Discover the actions you can take to address the workforce issues raised in this report.
Recommendation 1: Build trust and reduce bias in performance processes.
Traditional performance management has 100-year-old roots. While it has changed over time, the approach is not well-suited to employee expectations, the realities of modern work, and the speed of change. Organizations and employees increasingly realize and expect that performance management must help drive employee engagement to improve organizational performance. With agile and matrixed working models on the rise, enabling discussions of progress against targets need to be more frequent to help employees stay aligned with their organization’s strategic goals. Employees also expect their everyday work experience to enable, not hinder, their performance.
HR needs to take a forward-looking perspective about how to enable performance every day, rather than looking in the rear-view mirror by measuring performance once or twice a year.
Recommendation 2: Use feedback data and workforce audits to root out bias.
Implement an anytime feedback model so that employees and managers can freely request and provide written feedback, and use peer feedback in the performance review process. Additionally, review your performance management process for biases, such as recency, confirmation, and negativity bias. To truly root out bias, HR should go one step further. Leverage AI, data, analytics, and reports to determine whether there are systemic biases. Audit your workforce practices, including performance ratings, calibration, promotions, and compensation decisions. Investigate “leading indicators” of bias.
These could include whether underrepresented employees receive coaching conversations with the same frequency as other employees and whether the language used in feedback questions and responses varies across underrepresented employee groups.
Recommendation 3: Examine processes and behaviors that undermine fairness.
With fairness, inclusion, belonging, and trust so intertwined — and elemental — to the employee experience, it behooves HR leaders to examine the processes and behaviors that undermine these in an organization. This includes reviewing your performance management approach with your workforce to determine if and how it is viewed as unfair and biased, especially when it comes to how you enable career growth. If you don’t already have one, institute a calibration process that’s fair and rates everybody the same way for similar types of achievements and behaviors. The right technology will allow you to easily peer into your data to uncover sources of hidden bias. The results may require making adjustments to your performance management processes or they may lead you to consider overhauling them all together. The time to act is now, while employees are generally feeling positive.
Recommendation 4: Focus on career development discussions and career pathing.
Career pathing works. If you haven’t done so already, make sure manager-employee conversations are frequent and structured. Managers should be encouraged to regularly include questions about the employee’s career aspirations and discuss opportunities for building related skills. These should be documented, added to the employee’s performance plan, and discussed regularly to monitor and promote progress.
Examine the effectiveness of your upskilling and other L&D programs. Unless courses and progress tie into an employee’s performance, managers won’t necessarily see the impact of the employee’s efforts. Without this visibility, the ability to level up and be promoted may not come to fruition. Make sure learning is expressed as a goal and be sure that HR can track the impact of learning on career development and advancement.
Recommendation 5: Provide resources to strengthen managers and promote coaching.
Being an effective manager requires relational and coaching skills that may not come naturally. HR should support managers with the resources and training they need to communicate and connect employees’ work to the organization’s purpose as well as to coach and enable their teams and direct reports.
Strengthening your managers will have an outsized impact on the business. Ask them what resources and tools they require, and develop a menu of support options that address significant needs. To make your effort cost-effective and scalable, leverage a technology solution that allows you to embed these capabilities in the flow of work and with just-in-time, context-aware nudges, recommendations, and best practices that empower managers to be their best.
Seek to continuously improve and fine-tune your plan with managers to ensure you meet their evolving needs.
Recommendation 6: Better support employees by reexamining your performance management practices.
Ask yourself if your performance management approach is yielding the results you want or is hampering or harming your employees’ ability to perform at their best. Do they view it as biased, a waste of time, or diffcult to maneuver?
If so, whatever investment you have made is, at best, being wasted, and at worst, undermining employees’ internal motivation, engagement, and sense of well-being. This could be costly to your business if lower productivity and higher turnover result.
Modern performance management is really about performance enablement, not managing. It is:
• Focused on setting agile goals that align with business objectives
• Delivered through frequent and structured conversations and feedback that strengthen collaboration, trust, intrinsic motivation, and a sense of accomplishment
• Reinforced by recognizing and celebrating achievement
This approach elevates and empowers your people, culture, and organization.