It Pays to Improve Performance

It’s not unusual for an organization’s performance management system to have a process for improving performance. This is especially true if there are specific gaps or opportunities.

Consider this encounter that an HR Director had with a line manager who was observing significant errors in the work of one of his team members. HR worked with a manager to write a performance improvement plan (PIP) for the employee taking care that all the necessary elements were clearly defined and articulated:

· The tasks that needed to be completed
· How they were to be completed
· When they tasks were to be completed
· How results would be measured

When they sat down to review the plan before presenting it to the employee, the manager asked, “What if the employee does everything on the plan?” In other words, what if the employee successfully completes the PIP? Isn’t that the objective? Clearly, this manager had in mind a path to termination rather than a path to improvement.

The goal of the performance improvement process should be just that – improvement. When performance is faltering, managers must look at contributing factors: Is training an issue? Does the employee have all of the resources s/he needs to succeed? Are other individuals such as colleagues or clients, impacting performance? If so, the leader and the organization have the responsibility to address these contributing factors along with the individual employee’s performance. There’s a simple formula that can the basis of any performance improvement discussion – positive or negative.”

· What? – meaning what’s working or not working; what expectation is being met or not met?
· So What? – meaning what’s the impact and why is it great or why is it a problem?
· Now What – what’s the next step? What needs to change or be done differently and what are the consequences if the change does/does not happen?

Should performance improvement be limited to those employees who are not meeting the expectations of the role they were hired to perform? Unfortunately, this is the case in too many organizations. The focus is on weaknesses rather than strengths. If an organization is to succeed and move forward, then all of its employees have to strive for continuous improvement. For the employees who are far exceeding expectations – the star performers, what’s next for them? Those employees need to be engaged to take on more responsibility – additional challenges or stretch assignments. A performance improvement plan can be just as effective for them. Their performance needs to be fueled and their strengths leveraged.

An organization with culture of continuous improvement values continuous learning for everyone. The goal of improvement is to assure that individual employees and the organization are producing their best work. Don’t take for granted that good performers need no encouragement for continued performance. Put energy into inspiring everyone.


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