September 24, 2020 | watsimp

The much feared performance discussion can actually be a key driver of culture and engagement (especially during times of uncertainty and change)

Early in my career the company I worked for announced that we were being acquired. The deal was expected to close in 6 -9 months. We were also told that the annual performance review process that was due to start that week would be deferred by a year. For me this was the bigger shock than the acquisition itself! I had worked hard and I had been looking forward to the feedback, career discussions and possible career progression. Deferring all that by a year felt catastrophic and unfair.

I approached my manager and requested that we still do an informal performance discussion. I just wanted his feedback on how I had done that year and what I needed to do better. Fortunately for me he agreed. And I had the best performance discussion of my career! Without the pressure and expectation of a rating, salary increase or career progression my manager & I were able to have an open and honest discussion.

In recent times, a number of business and HR leaders I have spoken to are facing a similar dilemma. Does it make sense to do a performance review in the middle of the pandemic? Is it fair to employees? Is it the best use of time and resources?

We need our teams to be more motivated and productive than ever before. Performance discussions are a key and under-used lever of culture and employee engagement.

3 ways in which performance discussions can reinforce culture and build employee engagement

  • Performance discussions can help both the employee and the manager connect beyond just the goals and achievement. Goals are largely focused on the “what”. The performance discussion gives both the chance to explore “how” the goals were achieved. “How” is heavily influenced by team culture!  The performance discussion becomes a great opportunity for us as managers to align and nudge the team, to achieve goals in line with the team culture we want to create.
  • Performance discussions give us the opportunity to show our team how we value them. We get the chance to show them they are not just resources. Our input & feedback on their contributions (& misses) helps them understand that we are aware of their contributions, know their challenges and care about their success. It’s a great way to showcase the openness and fairness that we as managers espouse.
  • The best of us have big areas of improvement. Performance discussions are perfect for us to work with our teams to mutually identify areas that need improvement and agree on what the individual needs to do and where we can support. Employee development is a massive engagement opportunity. And we as managers have significant influence on this.

If for some reason, your company is unable to make salary changes, that’s ok. When things turnaround (& they usually do!), your top performers will still be around because you have told them that you value them!

You will know where the performance gaps are and would have had the opportunity to both support people do better or decide on next steps.

The performance discussion gives us the opportunity to objectively review performance without the pressure of ratings, salary increases or promotions riding on our assessment.  Objectivity will help build trust with the team and help build a culture of trust and a growth mindset.

Performance discussions during a crisis are a perfect opportunity to create and build the best team culture and team motivation. Let’s not let this crisis go to waste!

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