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  • Hilary Stec

Performance Management vs. Employee Development

In my career, including the HR team, I cannot think of a time when anyone actually enjoyed the annual performance evaluation process, clamoring for this activity to begin. The only reason I think anyone looked forward to it was to get “it over with” and learn if they’re eligible for an annual merit increase, and if so, how much? So, why do we put ourselves through this, what value does it bring? Before we answer that, let’s ask, what happens if we don’t do it?

By not providing feedback to our employees:

Ø Do goals get accomplished?

Ø Does the team work better together?

Ø Are accomplishments celebrated or missed?

Ø How are compensation differences deemed valid?

Ø Does learning and new skill based training get identified?

Ø Does the company meet its goals?

You get the point. So, why does performance management often not result in changed behavior? Let’s look at re-defining what we’re actually talking about.

Performance management is the process to document and acknowledge the employee’s accomplishments and areas of growth so that we can modify our behavior to assist our organizations in achieving the assigned objectives, operate under expected organizational practices and behaviors and ultimately, the performance evaluations are formal documentation designed to document that differences in pay increases for similar positions are done non-discriminatorily. Sounds good, right? So, If it does all that, why then aren’t employees and managers more excited about the process? What if I told you that performance management, really doesn’t have to be difficult or painful? That the real definition we should be using is evaluating and designing for employee development, not managing performance.

Employee development is an activity focused on maximizing a person’s knowledge, skills and abilities, not evaluating what didn’t go well. Focusing on employee development brings employees together, allows the team to work together better, achieving common goals, and being committed to an employee’s success requires management to think about career progression, changing the performance conversation context altogether. And it really isn’t that hard to put into action. Here’s how to get started:

Have more frequent, intentional meetings with your employees, and don’t skip or re-schedule those meetings. Show your employees this time is the most important thing you can give them. These are called “1:1 meetings” and they are designed for the employee, a dedicated time and space to be able to bring their concerns, ask for training and development, seek feedback on how to meet goals. The employee asks for the meeting and management ensures their availability.

For this meeting to produce the desired outcome of employee development, the manager must create an open and trusting environment, focused on the person’s abilities and bringing out the best in the person in front of them, listening and watching body language, imagining how the person might be feeling, pay attention to what is said, document decisions and set timelines for goals. When you do this regularly, all your managerial notes naturally flow into the formal annual performance evaluation document, but more importantly, as a manager, you achieve your endgame. The endgame as a manager is to engage your employees, reduce turnover, improve the bottom line, and achieve company goals through others. When you’ve shifted your priority from managing performance to developing your employees, it changes everything. When you choose to focus on how to help your employees be successful, everyone wins.

Check out this Harvard Business Review article describing employee development.


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