Performance management can be one of the most challenging aspects of a manager’s job. But when done strategically, and with an end in mind, it can be a positive and even rewarding experience for the manager as well as the employee.
When I speak to managers, I try to help them understand that managing employees and doing performance appraisals should just be a part of how things are done and ingrained into the culture of the organization.
The following 3 tactics can help a manager ease the pain of performance management and help affect a positive work experience.
1. Setting Expectations
One of the first and most critical steps in effective performance management is setting expectations for the employee. Employees need clear direction on what their responsibilities are and a good understanding of what is expected of them. There are a couple of ways to do this effectively:
- The first is to have a detailed job description that is tied to departmental goals which supports organizational goals. A job description should have very specific job tasks and SMART goals attached to it.
- The second is for a manager to spend time with the employee to be sure they are trained and have a clear understanding of how to do their job, who to go to with questions and what to do when they get to a stopping point.
- The third would be for the manager to meet with the employee at about 90 days and reiterate the expectations and clarify any possible confusion in task responsibility that sometimes comes with actually performing job duties.
- One trick I’ve learned is to have the employee verbally repeat expectations that are given to them. This allows you to hear how they interpreted them and gives you an opportunity to guide them appropriatly.
2. Confront Issues
- Confronting the inevitable issues that come with managing people is sometimes a difficult, time-consuming, challenging and often stressful part of management. Performance issues need to identified quickly and nipped in the bud to avoid things getting worse. Issues that are not confronted can create confusion and foster an unhealthy work environment.
3. Note Taking
Note taking is documentation of employee performance. While this can be a tedious and cumbersome task, there are short cuts to streamline the process. Some things that have worked for me are:
- If you use a calendar or day planner, keep a separate page in the back for each employee that you manage. For example, have a page for Sue Smith, Tom Tucker, Amy Foster, etc. On those pages you should jot down incidents that happen and keep the following columns:
- Persons involved
- Action Taken
The trick is if you observe a positive behavior, tell the employee and jot it down. If you observe a behavior you want changed, mention it to the employee and jot it down.
If you do everything electronically, you can create an excel spread sheet and keep a separate page on each employee. Save it in Google docs or drop-box to have access anywhere.
Example Note Taking Log
When a manager prepares for the annual performance appraisal, this log provides all the information they need to be objective about employee performance. This sets the stage to have an honest, factual and unbiased conversation with the employee that celebrates the successes and corrects behaviors that may have veered off course.
As you can see from the above log, if a manager documents all incidents, both positive and negative, the employee is constantly receiving feedback and learning what their behavior boundaries are and positively reinforcing behaviors that go above and beyond job expectations.
While this may seem to be a lot of extra work, the rewards are great when you see an employee grow and develop. Coaching and helping employees grow professionally is one of the biggest rewards in managing people. The way you manage employees may set a professional development course for them. That responsibility should not be taken lightly.
This article was originally published June 24, 2012 and updated June 12, 2013.