Performance management and dealing with “career consumers”

More productive conversations can reduce conflict and enhance wellbeing

With so-called “career consumers” becoming more demanding in terms of their workplace development, managing their performance can be a challenge. Changing both managers’ and employees’ approach to performance management can make a difference.

As members of your talent pool increasingly become “career consumers”, performance management meetings need to change from being a forum where managers simply dole out ratings to one where they engage in meaningful two-way discussion.

This is the view of Ian Lee-Emery, founder and chief executive of cloud-based talent management software supplier Head Light.

He describes these employees as “highly mobile workers who want portfolio careers and to enhance ‘Me Plc’ and their personal brand”.

But to get the most out of them in performance terms requires a “cultural shift” on several levels, he believes.

Firstly, too many people, whether employee or managers, don’t enjoy or feel they get much out of performance appraisals, a situation that is often reinforced by HR professionals getting bogged down in process and chasing for forms to be filled in, making it feel like a tick-box exercise.

“If you talk to managers, a lot of them feel that HR only engages from a compliance perspective,” Lee-Emery says. “So they set goals and ask for forms to be filled in, but they’re not particularly supportive or outcome-focused – it’s more about getting it done by a certain point.”

Driving better conversations

Instead, for everyone to get the most out of the process, it is important that employees and their managers have a proper conversation around everything from objectives to personal development.

The point here is that: “If you drive better conversations, improved ratings will flow from that,” Lee-Emery explains.

Secondly, if HR professionals can encourage staff and managers to take more responsibility for the performance appraisal process, they can free up more of their own time to focus on strategic activities.

“HR has responsibility for company culture and cultural change. So herein lies an opportunity to make a greater contribution to the business and introduce new ways of managing performance that take it forward rather than focusing on compliance,” Lee-Emery says. “It’s about managing things in a slightly different fashion.”

In order to support managers to make the shift, it is important that HR treats it as a change management project. This entails engaging advocates, involving internal communications teams, demonstrating good and bad practice and leading by example.

“It’s about making it clear that managers will be able to use their time more efficiently and that employees will be more aligned with the purpose of the organisation, which means they’ll be more engaged,” Lee-Emery concludes.

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