Legacy models of performance management won’t cut it in today’s workplace, but designing and implementing an entirely new performance management process is much easier said than done.
It can be challenging to gain buy-in and participation from key stakeholders — especially managers and employees. Their buy-in is essential to getting your new processes up and running because they will be the ones who use the system daily.
These performance management process tips can help you take your workforce’s performance to the next level.
Align Processes With Organizational Goals
If your processes aren’t designed to drive business results, your implementation won’t deliver the results you’re hoping for. Here’s how to stay focused on moving the business forward.
Collect Input From Relevant Stakeholders
The easiest way to get buy-in from managers and employees is to position system changes as solving problems for their biggest challenges.
Before you can design and implement improved performance management processes, you need to pinpoint the current gaps in your legacy processes. Survey relevant stakeholders to understand their concerns with your existing program.
Direct managers are the most critical stakeholder group. Responsible for the day-to-day management of employee performance, most of the behavioral changes in your new system will fall to them.
Modern performance management relies on increased communication between managers and their team members. This model calls upon managers to become coaches. Those are significant changes for most managers, so you need to get them on board with leadership development before you can roll out a successful process.
The employees themselves are the second key group of stakeholders because they will be directly affected by changes in performance management. Gather input from employees to learn which elements of performance management will have the best possible effects on their work outcomes.
Collect that information from surveys and focus groups to support your redesign process.
Set Stretch Goals for Performance Management
Raise the bar on what you can expect from your performance management system. Take the loftiest goals uncovered during your discovery process and format them into your performance management program objectives.
These objectives—and the key results that indicate success—will help you determine how successful your program is at driving business results through improved performance. Improving productivity is an obvious goal for a performance management program, but you need to put specific metrics behind it. Consider goals that focus on enhancing coaching skills for managers and driving better employee engagement.
Align the goals of your new performance management program with the business’s larger goals. If your stretch goals for the program aren’t driving business outcomes, you aren’t achieving the best possible results. Work with peers in the C-suite to align your new system’s goals with business needs.
Set Goals and Metrics for a Successful Implementation
Set goals and metrics for monitoring the success of your program implementation—a completely separate category from the business objectives you need the program itself to deliver,
Define what success looks like for implementation and set clear metrics for measuring success. For example, a successful implementation might mean reaching a 90% adoption rate or attaining 50% more daily check-ins than before implementing the program.
As you roll out your new performance management system, track these metrics across the workforce to measure adoption.
Take a People-First Approach to Your Communication Plan
Process changes may start at the top, but the buy-in from people makes all the difference. To begin creating employee buy-in, use your access to company influencers such as team leaders who can help drive your goals.
Here’s how to plant the seeds of change at all levels of the organization.
Rely on Relationships to Drive Results
Good relationships between HR and workforce leaders are your most powerful tool for getting the workforce on board with procedural changes. Consistent casual conversations provide information about each team’s pain points and what managers need from an effective performance management system.
Gaining a more intimate understanding of what each team needs gives you an advantage when pitching these process changes to leaders. And if you already have a positive reputation built on good relationships, your perspective and advice will carry more weight.
Identify Key Organizational Influencers
The biggest influencers in your company aren’t always the people with formal titles. If you want to drive the adoption of a new process, identify the people with opinions that hold the most clout with colleagues.
Determine who is most respected by their team members for each team across the company. These are the people you need to win over first, making buy-in from the rest of the organization more manageable.
If you haven’t already built relationships with company influencers, that’s one of your most essential starting points. If company influencers believe in your goals, they’ll become ambassadors within their spheres of influence for your new performance management system.
Recruit the most passionate people to become part of your pilot program and help you refine your new process changes.
Prime Managers and Employees for Change
Before you roll out a full-scale trial run of your new performance management system, use your relationships and influence to prime managers and employees for change.
If you have data from surveys and focus groups regarding what they want to see from a new system, use those points to win over managers and employees. Show them your process designs, and highlight how you’re planning to solve the problems you uncovered during discovery.
For example, most modern performance management systems involve daily check-ins and frequent feedback. If the managers you’ve surveyed want employees to take more ownership of their work, explain how more frequent touch points and constructive feedback will empower employees to become more accountable.
Make the Case for Changing Employee Performance Management
You’ve probably had trouble getting managers to carry out your legacy performance management processes.
To get your managers on board, demonstrate overwhelming evidence that the program improves performance and drives business outcomes—a problem-solving solution to issues they currently face each day.
Launch a Pilot Program
All the planning in the world is pointless without putting your plan into practice. Select one or two teams to implement your new process. Ideally, these teams should be volunteers invested in helping you refine methods to achieve the program’s larger goals.
No matter how promising a plan looks on paper, you may find that it can fall apart in practice. As part of the pilot program, you’ll learn which resources you need to improve before scaling up. If managers in the pilot program are struggling with formal performance reviews, for example, you can develop a template or checklist to support them moving forward.
Review the data from your pilot program and analyze the influence your pilot is having on business results.
Showcase How the Change Will Drive Results
As part of your targeted, ongoing communication plan, share the positive outcomes of your pilot program with results-driven leaders across the business.
Demonstrate how your pilot performance management program supports business goals and objectives. Help managers see how your new process can help their teams become more productive. This validation will help you gain their buy-in and increase the chances of implementing the requested changes in their units.
Maintain communication with stakeholders throughout this process. Listen to the feedback you receive from participants in the pilot program. Develop focus groups for managers to observe the pilot program and offer feedback, helping you refine processes before a companywide rollout.
Highlight the Everyday Benefits
Demonstrate the pilot program’s significance to each team’s daily attitudes and operations. Rolling out a new performance management system should clarify expectations, build relationships, and align daily tasks with business goals.
Say, for example, that behavioral changes and frequent feedback build trust between team members and their managers. With that increased trust comes a greater ability for managers to delegate responsibilities to high-potential employees. That trust also drives employees to understand and gain greater confidence in their abilities. These changes in attitude create a better, more efficient work environment.
Help stakeholders make the connection between your new program and daily operations improvements, and you’ll cement their support.
Roll Out Your New Performance Management System
With your pilot program in place and willing participants ready to go across the company, it’s time to roll out your program on a larger scale.
Scale Up Your Pilot Program
Your pilot program tests your new performance processes at a manageable level, allowing you to collect feedback and tweak things until you get everything right. Once that process is complete, you can scale up the refined program for implementation across the workforce.
A full rollout is the part in the process you’ve been working toward the entire time. But don’t rush it! You must maintain strong communication with stakeholders to transition them to your new process.
Take your time so that you can work out the kinks and remain accessible to colleagues. You’ll continue to receive feedback and likely encounter new, unforeseen challenges. Continue to refine the program as implementation progresses.
Train Users on Performance Management Software
Your new performance management software should be easy to use and integrate seamlessly with software your stakeholders are already using.
As you scale up performance management processes across the company, implement training on the logistics of using new software to record frequent feedback and performance appraisals. Ensure that managers and employees understand when and how to use the new software.
Recording performance data is essential in the first few months of implementation because it will help you determine if the company is meeting the program’s goals.
Provide Behavioral Guidelines
Because modern performance management is much more hands-on than legacy systems, you’ll need to help managers build more frequent employee communication habits.
Modern performance management also encourages managers to coach employees. Coaching requires managers to step back, providing guidance on employee tasks without simply taking over or micromanaging employees.
These significant behavioral changes will likely be the hardest for the workforce to adopt. Provide guidance and checklists to help managers build sustainable habits. Incorporate those task lists and reminders within your HR technology stack to automate the process.
Monitor Your Success or Failure to Achieve Results
No process implementation is complete until you’ve benchmarked your actual results against your set goals.
Revisit Your Goals and Metrics
Return to your goals for the new performance management system. Are you reaching the metrics you need to achieve your stated objectives?
Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t achieved your stretch goals for the program by the end of implementation. Remember that it’s okay to fall short on ambitious goals because wherever you land will still be farther along than your company was at the start of the process.
Alter your goals to be more realistic and achievable within a specified timeframe, but keep those stretch goals in mind. While it’s perfectly acceptable to expand the timeline on your most ambitious goals, don’t give up on them.
Determine What Worked — and What Didn’t
Not everything you try is going to work. In fact, many processes won’t work — and that’s fine, as long as you’re committed to learning from the experience.
Talk with stakeholders to determine what’s been successful about your new program and its implementation — and what hasn’t. Analyze this data, and tweak your plans to leverage best practices to transform your failures into opportunities.
Use Data to Drive Continuous Improvement
You’ll never have a permanently-optimized performance management system because too many factors outside of your control influence employee performance. Plan to revise your approach as necessary to ensure that it’s delivering the best possible outcomes.
Build a check-in process for monitoring ongoing results. As circumstances alter performance change, you may need to update your procedures to keep everyone moving in the right direction. Solicit feedback from stakeholders to identify the top opportunities for continuous improvement.
Drive Results Through Performance Management
Effective performance management can make all the difference between a company that’s simply “making it by” and one that’s flourishing. Although rolling out a new performance management system is no easy task, it can produce significant gains for your business.
By implementing these performance management process tips, you can achieve buy-in at all workforce levels to create a smoother transition and even better results.