Many years ago, “performance management” was a supervisor giving orders to an employee and the employee trying to follow them. But as the workplace has evolved and employers have sought to get a greater return on investment in human resources, the concept of performance management has become much more complex.
Today, performance management is a formal and multifaceted system for setting goals, soliciting feedback, generating documentation and ensuring accountability for productivity outcomes. As you might imagine, anything so intricate has a high risk of malfunction or even outright failure.
One way to guard against such disappointment — whether your organization is launching its initial performance management system or relaunching it after major renovations — is to conduct a pilot program.
People and time
Because employee trust and confidence help generate cooperation, the pilot program should start with employees and managers who believe in the benefits of change. This group can pinpoint problems and help improve the system. In short, they’re its champions. The performance management system, amended through their feedback, will be more likely to disarm the skeptical or those clinging to old performance-management styles.
Another critical aspect of a pilot program is time. Organizations often spend a substantial amount of it researching performance management, consulting with outside experts and designing the program. But then they rush to launch and the entire initiative ends up a confusing, disappointing struggle.
That’s why you should set aside a period of months, maybe even an entire year, to test the system with committed participants, analyzing their feedback and making adjustments.
Just one example
What sorts of problems might an organization discover during a pilot program? Let’s say fictitious Company X launches a performance management pilot program and almost immediately learns of a critical snag.
Namely, it realizes that its objective-setting form will likely be a major source of frustration for employees and their managers. The form is a means of documenting information such as annual objectives, individual development plans, and supervisors’ assessments. In other words, it’s intended to ensure employees are following the performance management system’s essential components.
Although some pilot-program members are comfortable with the form, others describe it as taking on a life of its own. The detractors say it’s too long, much of its wording is vague or confusing, and the design makes it hard to read.
On the bright side, the pilot program’s participants overwhelmingly embrace the new system’s fundamental principles. So, before rolling out the performance management program to everyone, Company X acts on these results by shortening, revising and redesigning the objective-setting form.
Their best work
Launching a performance management pilot program can truly help your employees take flight and do their best work. In addition to identifying minor design flaws, it can help the design team learn the underlying organizational barriers to performance management and continuous improvement. To discuss further, please contact us.