Managers often wonder: Is there a way to hold staff fully accountable for poor performance without adversely impacting employee turnover figures?When it comes to holding an employee accountable, several factors need to be taken into account.Before an employee can be held fully accountable, these matters need to be addressed:
- The employee’s targets must be clearly stated.
- Care has to be taken to ensure that the employee has all of the resources needed to meet those targets.
- The authority necessary for target achievement has to be effectively delegated.
When not properly handled, informing a direct report of their performance limitations can result in demotivation. This can lead to a downward spiral in which the employee’s performance falls even further as they put less effort into their work. Both productivity and employee retention can suffer as a consequence.
The Reality of Setting Performance Targets
In today’s highly competitive and fast changing professional environment, target setting can be extremely difficult. Based on data collected through the deployment of an evidence-based approach to recruitment and management development, it turns out that in practice:
- The easier it is to quantify a target, the more likely that target will need to be constantly updated.
- Although targets that are more difficult to quantify are less changeable, it is also more difficult to measure the performance of employees tasked with such targets.
- In a rapidly changing world, making available adequate resources can be quite difficult with the result that employees are more likely to be in a situation where their employer places unfair demands on them.
Data collected through the deployment of Talent Chaser’s online Performance Appraisal and Task Action Planning Module, indicates that, without proper training, over 70% of managers are unable to confront performance issues in a manner that retains both their relationship with direct reports and their motivation. The data also reveals that this issue, more than any other, explains why the majority of managers, when faced with having to rate the performance of their direct reports, frequently opt to avoid difficult feedback issues and, if allowed to, will typically err on the high side in the rating values they select.
These issues combine to make fully effective delegation of authority and responsibility great in theory but difficult in practice, with the result that, while essential to the health of any organization, holding employees accountable can prove to be difficult in practice.
The Solution to Positive Performance Appraisals
Many of these problems can be overcome through the following strategies:
- Opting to undertake appraisals on a regular (e.g. quarterly) basis as opposed to annually. Data generated through the deployment of Talent Chaser shows that as managers repeatedly measure the performance of their direct reports, they learn through practice, how to confront performance issues and hold employees accountable while retaining their motivation. In a previous blog post, I described that the motivational cycle states that because we all like doing things we can do well; so as we become more proficient at doing something, we will become more motivated to do it. Counterintuitively, it turns out that where senior management implements an appraisal system that requires regular appraisals to be done, managers are much more likely to end up buying into the appraisal process.
- Ensuring that all issues raised during the appraisal feedback session are fully documented. What we have learned is that not only must these issues be documented but facilities need to be made available so that both the manager and the direct report can document issues during the period between appraisals. Many managers are constantly on the go. Under such circumstances, problems can be quickly forgotten only to surface in a more serious form at a later date. Additionally, unless documented as they arise, day-to-day challenges and other distractions can be overlooked during appraisal sessions with the result that the manager has an incomplete understanding of the actual challenges faced by their direct reports.
- Providing clear advice as to what the appraisee needs to do in order to overcome performance issues. In this regard, it can be useful to remember that employees can usefully be separated into two groups:
- Those who want to perform well.
- Those for whom performance is not a high priority.
It turns out that those employees who place performing well high on their list of motivational priorities, respond positively to anything that will help them achieve this. Not surprisingly, such employees respond positively to criticism of their performance supported by advice on how to improve. Those employees for whom performing well is not a high priority, on the other hand, react negatively to such criticism.
Regular appraisal sessions with such employees can therefore create a great opportunity not only to strengthen accountability throughout the organization without adversely impacting employee turnover statistics, but also to identify those employees who want to perform well.
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