Treat regular chats as performance management opportunities

By David Donaldson

Tuesday April 4, 2017

Chat symbol and Quotation Mark – hanging on the strings

Just sticking to formal annual performance management processes isn’t particularly useful — not to mention that almost no-one enjoys it.

So the Department of Communications and the Arts is trying out a different approach, asking its employees to treat any work-related conversation as a chance for feedback.

The key is ongoing, quality performance conversations that broach not just the positive but look to potential improvements.

By looking to the underlying causes, appropriate support measures can be put in place to give an employee the best opportunity to get back up to speed.

“The idea is that every work-related conversation is an opportunity for a performance and development conversation… if you finish your sentences,” says the Australian Public Service Commission.

“For example, telling someone they did a good job is great, but finishing it with some specific examples of what made it good and how it could be done even better in the future turns it into the start of a more effective performance conversation.”

The Department of Communication and the Arts’s approach to implementing the ideas in Sandra McPhee’s Unlocking Potential report encourages employees and managers to discuss performance more often, and outside of just mid-year and end-of-year reviews. Having an ongoing focus on how people are tracking towards their goals and deliverables ensures the early signs of someone not meeting their KPIs can be picked up. This means underperformers can be supported to return to performance quickly.

‘Back on track’ creates an environment of trust

In cases of underperformance, the department employs what it calls a ‘back on track’ approach that aims to return the employee to good performance within a month. In recognition of how important this is, the department has dedicated one of its human resources people to supporting the ‘back on track’ process. They attend the weekly meetings this entails, and build a relationship with the manager and employee.

The department says this approach has created an environment of trust, where people come to HR earlier in the process, at a point when performance issues can be resolved more easily. If an employee’s performance isn’t ‘back on track’ within four weeks, a formal process commences, which aims to return the employee to performance in eight weeks or otherwise resolve the situation through alternative avenues.

This approach recognises that performance is influenced by a variety of factors that ultimately impact on employee engagement, capability and health. By looking to the underlying causes, appropriate support measures can be put in place to give an employee the best opportunity to get back up to speed.

Encouraging regular chats isn’t the only change being implemented at the department — a recent video explained that numbered performance ratings, which were found to be counterproductive, have also been removed. It’s hoped these changes will make performance management less adversarial, while still retaining ongoing critical engagement.

The APSC has more information on good performance management.

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