So what’s wrong with performance management?

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Richard Gerson, Ph.D., CMC, is president of Gerson Goodson, author of 16 books, and a frequent contributor to online and offline publications on CRM. He believes that technology is only part of what makes CRM work; the other vital component is the people who use the technology.

The issue of Performance Management in organizations has been both a boost and a bust. While many senior managers extol its virtues and the potential benefits the organization will accrue from an effective Performance Management program, such as increased productivity and greater employee retention, many of the line managers never get to see it work.

In fact, some managers and supervisors don’t even know their company has a performance management program in place.

Others have never been trained on the concepts and procedures, so they view the process as tedious and just another interruption in their already busy day. Still others believe that the dreaded performance appraisal process is their Performance Management program. These are just some of the reasons companies are not getting the results they desire from their Performance Management programs.

Traditional focus
I believe there are other reasons for these failures and they have to do with the traditional focus of Performance Management programs. Current programs focus on human resources issues such as selection and recruitment, job descriptions, standards of performance, performance appraisals and feedback, goal setting, coaching, the work environment, and incentives.

No one doubts the importance of these factors in fitting the right person to the right job and hopefully getting that person to do the job better. But, there is still something missing from this approach.

What’s missing
Take a look again at the list of things most companies include in their Performance Management programs: job descriptions, standards of performance, appraisals, compensation, incentives, etc. The list includes activities and processes with very few end results. Have you figured out yet what is missing?

What the typical approach leaves out is attention to the person, the individual, the performer. In order for Performance Management to truly work and be totally effective, we must first focus on the person. We must pay attention to everything the person brings to the job: motivations, desires, knowledge, skills, abilities, performance strategies, behaviors and attitudes. After all, how can you improve a person’s performance by trying to influence everything around the person without working directly on the person? When you look at it this way, the traditional approach seems lacking, doesn’t it?

We must take our lessons from the Performance Management programs that have been applied throughout all levels of sports and athletics. Here, the focus is on the psychobehavioral aspects and mental strategies of performance as they relate to the performer and the performance requirements (job competencies).

In the business world as in the sports world, we must know the following about the person whose performance we want to improve:
• Initial skill set related to current performance objectives
• Desired skill set related to elevated performance objectives
• Behavioral preferences of the performer
• Motivational tendencies of the performer
• Information processing strategies of the performer
• Mental performance strategies
• Performance gaps between star performers and average performers
• Training requirements to improve performance and close performance gaps
• Relationship between the performer’s personal goals and the company’s goals
• Relationship between the performer’s activities and the feedback received

When we have this information, we can expand the standard human resources-based models of Performance Management being used today. This allows us to account for the job itself, the work environment and the performer’s personal characteristics to better match the person to the task they are to complete.

In sports, players are trained to perform at certain positions based on both physical and mental characteristics. In business, there is often a tendency to focus on the physical and technical skills of job performance and neglect its mental aspects and psychobehavioral requirements.

Yet, we all know that it is the attitude and intrinsic motivation a person brings to the job that often affects skill levels and determines the level of performance. Why else, to use another sports analogy, would a highly motivated team with inferior skills upset a demotivated team with superior skills? The answer lies within the performer. Specifically, the mental strategies and tactics that performer uses to engage in the activity account for the unexpected result and the high level of performance.

Star performers
Here is an approach we follow when we provide Performance Management services to our clients. We review the job descriptions and standards of performance, then conduct the typical competency-based gap analysis and identify areas for improvement. We also identify the star performers and the average/poor performers. Then, we focus on the psychobehavioral aspects of each individual’s performance, compare that to the same aspects of one of your star performers or the skill set that is needed to perform at a higher level, and create the appropriate training programs to help people achieve higher levels of performance.

With a background in sports psychology, organizational development, human resources, training and development, and accelerated learning, we work closely with the client to create a comprehensive Performance Management System that improves performance, maximizes productivity, and turns ordinary performers into extraordinary performers. This is what you must do about Performance Management and how you must go about it to make Performance Management work.

Richard F. Gerson, Ph.D
Richard Gerson is president of Gerson Goodson, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in helping companies increase their profitability by developing and managing long-term customer relationships. The company also works with clients to measurably improve the performance of their employees by maximizing productivity through psychobehavioral techniques. The results of his training and consulting programs turn individual and organizational ordinary performers into extraordinary performers. GGI has worked with clients ranging from individual entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 and Inc. 500 companies. Gerson has also coached executives, sales professionals, athletes and teams to achieve performance improvement and peak performance.

Gerson is an internationally renowned, and much sought-after, speaker and trainer. He combines humor, education and entertainment to get his message across to audiences. He has authored 16 books and published over 350 articles in journals, magazines, newspapers and newsletters. He has a PhD in Sports Psychology from Florida State University, along with six professional consulting certifications.

Richard Gerson

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