The traditional process of managing employee performance does not always deliver on its intentions. The purpose is to motivate and reward employees, but motivation is intrinsic. External factors either foster or squelch motivation. So many managers are squelchers without even realizing it, and many times, it is not entirely their fault. Companies often impose rules so intensive and processes so complicated they can make an educated person feel completely inadequate, and they fail to capitalize on doing the small but valuable things that could motivate employees.
You would probably agree that performance management is often viewed as the “necessary evil” in your organization. It is the non-subjective way of figuring out who ends up at the top of the heap for increases and bonuses at the end of the year. It can be an arduous and dreaded process that yields the same end result that you might have achieved if you simply lined up your people and subjectively decided who should get what, and when not carried out correctly, it can be a lose-lose for the manager and the employee. I'm not suggesting that you go wild and dump your review process. It has merit, and documenting performance is important for legal reasons, particularly in the event that you ever need historical data to deal with an employee issue. I’m simply suggesting that companies should empower managers to get to know their employees beyond the formality of a process if they really want to motivate them.
So, what if performance management began on day #1 with a focus that was less about a person’s skills, knowledge and abilities, and more about what motivates them? You spend 40 hours a week with your co-workers - often more time than you spend with your own family - yet how many managers know much at all about what motivates their employees and what would make them feel excited about coming to work each day? The way in which you are attempting to motivate your employees might be squelching their motivation instead.
Finding out some very small but important things about the people in your organization should be the first step in the manager-employee relationship building process. This doesn’t need to be complicated. A simple survey can be incorporated into the new hire process to gather the data, and the results can be shared with the hiring manager. Here is a sampling of just a few questions that every manager should be able to answer about their employees.
Are you a company that gives, or one that truly invests in helping others? Many companies give money to charities and provide opportunities for their employees to donate, but fewer actually invest substantial time in doing good or make it a routine part of their culture. Please don’t get me wrong – corporate giving is a wonderful and much needed thing, but if we are being honest, as companies isn’t our giving sometimes like dropping an occasional dollar in the cup of a homeless person? Of course we do it to help, but we do it because it makes us feel better too, and that’s where it ends.
So, why not take it a step further? Why not provide your employees with regular time to invest in something? Not only will this affirm your commitment to giving back, but it will also empower your employees to make a difference. Within a company, being united in an effort to do good for others can break down barriers and create camaraderie. It can boost employee morale and lead to higher retention. Here are a few ways to create a culture of giving:
Giving is good, but investing is better.
Admit it. If you are like most people, the fact that you are even reading a blog written by an HR person is probably making you a bit uncomfortable. I mean, “HR people” are all policies and procedures, and they do their best to complicate things and point out what you are doing wrong. Right?
Actually, you’re wrong. (Did you catch that?) If you had asked my opinion of HR professionals 10 years ago, I had pretty much the same impression of HR that I just shared. So, nobody was more surprised than I was when I did a career 180 to join the HR ranks. I was fortunate to join a forward-thinking technology company where the leadership believed that HR was an integral part of the business – representative of the company AND the employees.
Fortunately, the HR profession has evolved over the years. Enlightened companies now understand the value of HR as a strategic partner – someone who knows your employees as well as your business. A good HR leader can work with you to put cost-effective programs and systems in place that will not only help to move your company forward, but also create loyalty and engagement within the workforce. Did I mention corporate culture? Yep. A buzz-phrase for sure, but whether accidental or intentional every company has one. It’s what defines your organization on the inside and makes people want to work for you. It’s what creates self-proclaimed corporate ambassadors or tainted nay-saying scoffers. It can draw people in or make them run screaming.
So, if you are building a company, or maybe re-building one, allow me to give you my two cents on some of the things that are important:
If you do these things, I can pretty much guarantee you will see improved morale, experience better retention, and realize cost savings. Don’t overcomplicate it. And if you need someone to help you along the way, just ask.