#smallbusinessweek Performance Management

By Stuart Hearn

Traditionally, HR has been very data-driven and figure-focused. This is understandable—after all, if you want to grow and improve, it makes sense to track what’s going on in your business. It also makes sense to attempt to measure performance and performance improvement quantifiably. Having said this, as Jeff Haden once said, “Measuring is important, but measuring what you need to measure and measuring it the right way is critical.”

Traditionally, performance metrics have focused on employees—how they are doing, how productive they are and what value they are bringing to an organization. While this is still important, it is increasingly clear the main determining factor when it comes to employee performance is managerial support and feedback. Managers have a huge influence in terms of employee engagement—so it makes sense that many companies are shifting the focus of performance management metrics from the employee to the employer.

Below are five metrics that, when tracked and measured accurately and regularly, will provide real, meaningful value to your business.

1—Do People Have Regular Check-Ins?

Annual performance reviews are, for the most part, pointless due to their one-off nature. It’s generally accepted now that annual appraisals try to accomplish too much in one sitting. They don’t allow employee and manager to establish a trusting relationship through regular contact and all too often, goals set in these meetings tend to be forgotten and, therefore, not met. All too often annual appraisals become a time-consuming box-ticking exercise that is dreaded by everyone—employee and manager alike.

Continuous performance management, by contrast, promotes regular check-ins and coaching conversations between manager and employee. Such discussions allow managers to deliver recognition and reward as well as training and guidance. They also allow employees to provide feedback of their own. Regular check-ins are great for engagement and performance, so the frequency of these meetings is a key performance measurement you should certainly track and prioritize.

At a minimum, it’s recommended you have monthly check-ins with your employees. It’s best if your employees schedule these meetings, as it gives them even more autonomy and ownership over their roles.

2—Are People Creating and Completing Near-Term Goals?

Many companies are moving away from tracking employee hours altogether. Netflix goes one step further and offers unlimited holidays. How can businesses like Netflix survive and compete without performance suffering? It’s quite simple—they focus on completion of near-term goals rather than hours spent at a desk. These companies take goal completion seriously and as long as employees meet or surpass these objectives, they can do their work when and however they please.

When talking about performance metrics, completion of near-term goals is one that is highly reflective of actual productivity—especially if manager and employee have closely collaborated to create SMART objectives that align upward to the company’s long-term goals.

3—Is Feedback Flowing in My Business?

For a company to flourish in this fast-paced business environment, they need to create open channels of feedback. Employees need timely and meaningful feedback on their performance—whether it be praise for great work or coaching on how to develop and grow. Employees want more feedback than ever and in fact, 65% of workers say they’d like to receive more feedback than they currently receive.

Feedback helps everyone—it keeps employees on track to accomplish their goals, it allows them to develop and advance, and the company benefits from skilled, productive workers. Of course, feedback needs to go both ways. Employees need to be honest with their managers without fear of reprisal. If your workforce has strong opinions on how to improve workplace processes, for example, this could seriously improve company performance.

Businesses should provide multiple channels to give and receive feedback. There are a number of team collaboration and communication tools available that enable meaningful, in-the-moment feedback.

4—Do Employees Feel They Are Supported?

For most of human history, managers and employees haven’t enjoyed a great relationship. The status quo was very much “command and control” rather than “communicate and collaborate”. Thankfully things are changing by becoming more human and productive. The ideal modern manager is more of a coach, helping employees to fulfil their responsibilities while nurturing a trusting relationship. This is essential for strong, enduring employee engagement. Great manager-employee connections also help your team to perform better while improving retention rates —so this performance metric is certainly one you should be tracking.

One effective way of measuring an employee’s satisfaction with their level of managerial support is to conduct an anonymous employee experience survey. Employees will feel able to discuss their relationship with their manager in a transparent way. With the right questions, you can determine how helpful and encouraging managers are with their employees.

5—Do Employees Feel They Are Being Challenged and Developed?

Most (87%) millennials say career growth opportunities and professional development are significant to them. LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report revealed an incredible 93% of employees would remain with an company for a longer period if that company demonstrated a genuine investment in their employees’ careers. The verdict is in. Continual self-improvement is not just a much sought-after workplace perk—it’s a necessity. Employees expect it and they will leave if they don’t receive it.

Employees want challenges. They want to improve, and they want to advance. They don’t want to remain in the same company, performing the same functions, for years on end. This fact has been proven time and again. Businesses that provide employees with continuous learning see lower turnover and more employee engagement. Thankfully, this is an easy metric for HR to measure and track. Solicit opinion on the current scope for development and advancement and ask your employees how your company can improve in this area. You’ll be impressed by the results in the long run.

Stuart Hearn is a people management expert and founder of Clear Review. Stuart takes employee engagement seriously and is regularly helps companies transition to a more agile, continuous approach to performance management.

Performance stock photo by Mathias Rosenthal/Shutterstock