4 Principles to Reimagine Performance Management

June 18th, 2019

Traditional performance management is drastically changing, and HR professionals are at the forefront of this transformation.

As long as there’s been people and employers, there has always been a form of performance management — the origins of modern performance management can be traced back to third-century China. Oversight of people, monitoring their progress, and assessing people’s efficiency is nothing new, but how organizations manage this process has evolved many times. In the last 15 years, we’ve approached the latest iteration: continuous performance management.

Fifteen years should be enough time to get it right, but according to Forbes, only 28 percent of employees believe their organizations are actually effective at performance management, today.

So what’s missing and how do we as HR practitioners help our organizations get it right?

Here are four core principles taken from our Performance Management Reimagined program that will help you as an HR professional drive the transformation of Performance Management in your organization:

1. Understand Performance in Context

To re-imaging performance management, we first have to understand where it came, what its purpose is and how it is aligned with our overall business strategy. Performance management for the sake of performance management is what leads to a net promoter score of -60. Nobody likes it, not the manager or the employee, when you are made to do go through something that seems pointless.

The key to reimagining performance management is making it actually useful for everyone involved, and the best way to do that is to make sure it is completely in sync with the way people work and the goals of the organization. We need to make performance management continuous, flexible and focused on outcomes.

2. Provide Continuous Feedback

There is a myth that managers should create a space that makes their employees happy, and this creates fear for some managers to provide feedback. Managers fear they will make their direct reports unhappy; in turn, their employees become disengaged and frustrated. But the most courteous and respectful thing a manager can do for their employee is to provide feedback.

HR professionals must devise programs, allot tools, and train managers in facilitating better and more frequent feedback conversations. When done right, feedback is a form of recognition, and the development opportunity far outweighs the imaginary cost: fear. As time progresses and as more managers become coaches, the organization will develop a feedback culture where 360-feedback because organic, and will always provide individuals with the development they need, and managers the full-view of their employees.

3. Make Goal Settting More Flexible

As work and the workplace have evolved, the ways we set and track goals haven’t always kept up. Major disruptions that are critical for businesses to succeed—like shifts to Agile and team-based environments—have made it so that we simply can’t set and measure goals as we have in the past.

This means that, as we re-imagine performance management, we need to take a good look at the ways we set, track, measure, and align goals to ensure that we’re putting processes in place that work for today’s workers in today’s organizations.

We need to explore new frameworks like the idea of Objectives & Key Results (OKR). This method, introduced in the book “Measure what Matters,” by John Doerr, helps organizations adopt an on-going evaluation of goals which ensures they remain relevant as time passes. It allows all stakeholders to hold each other accountable and promotes transparency. And it helps individuals stay on track while feeling challenged to perform better.

4. Develop Coaching Habits

HR professionals must learn to become coaches so they may coach other coaches to better coach. Say that five times fast! Coaching at its core is to enable and empower someone else’s success. It is the art of getting the best out of someone.

This definition is useful because it tells us when we’re acting as a coach, where to place our focus. It’s not about us. It’s about enabling someone else’s success. It’s not our responsibility, for example, to give a great sales presentation; it’s our job to empower someone else to give a great sales presentation.

Helping everyone develop this mindset (and effective coaching capabilities) is key to a modern approach to performance management.


To learn more about these principles and others that can transform your performance management process check out our Performance Management Reimagined Program from The Josh Bersin Academy.