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October 2019
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Three Things Organisations Must Fix Before Performance Management Will Work

Posted by: Emma Trenier, Senior Psychologist, Capp


When we’re working with organisations to develop line manager performance management capability, we often need to tackle wider issues first.


Here are the three most common challenges that organisations must address in order for a renewed focus on performance management to succeed.


1.      Trust must trump suspicion


We don’t live in a trusting culture. The norm is not to trust but to establish fault and blame.


One organisation I recently worked with spoke of how Twitter has become a management weapon. Every time negative customer feedback is tweeted, managers go and find who is to blame - trusting the public but not trusting their teams.


Last year’s Where has all the trust gone? report from the CIPD describes how line managers are the first port of call for building organisational trust which is essential when employees are expected to take risks or walk into the unknown. They do this best by demonstrating their consistent ability, benevolence, integrity and predictability.


A performance management approach that demonstrates a lack of trust, e.g., focusing on fault finding, models a lack of transparency, will jeopardise vital trust building.


2.      Individuals must be working on the right things


Then, presuming trust prevails, for performance management to be a successful process, people must be working towards the right goals, i.e., those that best serve the purpose and mission of the organisation.


I take the example of Accenture’s recent Why ‘Low Risk’ Innovation is Costly report. This explains that despite technology companies’ increased funding for innovation, only 13 per cent of executives believe their companies’ innovation initiatives deliver a competitive advantage.


One of the main reasons is that companies focus on low risk activities such as extending existing product lines, rather than pursuing new products and breakthroughs.


In a situation such as this, an executive may be seen to be high performing through demonstrating the right behaviours and achieving her quarterly objectives. However, if she is working on the ‘wrong’ things (in this case ‘low risk’ innovation) then the genuine line between individual and organisational performance is broken.


3.      Managers must be motivated to manage


Finally, to bring out the best in each employee, managers must be motivated to manage performance.


This sounds obvious, but often while managers are competent, successful, technical experts, they are not always motivated to manage performance.


Capp’s 2012 Ideal Manager Survey showed that employees believed the best managers were both competent and deeply motivated to provide mission and purpose, enabling others to grow in skills and self-esteem, and taking ownership for leading their teams with humility.


Recruiting managers with the right strengths and supporting them to stay engaged isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s a pre-requisite for building a high performing organisation.


What is your experience? What other pre-requisites do you think exist for successful performance management?


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