We had a new performance management process, introduced about two years previously within the UK, which we were planning to roll out across our European offices. We decided to take stock and make necessary changes before doing so.
I realised we had to listen to both the managers, who carry out the review, and the employees, who are being reviewed. So we organised two consultation groups.
First we spoke to the managers, asking them to tell us what they liked and didn’t like about the performance management process, then we did the same with the employees. They told us that one of the main issues around the review was the length of time it took to carry out – they made it clear there were things we could do to simplify the process.
Some of the concerns the groups raised involved cosmetic changes to the review process. For example, the original process involved three separate documents, adding up to about 14 pages. We needed to condense this into something that looked less onerous – we managed to get it down to five pages. It looked shorter, but retained the essence of the process.
One of the other key issues to come out of the consultation was that although everyone got a performance rating at the end of the year, there was no indication throughout the year of how they were doing, or what their rating was likely to be. So we introduced the mid-year, interim rating, which has gone down really well with staff.
We wanted to simplify the whole process. It used to be the responsibility of the manager to write up the documents after the discussion, which was especially time-consuming for managers of big teams. So we made it the responsibility of the individual to write it up. That also helped us get across the message that performance management is about the employee and their career, how they conduct it, what they learn, and how they develop. It’s not just an HR process.
The final ratings also caused problems. Although we had four distinct ratings, we didn’t really have a description of what they actually meant. We created some proper definitions. While they were quite broad, they helped in two ways: they helped managers explain why they had awarded specific ratings, and they helped employees to understand the system.
Employees also voiced concerns over consistency. They were worried that their line manager might not rate them in the same way another manager would. To address this, we set up consistency review meetings – managers met before performance management reviews to discuss how they anticipated rating their staff.
The feedback to these changes has been very positive. Best of all, the performance management process is now seen as normal, and part of the annual business planning cycle.
Why it worked
- We listened to the staff
- We took their comments on board
- We communicated well.