Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Archive for September 2010

How to Better Engage Employees in the Performance Management Process

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Note from Craig:

This is a guest post from blogger Sean Conrad, a senior product analyst at Halogen Software, a leading provider of performance management software solutions. For more of his insights on performance management, read his posts on the Halogen blog.

I was a site administrator for a Halogen corporate user, and was pleasantly surprised to have Halogen contact me about running this guest blog. Halogen’s approach to performance management is employee rather than manager-driven. One of the major drivers of engagement is involvement, and that is what the Halogen process ensures.

The points that Sean makes here are absolutely critical to engaging employees in an effective performance management process.


How to Better Engage Employees in the Performance Management Process, by Sean Conrad.

One of the subtle but important messages in Craig’s posts about performance management, is that employees need to be actively engaged in the process. This is important. In many, if not most companies, performance management is something that managers “do” and employees “receive”. That tends to lead to employees being disengaged from the process, and even cynical about it. For performance management to be truly effective, we need to change that paradigm. The question then is: how to do it?

Here are some suggestions. Ideally you would execute these at the organizational level, but you could take these steps as an individual manager as well, or even as an employee.

Get Employees to Complete a Self-Appraisal

Getting your employees to complete self-appraisals, before their managers write their appraisals is a great way to involve them in the process and in their performance. It’s a way to give them an active role and a voice in the process. It’s also a great way to give the manager insight into their employees’ perspective on things, and identify any differences in opinion before the performance appraisal meeting. Even for managers who work closely with their employees, it’s hard to get the full picture, and understand all the factors that affect their employees’ performance. Employee self-appraisals help fill that knowledge gap and avoid surprises. But more importantly, they give the employee an active role in the process.

Ask Employees to Draft their Goals and Development Plans

Most of us are more committed to the things that we signed up for than to the things others ask us to do. This is not to say that employees should get to do only what they want to. But giving employees access to the organization’s high level goals, and the department’s goals, then asking them to identify how they, in their role, will contribute to these is a great way to give them context for their work and to get them committed to their goals. It’s also a great way to uncover hidden talents, abilities or interests you might not know about otherwise. It can help start a conversation about the employee’s roles and responsibilities, and ways to expand them, or even focus them.

Similarly, you should ask your employees to draft their own development plans. Doing this invites them to take an honest look at areas they want to develop or improve. And again, if they initiate it, they’re more likely to be committed to the outcome.

Foster Ongoing Dialogue Between Employees and Managers

It’s hard to be engaged in something that only happens once a year. We all know how everyone tends to file away their annual performance appraisal and forget it until next year. Employee performance is really something that should be managed on an ongoing basis.

One of the ways you can do that is by encouraging the use of some kind regular progress report or shared performance journal. It can be a short weekly report, or a more comprehensive monthly report, or even better, a kind of performance or project diary where the employee keeps notes on progress, successes, failures, etc. This kind of recording encourages reflection, which can foster learning and growth. Sharing this regular progress reporting with the manager can open up another forum for dialogue and keep the manager in the loop with what’s going on in the employee’s worklife.

You can also foster more ongoing dialogue by building in more frequent “mini-performance reviews” into your process. A lot of companies find it helps to conduct quarterly reviews in addition to the annual performance appraisal. These mini reviews make everyone stop, take stock of where things are at, make any needed adjustments to goals and development plans, and address any performance challenges before they become big issues. And they just get managers and employees formally talking about performance on a more frequent basis – which is always a good thing.

Better Engagement Means Better Performance

The more engaged your employees are with your performance management process, the more your organization will reap its benefits. Don’t just go through the motions of rating performance, setting goals and identifying development plans. When done well, employee performance appraisals can be an invaluable tool for driving employee engagement.


Written by Craig

September 15, 2010 at 3:49 pm

About the Flawless Execution Web Site

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If you stopped by this blog, chances are you will be interested in visiting my other home on the web. I’d like to invite you to  Flawless Execution. No frills, just information that I hope is of value to you. Look around, and if something grabs your attention or you have a question or comment, email me at or come back to the blog and comment. I’ll be glad to help when I can.

I am a people and process improvement practitioner and have worked closely with organized labor leadership, as well as all levels and functions of management. This diverse background has given me a broad perspective on what it takes to achieve flawless execution. Defined:

Achieving a goal, meeting a requirement or completing a task in minimal time and effort, doing it right the first time, to perfection.

Flawless execution is the end result of doing many things very well, including providing an environment that promotes full engagement, alignment and cascading of the plan, ensuring clear expectations and accountability, continuously communicating with and involving the team, providing necessary system and skills support, and gathering and acting on meaningful real-time metrics.

Two attributes in particular make a real difference in achieving flawless execution, and are my points of emphasis:

• Dual Perspective: I have been both a driver and a do-er, in both operations improvement and people development;

• Double Vision: focus on both process and people to achieve excellence and optimal results.

Referencing back to the definition of flawless execution above: some companies are good at some of these things, some are good at others. The exceptional companies excel at all of these. It’s a lot like Deming’s insistence on all 14 Points or none. All are essential. Except I don’t quite have the credibility or clout WED did.

Last, I hope you’ll take time to consider The Greater Good: applying concepts, principles, tools and techniques from the worlds of business and industry to society, community, local government, education, individual excellence et al. This is a work-in-process: we all thrive on striving for the greater good!

Written by Craig

September 7, 2010 at 4:34 pm