Opinion: Performance management - whose role is it?

by Contributor18 Apr 2017

Performance management always seems to be someone else's responsibility, but how can HR encourage managers who have shied away from this task to be more active? Sarah Rodgers provides her tips

In recent months I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with a large number of people. What I have observed is a surprising number of managers who still believe that performance management is someone else’s responsibility. Yes, really! As you can imagine, it’s had me shaking my head. Instead of being critical and feeling frustrated about this (which is how I responded when I was in a line HR role), I’ve tried to understand. 

Sure, performance management isn’t easy; it can be daunting, especially for an inexperienced manager and time consuming. However, I think it’s useful to consider the cost of not having a conversation; on the individual, on the rest of your team, and finally on you, as the manager.  If you let under/poor performance go unnoticed, don’t be fooled into thinking that others won’t notice! Abrogating responsibility to HR can seem easy, but in reality, it’s you and your team who suffer if you do nothing. Not to mention the poor person you as a manager have chosen not to have a conversation with. Put yourself in their shoes; wouldn’t you prefer to know you weren’t on track so you could fix it?

So, what did I find? Managers who shied away from performance management were typically:

  • highly skilled individuals promoted into management roles because they were very good in their technical job;
  • long term managers who remember when performance management was HR’s job;
  • individuals appointed to management roles with little or no training; or
  • ‘too busy’ to manage poor performance.

In relation to the last point, I would agree, it can be time consuming to manage poor performance. Remember though that the alternative, i.e. do nothing, is likely to be more time consuming for you and the remainder of your team who in addition to having to do your own jobs, now also have to do the work of the under-performing staff member.

So, how might we (as HR professionals) assist in driving positive change in our organisations? 

  1. clearly set expectations: ensure that anyone taking on (or currently in) a management role  understands that the title of ‘manager’ comes with some responsibilities. I think it’s useful for this to be an organisation wide initiative driven by the CEO/senior management rather than HR;
  2. learning & development: provide the necessary L&D/support to managers, particularly first time managers.  Individuals who feel confident and competent to undertake a task are more likely to do so;
  3. support: it’s imperative that managers know where to go for support if they are going to embark on managing a performance issue. A set of step by step guides available on your intranet might be useful; as well, making sure the HR team are there to offer practical support.

Finally, if a) – c) above aren’t working for your organisation, you could consider tweaking your performance measurement system: in my experience, measurement drives behaviour, so it can be a powerful motivator!  

Sarah Rodgers is the Principal of iolite consulting. For further information visit www.ioliteconsulting.com.au