By Tom Rollert, Vice President, Wray Executive Search
Even the best organizations want to improve employee productivity in order to grow overall business performance and corporate value. But the tool most often used to evaluate and improve performance—the performance review—really isn‘t capable of helping organizations reach their overall goal.
The biggest strike against performance reviews is that they are the equivalent of looking in the rearview mirror to see where the employee has been—and perhaps failed. Why not look ahead to see where the employee can successfully go? Additionally, since performance reviews occur once a year, if at all, they require us to look back over a long period of time. They make the manager look petty (―Let‘s talk about your performance on that project nine months ago…‖), and even if viewed positively, any corrective solutions are generally too late to do any good.
Here‘s a helpful idea: Coach early and often. Early, to catch potential problems before they happen. Often, because the continuous interest shown in, and feedback given to, employees through coaching guarantees better performance. Coaching provides counsel in real time and clearly identifies goals in the context of the employee’s job. Good coaches understand the current reality of the employee’s world, and are aware of issues that might prevent a worker from reaching his or her goals. Good coaching provides the right environment to development strategies that allow an employee to achieve his or her goals.
Imagine a husband and wife sitting down on their anniversary each year for a formal chat: ―First, let‘s review all the things you‘ve done well over the last year and then we‘ll set goals for the coming year.‖ Doesn‘t sound like much of a relationship, does it? I‘m certainly not suggesting that a manager should be married to his or her employees, but a healthy marriage is a relationship built on daily dialogue and frequent two-way communication. The same culture of dialogue can benefit employees and managers alike. Conversely, a once-a-year meeting more likely resembles a gripe fest: while one side lists frustrations and shortcomings, the other side could be taken aback and either retreats or goes on the defensive. The bottom line is that no one wins.
Coaching delivers major results when it comes to developing employees, improving performance, and increasing return on investment. Bersin & Associates, experts in educating organizations about talent management, has found that these seven processes ensure the best performance management:
- Alignment of performance goals with organizational goals
- Employee self-assessments
- 360-degree assessments
- Managerial appraisals
- Competency assessments
- Development planning
Do you see the common threads of coaching and development? Studies show that coaching delivers significant results, offering 150 percent greater return on investment than performance appraisals. You read that correctly—150 percent! With that number in mind, coupled with the dread almost everyone feels regarding performance appraisals, why don‘t all managers coach? Perhaps because they are not clear about how or when to do it.
In the performance appraisal process, the manager coaches in order to fix an issue after it has been identified in the appraisal. But what if the system provided for such feedback from the beginning? If we use feedback and development as tools to drive success instead of fixing problems, we have success from the start. It’s an easier way to teach and a more positive way to learn. And if such coaching takes place regularly (as it should) and is tailored to the employee and the specific job, it becomes part of the fabric of our culture.
It is important for coaches to remember that one size does not fit all. Each employee is unique, and employees work differently. The better the manager/coach understands the employee, the more effective the coaching and the results—more engaged and productive employees with less turnover—will be.
All the best,
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