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Why we need to re-engineer performance management

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Whilst managing performance is something which should be very natural, re-engineered performance management approaches often feel very artificial. Jon Ingham, Executive Consultant, Strategic Dynamics Consultancy Services breaks down the new ways to manage performance.

Traditional approaches to performance management are reaching the end of the road. It is time to get rid of them, or at least to change them fairly fundamentally, so that we can do something new, different and important: we can actually manage performance!

HR as a whole has been going through dramatic change over the last decade or so. Recruitment, learning, and communication in particular have been completely transformed in many organisations. A lot of this, though certainly not all, is down to the potential of new technology, and in particular, the need and opportunity to become more social.

For example, in recruitment we have moved away from post and pray advertising to a more conversational approach, often focused on employer branding and external talent communities.

It has taken longer to understand the potential for transforming performance management, but over the last five years we have seen a rapid increase in the number of organisations making deep changes to this process area too, often dropping ratings and annual reviews and moving towards a more continuous, compelling and intuitive approach involving ongoing feedback and coaching.

There are various new options that can support this shift.

As with other areas of HR, one popular approach is to make performance management more social. This works particularly well in team-based organisations where the point of performance is already the team and it just makes sense to bring together a whole team to review the performance of the team.

Another advantage of doing this is that performance management becomes part of ongoing conversation, anchoring the process in the culture in a way which is difficult to achieve when performance management is largely constrained to meetings between an individual and their manager.

Whilst managing performance is something which should be very natural, even re-engineered performance management approaches often feel very artificial.

Although some organisations have long undertaken team-based performance management this is now much more feasible, as it can be embedded in enterprise social networking or online team chat, or by refocussing on social recognition.

For some organisations, even these types of changes are not transformational enough.

I think the most fundamental insight of these companies is that whilst managing performance is something which should be very natural, even re-engineered performance management approaches often feel very artificial. That is, the performance management system gets in the way of managing performance.

The even more radical solution, therefore, is to get rid of the entire process, and just encourage people to talk about their performance. Whilst this may sound very alien, it can be done.

So there is plenty of opportunity to change. However, it is important that we do not just jump from one set of best practices to a new bandwagon. The key to any successful transformation is to work out what is required, or is best fit, for a particular organisation. This is especially important in Asia when most of the case studies come from the West.

It can also be helpful to think about what might be best fit for a particular group or individual too. We do not need to, and should not attempt to treat someone in a knowledge role the same as someone in a production role, or someone who wants to advance in their career the same as someone who wants to stay in their current job, or even someone who is happy to change and values feedback to someone who is happy to learn new technical skills but wants to stay who they are.

It may therefore be useful to think about the main opportunity for re-engineering performance management being a shift from a standardised, bureaucratic approach to one which feels compelling because it is adapted to organisational and individual needs.

And when we can achieve this shift, we can ensure that we are contributing effectively towards maximising the performance of our individual employees, teams and the whole organisation we work within too.


Based in the UK, Jon Ingham has previously assumed the roles of head of HR, HR director, and consultant for large organisations such as Ernst & Young and Accenture. He has been recognised as the seventh most influential HR thinker in the UK, 2013 and the #1 top global online influencer in talent management, 2010.

This October, Ingham will be conducting HR Masterclasses on the topic “Re-engineering and Revolutionising Performance Management”: 7–8 October 2019 in Kuala Lumpur, and 10–11 October 2019 in Singapore.

Make sure you and your team don’t miss out on this opportunity to innovate performance management. To sign up or request more information, send an email to our friendly Project Managers, seraphinen@humanresourcesonline.net and hemalathas@humanresourcesonline.net.

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