the results: what performance management pros said about performance management

Today’s business world is uncertain. Situations change at the speed of technology. Plans shift, people move from job to job, demand changes on a dime. So, it might seem logical that when it comes to our people, we focus on what we can tangibly measure rather than that amorphous future… right?

The old model of performance management says yes: career-focused engagement between employees and managers/HR has traditionally centered on taking a ratings-driven look at past performance. You know, the stuff you supposedly can measure.

But in a survey given by PeopleFirm CEO Tamra Chandler to the hundreds of HR professionals who attended talks she gave this year, the majority had a different opinion.

A whopping 71% of respondents said their company’s performance management needs a reboot, and when asked what they thought would make the most difference to their organizations, the majority named changing their performance management focus from the past to the future as one of their top concerns.

Chandler, who’s book, How Performance Management is Killing Performance—and What to Do About It was published in March of 2016, used the unique opportunity offered by this year’s speaking engagements to gather a little more first-hand data from the people actually in the trenches of the performance management world. Are people ready to “let go of archaic traditional practices and tap into the power of people in today’s increasingly connected, customizable, and millennial-driven business world”, as Chandler writes? If not, what’s holding them back?

In all, the survey asked just four questions. In addition to those mentioned above, we also asked: If you want to reboot but haven’t, what’s stopping you? And, is there anything you’re doing currently for performance management that you do find effective?

One of the largest issues standing in the way of rebooting performance management was how to determine rewards without ratings to fall back on (45%), followed by respondents not trusting their managers to handle a less proscriptive rating system (34%), the belief that their leaders/C-suite would never give up the traditional methods (28%), too much investment in the current system to turn back (19%), and worries about legal not allowing it (8%), as well as just how weird it is to walk away from so many years of tradition (6%).

When it came to techniques that respondents have already tried and found effective, checking in with employees with increased frequency was the most popular (at 25%), followed by improving manager coaching skills (23%), reducing paperwork (21%), removing ratings altogether (8%), adopting new, real-time technology (7%), using a peer-review model (5%, and deploying social or crowd-sourcing tools (3%).

It’s not surprising that these respondents should have so many different concerns — or that they’ve tried so many different techniques for improving what so many believe to be a broken system. Chandler writes in her book that each organization will – and should – require a different approach when it comes to rebooting their performance management systems, because each organization is different, with different cultures and strategic goals. They key, Chandler writes, is in shifting the way an organization looks at and manages their people (Chandler calls them the Eight Fundamental Shifts), then building a customized program that fits their distinct needs.