The dreaded ‘rank and yank’ approach to performance management, whereby managers score employees and then sack the lowest performers, is rapidly becoming recognised as a deeply flawed system. Instead of motivating employees to be more productive and achieve their work objectives, the rank and yank strategy is notorious for damaging staff morale and causing tension in the workplace. New performance management trends are beginning to replace this outdated system and improve staff motivation.
Aligned SMART Objectives
New performance management trends are focused on setting clear and achievable objectives that are aligned with the overall goals of the business. There are five main criteria that must be factored in when setting goals, and many managers choose to use the SMART acronym to ensure their goals hit all of the five points:
- Specific: Goals should be clear, precise and unambiguous.
- Measurable: The goal should state what success looks like in terms of quality and quantity.
- Achievable: Goals should be attainable, though still present a challenge.
- Relevant: All goals should contribute to the company’s overall aims and vision.
- Time-bound: There should be a specific date for completion, with milestones for larger goals.
For example, a goal along the lines of “Aim to grow our business” should be replaced using the SMART criteria, resulting in a goal that reads more like: “Gain three new clients by launching a targeted social media campaign by 31st December.”
The key benefit of using SMART goals is that employees know exactly what needs to be achieved and how to achieve it, making them feel more motivated about tackling new challenges at work. A good quality goal will make employees feel as though they are progressing in their role, as well as contributing to the success of the company as a whole.
Ongoing Coaching and Feedback
When SMART objectives have been set, don’t let them get brushed under the desk until the next performance review meeting. New approaches to performance management advocate open channels of communication and continuous, in-the-moment feedback between managers and employees.
The ongoing feedback approach eliminates the pressure and build up of tension that comes with annual or quarterly performance review meetings. Both positive and constructive feedback should be given as and when achievements are made or issues occur.
According to figures from Performance Management: Research Report 2015, 70% of employees feel that coaching and feedback is useful because it gives them insight into how to improve their performance. Ensuring employees have a clear direction and constant support to help overcome obstacles will help to motivate them to improve their work and achieve their goals.
Focus on the Future
Another motivational aspect of new performance management trends is the emphasis on the future, as opposed to the past. Problems should be dealt with at the time they occur, meaning there’s no need to drag them up again or cover old ground at a later date.
The focus now is on learning from mistakes and deciding on the best way to move forward by adapting strategies so that similar obstacles can be handled and overcome should they occur again in the future. A useful question to ask after a negative issue has occurred is: What actions can be taken to avoid or overcome this issue in the future?
In some cases, developing new strategies may be straightforward, but in other instances it may involve team meetings to discuss alternatives that other staff members have tried, providing training in a specific area of work, or introducing new software to support team members with specific processes.
New performance management trends place much more emphasis on developing employees to be the best that they can be. Scrapping the blame culture involved in rank and yank style of performance management and moving towards a more employee based and solution focused approach will boost staff motivation and improve employee performance.
Stuart Hearn is an HR specialist who has been working in the sector for over 20 years. He currently runs Clear Review, an online performance management software system.