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Does good performance management start with you?

by Jane Lonsdale

High Five

The end to automatic pay progression in the Public Sector shines a bright light on performance management.

The question is – how to frame something sufficiently robust enough to support the link to pay, whilst encouraging individuals to contribute strongly in the right areas to help the business succeed?

Let’s stop right there.

One of the issues around performance management has been over-complicating it, and loading a myriad of organisational processes and ends onto this one vehicle. The result: frustration; often all round. The words “performance management” speak to a means of control, so perhaps it is time to leave this behind – to change the language as well as the parameters.

Bog standard performance management

A consistent message we have heard over the years in central government has been that performance management is seen as a once a year activity, tied to the generation of a rating. Outcomes are required at a certain time so that the information can be used for pay awards and that is the focal point, whatever the quality of discussion and effectiveness of feedback loops as the work is done across the year. Linked to this becomes the need to standardise. So, competence frameworks and moderation panels and other means of addressing transparency and fairness are built into the scheme or system.

Too often this ends in bureaucratic paralysis. The worst that can happen is complete disengagement; more typically, the encouragement of the few and and lip-service paid by the majority. Result: a huge investment of time and energy for marginal return.

So, let’s re-frame the question.

How can we best set up processes and systems that encourage our people to grow themselves and our business?

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How can we best set up processes and systems that encourage our people to grow themselves and our business? and following on from that, how can we best reward them for doing so? That question applies not just to the public sector but any organisation.

How to manage and release the energy of your staff

As managers and leaders do you know what motivates your staff? And how far do the organisational tools that you are given, including performance management, enable you to capture and grow the creativity of your staff?

The implication of this is that not only is there no easy answer that can be taken off the shelf, but that one-size may not even fit the whole of your organisation. Public and third sector organisations can be highly complex. They may be bound together by some core values but see the world from very different perspectives. And some business areas, or even more specifically, types of role, may be driven by different values, ambitions and ways of working. Indeed difference may be the key to their value to the organisation – in the public sector, commercial roles are often a good example of this. So, different performance management schemes for different parts of the organisation?

Hmm, that starts to sound pretty complicated and burdensome. Which takes us to the common core, the irreducible minimum to bind together the organisational mix.

So what can you do?

Perhaps that is still as simple as it ever was: making clear to your people what the purpose of their role is (what they need to do), the values of the organisation (acceptable ways of doing business) and equipping them to do it (providing the support to develop each individual’s capability). Clarity about what’s required and what’s expected sounds simple enough for managers to get on with on their own.

But the options, tools and opportunities needed to develop the capability of their teams and individuals within won’t all be within the gift of the individual manager. Access to resources, whether knowledge-sharing, courses, mentoring, secondments all need to be signposted, so the supporting infrastructure needs to be managed. But most importantly, managers need to have the skills to bring out the best in their teams. Is this where good performance management really starts and ends?

Beamans’ work with managers to bring out the best in their teams

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Jane Lonsdale

Jane Lonsdale is Beamans' Managing Director and lead expert on Organisational Effectiveness.

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This article is filed under: Reward Performance Management