Today’s post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

I recently read a statistic that blew my mind: “According to a survey of 48,000 employees, managers and CEOs by the leadership training and research firm, Leadership iQ, only 13 percent of employees and managers, and 6 percent of CEOs, think their organization's performance appraisal system is useful.”

I can’t say I’m surprised by the 13 percent number: when was the last time you heard any employee say, “I’m so excited for my performance review!”? Or any manager say, “My favorite part of being a manager is writing performance reviews each year!”?


But 6 percent of CEOs!?! That’s actually shocking to me, because that’s pretty darn close to zero, and if the vast majority of head decision-makers at companies think performance reviews are useless, why hasn’t anyone done anything to make them more useful?

If there was ever a time to re-think the performance review and figure out how to make it useful, meaningful, helpful – all the “fuls" – now is the time. In the last year, COVID-19 impacted just about every person’s job – whether you were hunkered down at home or had to be there in person. We’re re-thinking so many aspects of work at this time: office space, flexibility, talent acquisition, wellness programs, it just makes sense to re-think performance reviews and performance management as well.

We’ve had some wonderful posts from our board members over the years about how to make performance reviews better – here are just a few: 

The Problem with Making Performance Management Just Another Managerial Task: This post from John Hollon cites research from Gallup that found the performance management process to be “irrevocably broken”, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. John argues that the keys to effective performance management are ongoing conversations, timely recognition, and informal dialogue on a weekly basis.

The Key Ingredient for Effective Performance Management: This post from Dennis Miller notes that corporate research and advisory firm CEB found that only 4 percent of HR managers think their system of assessing employees is effective at measuring performance, while 83 percent say their systems need an overhaul. Dennis outlines some ideas on how to do this most effectively.

Sharlyn Lauby on Managing Performance: This podcast with Sharlyn Lauby focuses on what organizations can do to get performance management right. Sharlyn discusses the issue in the context of her chapter in The Workforce Institute's most recent book, Being Present:  A Practical Guide for Transforming the Employee Experience of Your Frontline Workforce.

Upping Your Employee Feedback Game: Former Workforce Institute executive director, Joyce Maroney, highlights the need for more timely feedback and provides "how-to's" for having those difficult conversations that can often derail a good performance management strategy.

Analytics Moves HR Towards Being a Strategic Partner: In this post, Neil Reichenberg reports on research that looks at where HR professionals are implementing HR analytics programs at their organizations and finds that one of the key areas is the performance review process, noting that the use of analytics can lead to "Increased completion rate of performance evaluations, assisting to switch to a goal-oriented evaluation approach, and facilitating the use of more frequent performance discussions."

Do you think the performance review process at your organization is useful? How could it be better? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member and Skeptical Guy, John Hollon. 

Here's a lesson I keep learning over and over: You need to sit up pay close attention when somebody does something wildly out of character.

Have a calm and reasoned friend who suddenly goes off and gets loud and crazy over something? When that happens, you need to focus on what they're saying because people don't just suddenly change their character.

Whatever is causing that to happen is probably something important that you REALLY want to know about.

This is true for organizations, too, and that's why I pay close attention when a solid one like Gallup says that when it comes to performance management:

"It's time to burn the boats, leave old performance practices behind, and create a performance management strategy that is adaptive, responsive and calibrated to the new workplace."

Time to burn the boats? Like what Hernán Cortés did to motivate his men when he began his conquest of Mexico? That's something I would expect from a crazy HR blogger and not from a highly respected research giant.

The sorry state of performance management

What got Gallup spouting off was the very thing that organizations everywhere complain about -- the sorry state of performance management. There's nothing new about that, of course, and back in 2013, I reported that only 28 percent of companies thought they were doing performance management well.

But Gallup has more urgent concerns, and now they're making the case that:

"The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown performance management systems into chaos. ...How do you make performance goals fair and meaningful in this topsy-turvy, ever-changing, uncertain-future environment? ...Before the pandemic, many organizations believed they had modernized their performance management system. But now, the boardroom buzzword "agility" has finally become an urgent need. Whatever happens, you can be certain that the marketplace will be shifting for many months, if not years."

Gallup is right about performance management being a big problem, but it's not because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

No, performance management is still an issue because a great many organizations, and managers at all levels, have never really taken performance management terribly seriously.

That's what happens when the process of helping people improve and grow becomes just another task for overworked managers to squeeze in among all the other things they're responsible for.

It's what companies get when they take what should be THE most important thing for supervisors to focus on, and instead, turn it into just another managerial task.

Gallup does dig into what they define as "the Three Essential Characteristics of Modernized Performance Management," and while that sounds good, I don't find these "essential characteristics" of performance management to be all that different from what has been done before.

Here are the "essential characteristics" from Gallup. See what you think. They are:

They may sound good, but ask yourself, is this is a "burn the boats" strategy for better performance management?

You know the answer to that -- No, it's just a tinkering and streamlining of what organizations should have been doing with performance management all along.

The answer is actually pretty simple

The most relevant characteristic is No. 2, because "ongoing conversations, timely recognition, and informal dialogue on a weekly basis" has been a critically important part of managing people for a very long time.

The problem has been that not enough leaders and managers take the time to spend more time with their team, and having those conversations, informal dialogue, and the recognition of good work.

Great performance management isn't hard, but it does take time and consistent effort. The more time a manager spends with people, the more time the people want, and the better work they do. Most managers know this, but most managers also seem to always have something more important to do than deal with performance management.

In the end, what Gallup has done is wake us up by a call to "burn the boats" so that we would pay attention to the fact that, other than a little modernizing, great performance management is really just about more focus and face time with your people.

That's all it is -- time consuming, but simple when you get right down to it. Let's hope more leaders listen and heed Gallup's call.

This podcast is a conversation between Joyce Maroney, former Executive Director of the Workforce Institute and board member Sharlyn Lauby and part of the series of podcasts we're hosting on key ideas from our most recently published book, Being Present:  A Practical Guide for Transforming the Employee Experience of Your Frontline Workforce. Here, Sharlyn shares her advice for managing performance.

Sharlyn Lauby is a well known author, speaker and human resources expert. She has published multiple books on HR topics including onboarding and recruiting and is the President of ITM Group Inc., a training and human resources consulting firm helping companies manage their talent. Sharlyn is the brains behind the well-known HR Bartender blog which has been recognized by SHRM as one of the top 5 blogs read by HR professionals.

Sharlyn’s chapter in our book is titled Performance Management: the Art of Giving Managers and Employees the Tools to be Successful. In it she discusses how performance management influences business outcomes and – even more importantly – what leaders can and should do to get performance management right in their own organizations.

Listen in on the conversation below to hear more.

Conversation with Sharlyn Lauby about performance management.

The following post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos.

For a lot of managers, the last few months of the year bring the launch of the annual performance review process.   Many managers dread  the administrative process and/or the resulting conversations they'll need to have while delivering reviews.  Why?

Giving feedback.  As a manager, you know it's the key to developing employees and boosting their motivation and productivity.  In study after study, people say they want to receive it from their managers.  You know you need to do (more of) it.  What holds you back?  For many managers the first answer is probably making the time for it, but for many it may be that giving feedback is going to entail having a difficult conversation with an employee.  Those difficult conversations can range from having to address under-performance to the challenge of providing your super star with adequate challenge and recognition.

I've managed other people for over 25 years, and had a lot of conversations with other leaders about ways to provide feedback that are actionable and effective.  Below, I share some of my key lessons learned.

Own your authority

I had to learn to stop couching my communications in a way that undermined my authority as a leader.  In my early years as a manager, I tended to adopt an almost apologetic tone when giving people feedback about their performance.  "I know this has been a tough time for you.  You've been really busy.  Perhaps I wasn't clear...." I learned that my team members needed me to be clear and succinct as to what needed to be done. And they appreciated constructive feedback that helped them improve their performance and their access to opportunities.  They didn't need me to preface feedback with a list of possible excuses for why improvement was needed.

Set the stage for feedback by establishing clear goals

People need their manager to be clear about goals.  The SMART framework is a good starting point; i.e. goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound.  You can find lots of references on how to write SMART goals.  The key is that you do this in a timely fashion for all of your team members, in writing, and revisit the goals together periodically to track progress and fine tune if needed.

Feedback should be frequent

When you see something, say something.  Feedback shouldn't be confined to the annual performance review.  When you observe an employee doing something positive, let them know what you observed and what the positive impact of that behavior was.  Likewise, when a negative behavior needs to be addressed, don't wait to have that conversation because...

Avoiding tough conversations only makes them harder

Giving employees feedback that there is something they need to change can be painful for both parties to the conversation.  The longer you let negative behaviors go on, the more difficult the conversations become.  Don't let issues escalate to the point that they are keeping you up at night.  In the absence of feedback from you that there is a problem, you're relying on magical thinking to solve it.

Framework for tough conversations

You can find lots of different models for having tough conversations.  In my experience, it boils down to a few key techniques:

  1. Prepare for the conversation, including coaching from HR if you need it.  What problem are you trying to solve? Is solving the problem likely possible? What are the person's options if they don't want to make the change required?  Think through the likely ways the conversation is apt to go.  When the stakes are high, consider role playing the conversation with an HR pro or another trusted advisor.
  2. Schedule adequate private time to have the conversation.
  3. Be direct. Start the conversation by saying "This is going to be a tough conversation." An HR leader suggested this technique to me early in my management career.  It may sound abrupt, but it's a great way to focus the conversation and keep you from undermining the seriousness of the conversation.
  4. Behavior-Impact.  Describe the behavior that needs to be addressed and clearly explain the impact it is having on others and on them.  When you weren't prepared with updates at the weekly XYZ project meeting, it negatively impacts your colleagues.  They may not be able to move forward on their own action items without that information. 
  5. Ask the person if they understand the feedback and what they need to address it.  “Are you aware of how your behavior comes across?  What do you think you can do to change this? What can I do as your manager to help you with this?
  6. Agree on an action plan to address the behavior.  As much as possible, the action plan should come from the employee, with you coaching as needed.

Don't skimp on the positive feedback

Global research we conducted in 2017 revealed that 41% of respondents were surprised by positive feedback they received in their most recent performance review while only 14% were surprised by negative feedback. On average, our survey respondents had last had positive feedback from their manager over 3 months before taking this survey.

Most of your employees are doing praiseworthy things every day.  Look for them.  The same Behavior-Impact technique described above works here too.  "Our boss was really impressed with the presentation you gave yesterday, as was I.  Your data was compelling and your call to action was clear."

What have you found to be effective techniques for providing effective feedback?  Share your ideas in the comments section.






Today's post comes to us courtesy of board member Dennis Miller, the Chief Employment Officer at Cal Poly Pomona Foundation.

For several years now, many in the HR world have been predicting the death of the annual performance review. However, it seems that reports of its death, with apologies to Mark Twain, have indeed been greatly exaggerated, as more than half of all organizations still conduct them.

And yet, according to corporate research and advisory firm CEB, only 4 percent of HR managers think their system of assessing employees is effective at measuring performance, while 83 percent say their systems need an overhaul.

Whether your organization does or does not have annual reviews, two fundamental things have not changed over time: employers need to communicate to their employees the expectations of their roles, and managers need to provide timely and accurate feedback to their employees on how closely they are meeting the core expectations of these roles.

Regardless of the system used, the most important aspect of any performance management process – and the most difficult – is the communications phase. This is nearly always the weakest point in any performance management process. Employee communications is where the work of managing for performance is actually achieved, and also happens to be the most time consuming portion of nearly any performance management process.

There are many good tools available to help with the processes of performance management. Obviously, a well-designed and easy-to-use performance management system in many HMC platforms can help measurably in this area. However, the system is the enabler of the performance management process, and in order to really achieve an improvement in performance management, one must master the basics of employee communications, or the system will simply not yield the intended results.

Here are 5 suggestions for how you can begin to enable good employee performance communications at your organization:

1. Empower employees with information: Let employees know what to expect before scheduling and holding performance-based meetings. Let each employee know how his or her exact role fits into the bigger picture of what the company is striving to achieve and how they contribute to the greater good. Stating this linkage in an understandable way is crucial to any progress toward improving performance.

2. Put it on your calendar: Commit to regular performance feedback “touch bases” with each employee you manage. For example, bi-weekly 1-1 meetings. These need not be lengthy – 30 minutes is often adequate, although scheduling 60 minutes every two weeks can be even better. Do not change the meeting schedule unless there is a genuine emergency, and in those rare instances, communicate the nature of the emergency to the employee impacted.

3. Let the employee take the lead: In preparation for 1-1 meetings, ask the employee to come prepared with agenda items they want to discuss, and let the employee work through their list first. A key focus of the manager during 1-1s is to listen for barriers that prevent the employee from being successful in his or her role, and then help remove those barriers. Ask your employee what you can do to help them achieve better outcomes – and if they need help with anything.

4. Focus on the big picture: While 1-1 meetings tend to focus on the immediate work and day-to-day issues, always take the opportunity to remind the employee how their contributions are directly linked to the mission of the company and how their work contributes to the larger picture. Showing how their work relates directly to keeping or adding new customers is always a great example to offer.

5. Adhere to the no surprises rule: A hallmark of a good annual performance review is that there are no surprises. To help to ensure you follow this rule, use the notes from your 1-1 meetings to create a picture of the annual performance for each employee – this should ensure you capture all major achievements and don’t introduce anything new into the picture that may catch the employee by surprise.

Bottom line: if you want to improve employee and organizational performance significantly, ensure your managers are dedicated to communicating timely, accurate, and regular feedback to their employees, in a manner employees truly understand. Achieve this as a first step in your effort to improve employee performance and you will then be able to show measurable results in this area. Overlook the communications phase, or provide it with less than the time required for effective communications, and you’re likely to experience low to no improvements in performance management, regardless of the system used.

I particularly like Dennis's recommendation about weekly touch base meetings - a practice I've used for the 25 years I've been a people manager.  Nothing beats a steady cadence of feedback that is part of an ongoing collaboration and conversation between manager and employee. - Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute.

joyce and trollI know I whined about this last year, but somehow the annual performance review process never loses its sting.  Like the troll here I met at Weta Cave, the deadlines loom threateningly until the last few hours remain and the clock is ticking down to complete the reviews or end up on the non-compliance list.   Our HR leadership has embarked on a multi-phased effort to make this process more meaningful and effective, and I applaud that effort.  We are asked to assess both the "what" (measurable objectives) and the "how" (behavioral competencies) of each of our employees.  We've rolled out training across the company to all people managers to establish norms around management practices, including performance management.

That we value our employees and take their development seriously is a strength for Kronos.  We've been cited as a "best place to work" in Massachusetts (where we are headquartered) for several years, and are very proud of that.  Our employee engagement scores are up there with best-in-class organizations around the world.  We do a lot of things right as a company when it comes to engaging our employees.  This video about working at Kronos is an accurate assessment of what it's like to work here.  Does everybody come skipping into work every day?  Of course not.  But as a 35-year corporate veteran, with the last 7 years at Kronos, I can attest that this is a special place to work.

Which is why I take my responsibilities as a people manager very seriously. I do deliver feedback in real time on a consistent basis, but also appreciate the value of a deeper conversation about performance and development.   So, I'll woman-up and get those performance reviews submitted into the system today by the deadline.

And I'll continue to look for opportunities to develop and thank my folks every day.  Starting with today.  Congratulations, Lauren, on this great feedback on the case study you produced!

We're reading this week:

The Top 10 Workplace Trends Of 2013 via @Forbes

3 New Battles in the Fight Over the Flexible Workplace via @TLNT_com

Reaping the Rewards of Giving via @HRExecMag

The Benefits of Big Data in Helping Create a Competitive Advantage via @TLNT_com

5 Ways to Help Fix the Employee Engagement Blues via @TLNT_com

Kronites are talking about:

New Time Well Spent #Cartoon: #scheduling #footballseason #endzonedance

Among the clouds via @SmarterCafe

RT @SmarterCafe: Anand Eswaran on companies moving from “services” to a “service.” #TSW13 #SAP

Fact or Fiction? via @SmarterCafe

Social Wars at #TSW13? via @SmarterCafe #socialmedia

Still availability in in hands-on training at Kronos TechKnowledgy Pre-Conference Training at #KW2013

Don't miss @cryswashington at #KW2013! Learn more about Twitter and the activities happening at the event:

Genesco Chooses #Kronos to Bring Hiring to a New Level

Reasons to use social at #KW2013: Collaborate w/ peers, find & share info, learn about innovations from Kronos!

We have an action packed #KW2013 planned w/ keynote speaker @jeremygutsche, valuable sessions, @cryswashington & more!

Like case studies 4 #contentmarketing? Analysis of company doin' 'em right @KronosInc RT w/ thoughts

Workforce Ready Suite - Kronos' #SMB Growth Engine #hcm #cloud @KronosInc #KronosWorks13

Congratulations @KronosInc team on your Markie award! #EE13

Playing Hooky – Friday Distraction via @hrbartender



It's performance review time at Kronos.  I've spent a fair amount of time in the 15 years I've been a manager giving feedback to people about how to improve their performance at work.  While every employee is unique, there are recurring themes that I've needed to address.

Here are a few (illustrated with celebrity examples) that those of you on either side of the performance appraisal equation may find useful in thinking about how to improve your own performance or that of your employees:

  1. Avoid "foot in mouth" syndrome.  This is for those who don't think before they speak (or who speak without being properly prepared).   One of the best case studies in 2007 is Miss Teen USA South Carolina, Lauren Caitlin Upton - whose completely incomprehensible response to a question about the geographic ignorance of US high school students suggests that she will soon join the ranks of the  underprepared workforce.
  2. Admit to your mistakes, learn from them, move on.  Two words - Britney Spears.  
  3. Be a gracious loser.  No one is always right.  Even when you are right, you won't always get the project funded, the extra resources, or even the credit that you've earned.  Try your hardest to win, but when you lose, conserve your energy for the next challenge.  Last night's Iowa Caucus gave a few high profile candidates a (perhaps unexpected) opportunity to demonstrate grace in the face of defeat.  Here's Hillary Clinton's speech as an example.
  4. Performance improvement starts with self awareness.  Whether it's listening to feedback from the boss, colleagues and customers or formal assessment testing, you can't leverage your strengths or mitigate your weaknesses if you don't know what they are.  Steve Carrell brilliantly demonstrates lack of self awareness as the hapless manager on The Office.
  5. Superior results often require taking some risks.  Walter Lewin, a physics professor at MIT, has become a media star based on his unconventional teaching methods.  Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs has made a career out of looking out over the horizon and creating solutions for needs consumers didn't even know they had.

What's the most useful feedback you've received during a performance appraisal?

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