High-performance management involves the implementation of HR practices that are internally consistent and aligned with organizational strategy. Importantly, high-performance management is a continual process where several different but integrated activities create a performance management cycle. It is not a process that should be performed once a year and then hidden in a filing cabinet.
Understanding high-performance management
Indeed, performance management rarely results in improved performance. This is despite the fact that it is a resource-intensive exercise. Employees are often left feeling deflated, unmotivated, and disengaged. Managers become frustrated at a distinct lack of buy-in and the resultant poor performance levels. Alarmingly, research has shown that only 14% of organizations are satisfied with their current performance management system.
The situation is made more difficult because of a lack of clarity on what constitutes high-performance. However, author Michael Armstrong provides a useful definition. He notes that “performance management is the continuous process of improving performance by setting individual and team goals which are aligned to the strategic goals of the organization, planning performance to achieve the goals, reviewing and assessing progress, and developing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of people.“
Importantly, high-performance management is a continual process where several different but integrated activities create a performance management cycle. It is not a process that should be performed once a year and then hidden in a filing cabinet.
The high-performance management cycle
Microsoft, General Electric, Adobe, and Deloitte are examples of companies that have abandoned once-a-year performance appraisals and adopted a more cyclical model.
This model incorporates the following elements:
- Plan. Here, the focus is on developing SMART objectives (aligned with organizational goals) and a personal development plan. Employee job requirements should be evaluated and updated where necessary.
- Act. The employee should then carry out their role and achieve stated objectives. The personal development plan should be implemented.
- Track. Progress should be tracked regularly with regular feedback or coaching given to address obstacles. Some suggest that feedback should be given once every quarter to ensure employees are given the time and necessary support to achieve their goals.
- Review. At this point, the employee and HR manager should reflect on what they have learned and review past achievements. Career goals and future actions should be discussed and agreed upon.
Basic elements of high-performance management
To encourage high-performance, HR managers should consider these building blocks:
- Goal setting – goals need to be set as early as practicable. To increase engagement and empowerment, the employee must be made aware of why their goals matter. How are they furthering organizational and personal objectives?
- Transparent communication and collaboration – employees must be shown the respect of being kept in the loop at all times. If the company is enduring hardship, they should be informed. They should also be kept abreast of important information and given the chance to build collaborative relationships with their co-workers and managers. Transparency also means that both parties never shy away from raising difficult or uncomfortable topics.
- Recognition – high-performance can be bolstered via incentivization. This can take the form of a bonus or an award but if nothing else, every employee should be told that their work is valued and appreciated.
- Honest and regular feedback – the more frequent and concise the feedback, the higher the employee performance.
- Employee development – if an organization is succeeding at high-performance management, then it will naturally produce employees who want to further their own ambitions. Businesses should invest in their staff and not be afraid to lose important talent to a competitor.
- High-performance management encompasses a suite of HR practices. These practices have a focus on the continual improvement of employee and organizational performance.
- A cyclical high-performance management approach has been adopted by several large companies including Adobe, General Electric, and Deloitte.
- High-performance management occurs when employees set goals they are empowered to achieve. Transparent communication, recognition, regular feedback, and employee development are also crucial.
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