Performance management systems might not be one-size-fits-all, but many management programs do tend to have some common components.
For example, the performance management process generally includes goal-setting -- after all, that's the best way to keep a team focused on what’s meaningful and what isn’t.
Direct, in-the-moment feedback for professional development is also typically a part of these systems. The systems usually do acknowledge that that employee feedback can include public recognition or praise (making for more engaged employees).
Performance management frameworks also typically include an overall performance evaluation, whether that’s through reviews for a given period of time, smaller work performance conversations or check-ins, brief status updates where reports communicate their progress and needs to managers, or 1:1 meetings between managers and their reports.
Finally, your performance management program should be an employee engagement program, too: employee engagement surveys measure how your employees are feeling on a regular basis, so that you can monitor how successful employee engagement initiatives have been and anticipate issues before they become big problems.
While these components show up frequently in performance management frameworks, it is key to note that some systems are more flexible and better able to meet a company’s specific needs than others. At Lattice, we find that there are four programs that tend to be most popular with our customers, as well as professionals in human resources at large, and lead to the most effective performance management; reading through them can help you in your decision-making process regarding one is right for you and your business to enhance everything from employee performance to your bottom line.
As its name implies, this option is a fairly traditional approach: it’s a performance management cycle that includes annual goal-setting/ development plan and 360-degree feedback in the form of fairly traditional performance reviews at a give year-end date. To supplement that, management practices such as weekly 1:1 meetings, as well as ongoing feedback and praise are incorporated, so there is continuous performance feedback. This is key to keeping employee engagement high, and to generating an open dialogue so something like a performance improvement plan is rarely necessary. Finally, an annual employee engagement survey garners performance data for the company: it measures the employee experience of the work environment and company culture. Employee surveys can help limit employee turnover by showing that the company values feedback, and is committed to going the extra mile to address employee needs.
This model tends to be popular with HR professionals and companies that want to incorporate an action plan of continuous feedback alongside annual reviews and boost employee engagement, but don’t have a continuous process in place yet. These companies typically begin to implement this type of performance management program by embracing the more intuitive "first stage" elements of the system: praise for good work and 1:1 meetings. Most companies don’t simply stay with the classic model forever: instead, they utilize it to show employees, both new hires and seasoned staff, what a full performance management cycle is like. Then, once employees have reached the end date/ completed a full review cycle and acclimated to a feedback culture, they transition to a more ambitious program.
Option 2 increases the pace established through Option 1, providing a similar but more rigorous program. Here, performance reviews occur twice a year, with biannual goal-setting. Employee engagement surveys also occur more frequently so the company has more performance information of its own, with two per year/ one every six months. Weekly 1:1 meetings are still present, as well as ongoing public praise and real-time feedback, meaning performance issues and development opportunities are consistently addressed and that staff members always feel supported in their day-to-day work as well as their overall professional development.
This program is perfect for companies that are moving quickly or experiencing rapid growth. Its two performance review cycles enable the company to dedicate one cycle to employee development, and another to compensation -- this can keep employees engaged by providing more feedback and career development, as well as enabling staff to build more skills within and beyond each employee's job description. Incorporating twice-yearly goal-setting, and timing goals with the review cycles also folds the follow-up into the structure and connects goals to performance. This model is best for companies already practicing performance management, as they can implement the model more quickly than one starting from scratch (plus, this model would be difficult to implement if there were no previous performance management system in place).
Option 3 bears some resemblance to Option 2: there is biannual goal-setting, as well as weekly 1:1s, and continuous praise and feedback. One key difference, however, is the incorporation of quarterly developmental reviews to measure performance, with one 360-degree feedback/ annual performance review to cap the year off.
This program is great for companies that have never conducted performance reviews before, as this structure enables them to kickoff with helping employees set goals, and incorporating light employee reviews. Because the annual performance review doesn’t occur till the end of the year, the goal-setting process and development reviews give both employees and managers ample time so performance expectations are clear and goals are truly achievable -- and, if needed, an employee's performance can be addressed through a performance improvement plan. This structure also provides constant opportunities for effective feedback through 1:1s, optional status updates, and real-time feedback and praise to help keep employees supported. The program begins with manager 1:1 meetings and a goal-setting cycle, and ends with a review cycle each quarter.
Companies that need project or team-based reviews will probably find this option to be the best fit; it combines continuous performance management with as-needed performance reviews for individual teams, rather than a yearly review of individual employee performance.
If a company does project-based work, an effective performance management process probably isn't running review cycles for the entire company. Instead, in this case effective performance management probably looks more like running a review cycle for a small team upon completion of a project. Using the project-based performance review doesn’t mean employees aren't continuously developing: this model still incorporates 1:1s, status updates, and goal-setting. For companies using this model, internal communication like quick status updates can be particularly handy: they give team members the ability to report achievement of their performance goals, and request help with obstacles in their work assignments; agencies can utilize this for team members who might be on-project and unavailable for 1:1s, but still might need support.
Your people management system can truly be what you make it. These four options provide a roadmap, but you can tailor the best-fitting option further to meet you business’s unique needs.
Want to learn more? Download our Program Management Models ebook.