Agility in the Face of Disruption: 3 Best Practices for Performance Management

March 30, 2020 | Shannon Shoemaker

In the past, the annual review has often masqueraded as performance management. Now we’re moving past the backwards-looking procedural to embrace future-facing agility.

While industries have responded to disruptions in the business climate, these changes have rarely cascaded down to the level of individual job descriptions and performance. But to be successful, performance management has to evolve alongside the business.

“You have to set agile goals to meet the quickly changing business landscape,” points out Julie Winkle Giulioni, Principal and Instructional Designer at DesignArounds and co-author of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go.

Here are three best practices for establishing a performance management process that’s as dynamic as the environment we work in.


Collaborate on Performance Evaluations

If you want performance management to be successful, you need to ensure buy-in from every party. And for that collaboration is essential. In the past performance evaluations have been stagnant and one-sided.

Performance conversations should occur frequently and employees should have a voice in the process, says Karen Leonard, CEO of Performance Management Consulting and professor of management at the University of Arkansas Little Rock College of Business. “They’re the ones doing the job,” she points out. “You don’t know what stresses they’re dealing with unless you talk to them.”

Managers and employees working together can identify weaknesses in performance and determine the underlying causes. This helps both parties create a game plan for turning weaknesses into strengths. Coworkers and mentors can collaborate in the process as well, Giulioni suggests. “There are so many other valuable perspectives that could be baked into the conversation,” she says.


Support Evolving Performance Goals

In the past, work has evolved at a slower pace, but we’re in an age of rapid-fire changes. That requires agility in every aspect of work, including performance management. For HR this means regularly conducting job analyses and reviewing job descriptions so that employee performance goals align with organizational goals.

Jobs evolve but formal performance goals and metrics often lag behind. Updating individual performance goals will help employees (and managers) keep their performance trends on track. A performance assessment on its own, Leonard suggests, does little good if it isn’t integrated with the evolving scope of an employee’s duties.


Create Dynamic Performance Assessments

With the advent of data, managers began quantifying performance. But it isn’t always that black and white, Giulioni says. Setting the right performance goals depends on an accurate assessment of the skills the organization needs in that role or might need as the role evolves. HR can help managers learn how to assess performance in a way that accounts for the gray areas.

Learning how to ask open-ended, qualitative questions can help managers assess an employee’s performance more effectively, Leonard suggests. These conversations can be baked into everyday work so that issues in performance are addressed as they arise, supporting a dynamic approach to performance management. “Finding agile ways to make those conversations happen right there in the workflow becomes the best practice,” Giulioni says.

Performance management, like any aspect of business, has to be responsive to change. In a work climate where disruption is the new norm, managers and employees must be equipped with the habits and tools they need to perform at their best.

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