Time to review your performance processes?

One encouraging aspect of January 2022 has been that we’re beginning to hear of organisations that are looking afresh at many elements of their people management. One of those issues is Performance Development Plans (PDPs). How can these be refreshed and made more effective for values based organisations?

We often hear that this is a process that both managers and teams dread, questioning whether it is really of any true value. Sometimes the forms and process are so long and involved, to ensure that every element is covered, but this can feel ‘nitpicking’. Sometimes the processes are quite brief, but possibly miss the important issues. However, a common theme is whether the manager and employee properly commit to ensuring it’s a really effective process.

If you’re struggling with this, perhaps acknowledging your purpose and values upfront and then openly weaving them into the whole process is one way to tackle this. We’ve been working with a number of clients to help them take a more collaborative approach to performance management, building on restorative principles. In a formal capability process this ensures a fair process in legal terms, but engages the employee in the solution, rather than just doing something ‘to’ them.

Applying the same approach to PDPs could be equally effective. Work out exactly what you want to achieve with your PDP (rather than everything!). Be clear how the objective of the PDP contributes to the overriding purpose of the organisation, then build on that.

‘Work out exactly what you want to achieve with your PDP ‘

As well as everyone involved in the process understanding why you’re doing it, how you go about it is equally important. Setting out a clear purpose in advance and then setting the tone really helps. Let the employee know that you want this to be an honest and collaborative conversation, being true to the company’s values (and name them). We then suggest that the approach to the PDP (or general performance review meeting) is structured in a way that helps to really embrace these principles.

The templates you might use for this process could reflect the following key points:

1) Why the PDP (or other performance) process really matters for the individual and the organisation – what is its purpose?

2) How you hope to approach this – getting those involved into the right mindset is key, so reiterating the approach at the outset will be helpful:

Collaborative – ensuring that the employee has a voice at every stage
Honest – there is little point to the process if those involved aren’t honest
Respectful – it should feel like a constructive process, taking into account  everyone’s needs.
Reflecting purpose and values – remember the importance of weaving in the organisation’s purpose and values throughout the process, also inviting the employee to have a voice on this.

3) What is happening – what is the organisation observing or noticing about what the individual is doing, both good and bad (without judgement or blame). To start by grouping what you’re observing into themes/areas of concern may be helpful, so the focus isn’t immediately too granular. Then move to give specific examples under each theme/area.

4) The impact on the business – being really clear about the impact of good and poor performance on the immediate team, the business as a whole and the organisation’s ability to deliver its purpose. This includes whether and how the organisation’s values are impacted.

5) Why is this happening – what does the individual feel about what is being observed, what’s their perception – is there any explanation for this, or an underlying cause?

6) How to maintain or improve performance – how to make it better – acknowledging what is good and not so good, and discussing together how to improve things (or to maintain the best parts), taking into account the needs of the individual and the business. This could include how should/could the organisation’s values be better demonstrated/lived?

‘Be clear how the objective of the PDP contributes to the overriding
purpose of the organisation, and then build on that’

Once you’re clear what you want to achieve with the PDP process, and how you’d like to have the conversations, the forms and templates you use can then follow. They should simply support the right approach. Better that way around than letting the standard templates drive the process.

Our comment

We’ve had really positive feedback from clients on how beneficial a restorative approach is in resolving performance issues. Carefully managed, it still meets minimum legal obligations, but the issues are more quickly resolved where those involved are engaged in the solution rather than having it imposed upon them. Starting that approach at the PDP stage would be a great first step.