Ownership: the key factor to transform
your performance management

Stefan Op de Woerd
Stefan Op de Woerd

It has become patently clear that the traditional performance management cycle featuring a couple of formal meetings a year does not work. It does not produce better results or make employees any happier, and feels more than anything like a form-filling exercise.

As a result, many organisations have come to the conclusion that it’s time they got round to “doing something” about their performance management cycle. Having got this far, they frequently don’t know precisely what the “something” is. We are in conversation with HR managers on a daily basis who are wrestling with this subject, and through these conversations, have identified three critical areas that come up time and again. In this blog we focus in on ownership.

Degree of Ownership

Traditionally, the performance management cycle has been the domain of managers and the HR department. However, many organisations are moving towards self-managing teams and employees. This begs the question whether they shouldn’t be taking a greater lead in the performance management cycle too.

Want to read more about the impact of self-management on the performance management cycle? Read our blog ‘How self-management radically changes the performance review cycle’.

The degree to which you give ownership to employees can vary from not at all to fully in the lead.

The manager in the lead

The manager sets goals, initiates 1-to-1s with his/her employees and writes the appraisal. This approach can work well in a setting with mainly operational roles. Employees in these type of roles often find it difficult to set and reflect on goals. In this case, it may work better to leave the manager entirely in control.

Make performance management simple and effective?

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The employee does the preparation

A form of ownership commonly seen is where the employee is responsible for preparing for 1-to-1 meetings. The employee will propose goals and areas for development, keep track of his or her own progress, gather feedback from colleagues (and customers) and write up a personal reflection on his/her performance. It will often be the manager who schedules 1-to-1s and sets the agenda.

With this approach, you will notice that employees are more aware of their goals and personal development.

Ownership through responsibility

Ownership can be extended even further by giving the employee responsibility not only for putting together the content, but also for the process itself. So, the employee will take the initiative to talk about progress on their goals and development, and set the agenda for progress meetings themselves.

This approach suits professionals who value autonomy. It requires managers to take on much more of a coaching role and for the employee to be ‘on the ball’. At the same time, the manager must have the ability to intervene at the right time if an employee needs help and does not seek it personally.

The employee has full ownership

The most far-reaching form of ownership is one in which the employee is not only responsible for the content and the process, but also determines the outcome (the final evaluation). This means employees set their own goals, decide who they will discuss their performance with and that they evaluate their own performance and even set their own salary.

You do then need to agree a few ground rules. For example, you might agree to ask at least three colleagues for feedback on your goals, progress and evaluation. And, that at least one of those colleagues is a manager.

Can this approach really work? It can and does work, but it requires a fair amount of maturity and for employees to be able to reflect honestly on themselves and their performance. Above all, it requires trust and confidence that your employees will act in good faith.

One organisation that has successfully opted for full ownership in their performance management cycle is EMC Performance.

Read EMC’s experiences of full ownership in their performance management cycle.

Increase ownership one stage at a time

Now it’s up to you to decide how you want ownership to look in your performance management cycle. You might want to choose to increase ownership among employees one stage at a time. Rest assured, there is no right or wrong way: it is a process, one you will want to adapt based on what you learn as you go along.

Jochem Aubel and Stefan Op de Woerd are the founders of Dialog, surprisingly simple software for an effective performance management cycle. Want to know more about how Dialog supports employees and managers to achieve this? Take the product tour.

Read on..

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Make performance management simple and effective?

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Get the best articles, e-books, tools and videos available on transforming your performance management.