By Mike Deblieux
2003, 222 pages, Paperback with CD-ROM
Implementing an Effective Performance Review System
Designing a performance management system is one thing. Implementing it is another. Careful thought needs to be given to how and when to introduce a new system.
Give Advance Notice
People do not always like change. They often need help to prepare for change, especially when it affects their jobs and potentially their pay. It may take six months to a year to develop a new performance management system. It is important to let managers and employees know that change is in the works. If they find out about the new system just before it is implemented, it will meet with more resistance.
It is also important to invite managers and employees to give input on the design of the new system. Sample forms can be posted on the intranet or bulletin boards. Employees and managers can be asked to comment on the posted drafts. They might just come up with the one idea that is missing to make the system work effectively.
Sign Up a Management Champion
If only human resources sees the value in a new performance management program, it will probably fail. If HR teams with a key manager to introduce the new program, it will be much more likely to succeed. The supporting manager does not necessarily have to be the top manager. He or she needs to be a visible manager who will speak up in meetings about the value of effective reviews and the design of the new system.
Use an Employee Focus Group
The employee is the primary customer of the performance management system. It is important to ask employees what kind of performance feedback they want. One way to collect this information is to meet with employees in small groups. You can share various approaches, including the sample forms in this book, with them. Their feedback will help you to design a system that meets their needs.
Start with a Pilot Project
If time permits, test your new system in one or two departments. It is better to work out the bugs on a small scale than to have to rework the system across the entire organization.
You have two choices. First, you can introduce the system within a department and tell employees in that department that their reviews win be based on the new system during the pilot project. This approach provides real-time experience with the new process. Second, you can recreate the last review cycle in a department. Under this option, managers are asked to use the new system to recreate the last round of reviews. The advantage of this approach is that it is non-threatening to employees. The reviews and other documents from the pilot project are not placed in their file.
In either approach, it is important to build in an evaluation component. After the pilot, talk with managers and employees to codect their thoughts, perceptions, and feelings about the new system.
Have Clear Goals and Honest Answers
More than one HR initiative has failed because the HR professional was unable to explain the purpose and goal of the project. A "sales and marketing plan" that you develop in advance will help introduce the new system. The message that introduces the new system should make sense to managers and employees. It will not work if only the HR team is convinced it is well planned.
You also need to be ready to answer some tough questions. Your pilot project should give you an idea as to what those questions will be, but here are a few you will want to think about.
- When will the new system go into effect?
- Will I still be able to use the supplemental form that I developed for my department?
- Do I have to fill out every section of the form? What if I think something does not apply to my employee?
- Is this project finalized, or is there still room for changes if we find problems when we first use it?
- What is the point of doing reviews if we cannot afford pay increases this year?
- Will this change the timing or amount of my pay increase?
- What happens if I disagree with the comments my manager writes on my review?
- This is the third time the review system has been revised in the five years I have been here. How long is this one going to last?
- Why do three people sign the review before I see it?
One thing to remember is that regardless of how much time you spend planning, someone will always come up with a question that you did not anticipate. While such questions come late in the process, they can sometimes save an otherwise effective system. It is better to take a little longer to correct flaws than to implement a system with known defects.
Most organizations focus on training managers to understand the new system. It is assumed that employees are passive participants in the performance review process. This may be one of the biggest mistakes made in performance management. Employees should be given an opportunity to learn about the system and their role in it. They cannot be effective participants if they do not know how the system works.
Your training goals will guide you through planning your program. An effective program will accomplish the following four goals:
- Introduce participants to an idea, concept, or skill.
- Let participants experiment with the idea, concept, or skill.
- Provide helpful feedback on how well participants are using the new idea, concept, or skill.
- Provide tools for participants to use when they leave the program.
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