/job grading outcomes. Cerebral Palsy Alliance leveraged that foundation to then build an effective performance management system. The organisation’s General Manager - People and Culture noted that the system “…played no small part in making Cerebral Palsy Alliance one of the leading disability services organisations in Australia”.
 
Dallas has developed particular expertise in the Australian not-for-profit sector, including developing a ‘Workforce Framework’ for the NSW disability sector (since introduced to disability organisations across Australia). The framework is aligned to the requirements of the NDIS and is the basis for staff performance management and development, enabling disability organisations to be competitive and financially sustainable.
 
Performance management – doing it right
 
Through their consulting firms, PeopleAdvantage and PeopleAffirm, Dallas and fellow Director, Adrian Peterson, developed the PeopleAffirm® system to align and optimise employee performance to an organisation’s strategic objectives.
 
A real time, dynamic tool, PeopleAffirm® drives structure, clarity and confidence in performance assessment. Managers can conduct ongoing performance discussions (and structured assessments), and easily record and track them; PeopleAffirm® also enables the production of valid, reliable and aligned performance/workforce analytics.
 
To find out more about the PeopleAffirm® system, visit www.peopleaffirm.com.au.
 

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