Is this a new era of Performance Appraisals?

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We have touched upon this topic many, many times, and rightly so; because each new article trumpeting the end/death/demise (tick favourite to suit) of performance appraisals has a more nuanced message behind the attention grabbing headline.

Take this latest article in Forbes, about IBM very dramatically ‘blowing Up’ it’s performance review process.

The IBM story is particularly interesting because as you read through, you realise that ‘enhancing’ might be a better description than ‘blowing up’; they will still set objectives, albeit these will be shorter-term in nature; they will still assess at year-end against a number of ‘dimensions’ rather than a singular grade; they will dispense with performance ranking (which has been a trend for some time), and they will encourage a process of continuous feedback & coaching throughout the year.

What is being described is Performance Management.

Realising that a once-a-year conversation/evaluation doesn’t actually work when it comes to getting the best out of people, is not a revelation – it is sensible conclusion borne out of experience, where greater levels of communication and open, transparent relationships between a Line Manager and their team members, is more likely to deliver sustainable results.

The performance appraisal projects we work on with clients, are rarely just about implementing an effective performance appraisal system; invariably, we are deep down into revising their approach to performance management:

- understanding the purpose of performance management

- designing appraisal forms and processes which are ‘fit for purpose’ and include the input of employees

- creating an easy-to-use on-line appraisal system, which allows for capturing continuous feedback and feedback from others (360 degree feedback),

- and ‘Meaningful Conversations‘ training for Line Managers for every aspect of performance management i.e. Setting objectives, giving feedback, coaching and appraisals

 

If you would like to talk us to us about ‘blowing up’ your performance appraisals, then feel free to contact us, but I suspect you might find we do a better job of ‘building on’ what you are already doing.

John

 

 

 

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Another one bites the dust…the collapse of Performance Appraisals?

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Another week, another article, or in fact another series of articles, sounding the death knell of the performance appraisal – Accenture, National Australia Bank, and Deloitte – all deciding to stop the annual performance review process, whilst moving to a more regular series of feedback conversations throughout the year.

However, if you look more closely, what is actually being scrapped is a practice of forced ranking and distribution, which was a key feature of their review processes.

We have long debated the relative merits and pitfalls of ranking individuals and/or reducing their performance over a year to a singular grade or number – but of course, performance reviews don’t have to work this way, and many organisations approach reviews with the idea that it is an opportunity to reflect on what has happened over the previous 12 months as a means to learn and improve performance in the future.

With this purpose in mind, removing a conversation at the end of the year which offers a chance for a Line Manager and team member to come together and discuss past performance in a meaningful way, seems somewhat shortsighted.

Moving to a process whereby there are regular, ongoing feedback conversations throughout the year, is certainly to be advocated and applauded – but these timely, in-the-moment, conversations are often quite tactical in nature; they are helping people track progress and keeping tacking back and forth towards their goals.

Such conversations need to be supported by a more reflective, strategic type discussion, which allows a summing up at the end of a year, and critically, prompts a conversation about learning & their development.

Performance Management is simply a series of two-way conversations, each with a specific purpose – if you don’t like the Performance Review conversation and find it meaningless, don’t scrap it, change it’s purpose to one you do like and is meaningful.

John

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The power of a target – Nat’s swimming a mile in Lake Windermere

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This weekend one of our team, Nat, will be swimming a mile in Lake Windermere in “The Great North Swim, Lake Windermere”.  From what she’s been telling us, she will be swimming front crawl the whole way.  Up until the middle of March Nat would have described herself as a “breast stroke, head out of the water” swimmer.  But, she had signed up to this swim.  From that target, she has taken lessons in the full front crawl stroke, learnt about open water swimming, got the right kit, practiced in local reservoirs, and is ready for the challenge.  When we were all together on Monday she was quietly confident.

Without the target of the event, if Nat had said “I’m going to learn to swim in open water”, I wonder if she would have got there.  The aim would have lacked a specificity and some timeliness (this isn’t a lesson in SMART but it does apply sometimes!).  It wouldn’t have nagged away at her and focused the mind when training wasn’t high on the list of desirable activities.

On Monday, Nat added to the target with a time she wanted to swim the mile in.  This was treated with some amusement from others in the team who recognised the slippery slope of finding yourself having to repeat events in order to achieve an arbitrary time or beat a previous best.  But it was interesting that in such a short time she’d gone from wondering if she could do it to wondering how fast she could do it.

To the non-swimmers among us, swimming a mile sounds incredible, swimming it front crawl sounds unbearable, and swimming it in open water sounds fanciful.  But I think we were all a little inspired on Monday at how Nat had in a matter of weeks gone to describing breaststroke as her “rest stroke” and confidently anticipating swimming an open water front-crawl mile in Lake Windermere.

Targets are powerful.

Good luck Nat!

 

Brendan

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Feedback please! The art of spotting things going right

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We recently completed a series of our ‘Meaningful Conversations’ training modules for Line Managers who were about to go into their performance appraisal meetings.

The subject of looking back and reviewing past performance over the previous 12 months is naturally covered, with consideration given to what your purpose is, how you should prepare and what is a good structure to follow in that part of the appraisal conversation.

There is always feedback to be given in the appraisal; there should be ‘no surprises’ in this regard for sure, but invariably there is an overall message to be played back to the appraisee, with some significant positive or constructive feedback elements within this.

As we discuss this, I often write up on a flipchart the mathematical calculations you see in the headline image of this post, and ask for feedback please; I will ask the same of you now…..

What did you notice? The final one as incorrect, or the preceding three as being right?

Most of us, which is often borne out in the training session, will spot the error, the break in the pattern first; of course, this is part of the story – however, one might argue, a bigger part of the story is that 75% are correct.

The challenge is to change our default setting; spot what is going right first – get good at giving praise accordingly; it leads to a much more meaningful and productive conversation – you will still get to the error, but you approach it from a very different angle, and ensure that all the learning from what has gone well, is drawn out, celebrated and is used to help an individual do even better next time.

John

 

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Busting Urban Myths – Giving Feedback

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Focus on the conversation and get the system to support it

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I attended a CIPD conference on Performance Management earlier this week.  There was plenty of food for thought – particularly around feedback, when it is useful, when it is not.  We will be continuing our own research and updating our thoughts based on the ideas presented.  Within the conference one speaker used the sentence “Focus on the conversation and get the system to support it”.  As an organisation that provides both consulting/training support and the software to support performance management this is an appealing sentence.  If we use system in its broadest sense to mean not just the IT but the process and forms that make up performance management then this sentence summarises our ethos.

When working well, performance management is a series of natural, comfortable, purposeful, meangingful conversations between two people at work.  With a trusting relationship they are able to discuss goals and determine what is likely to lead to those goals being achieved.  They use the past as guidance, they gather inputs that support that forward looking approach – sometimes from others within or outside of the organisation – and they hold open, meaningful conversations on the future.  The conversations matter.  They may record those conversations at times to make it easier to reflect back and ensure consistency of understanding and they would willingly hand over some of the data for broader analysis such as organisational training needs.  They don’t absolutely need a form or system but they welcome an easy to use, simple method of recording their conversations.

That is our aim.  Our aim is to have capable managers and employees holding great performance conversations.  So, we should think hard about that conversation, think hard about what is likely to facilitate that conversation and be hard on anything that may get in the way.   We should leave them both with the energy to have the conversation.  Our ‘system’ should be supportive, only ask what is necessary, prompt a structure that capable managers would find useful, and gather information that is of wider use to the organisation if in doing so we don’t get in the way of the conversation.

For different organisations that system will be different; history, culture, capability, compliance requirements all will dictate what is achievable today.  But, if the system would stop the conversation or hinders the conversation why would you do it?

Brendan

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What do we want? Performance Management training for Line Managers! When do we want it? Now!

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This is the rallying cry according to a recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) which is highlighted in this article on HR.BLR.Com; too much of the training is focused on the how to complete the form and follow the process rather than the in the skills required to hold constructive conversations.

Much of it chimes with our own view around the concept of ‘Meaningful Conversations’ and in particular our recent webinar on Performance Appraisals.

A checklist of what will help Line Managers ensure Performance Management conversations go well includes such things as regular feedback, evidence gathering, and developing a relationship with team members that allows for honest and open discussion about performance.

Inform Line Managers around the form & process; train Line Managers around the skills required to hold conversations with purpose and which preserve trust.

John

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Performance Appraisal – Top 3 points from our webinar (Recording now available)

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We ran the last of our Meaningful Conversations’ webinars for this year on Friday last week; the topic was ‘Conducting effective Performance Appraisals’. [For free access to the recording with supporting slides & guide, see end of post]

There was a good level of interaction as ever within the webinar, and some great sharing of experience and ideas which helped further enhance the learning for everyone involved.

The session looked at three key elements; context, preparation and structure.

It was interesting to draw the focus of participants into what we see as the fundamental principles which makes for a successful Performance Appraisal:

  • The success of a Performance Appraisal is in part dependent on the quality of the other Performance Management conversations during the year
  • Prepare thoroughly; gather evidence throughout the year
  • It’s a joint process, a dialogue; not a school report
Despite the constant barracking of blog posts and articles lamenting the demise of performance appraisals, the participants in the webinar recognised that if you adhere to these principles, the value of performance appraisal as an exercise in reflection and learning is enormous.

 

If you would like free access to the recording of the webinar complete with supporting slides and our HR guide to Performance Appraisals, then simply contact us via our central information email address below with the subject ‘PA Webinar Slides’ for the link to be sent to you automatically.

 

info@bowlandsolutions.com

 

John
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Top 5 tips in how to conduct a meaningful conversation

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Our ongoing series of ‘Meaningful Conversations’ webinars concludes this Friday 21st with a look at conducting effective Performance Appraisals. (Register here if you haven’t already!)

What underpins this and all the other preceding modules is the concept of a ‘meaningful conversation’; we defined this as a conversation which:

- delivers against it’s stated purpose

- builds or maintains a high trust relationship

If either one of these components is missing, then the conversation just becomes coercive, or a friendly chat, or meaningless, or sometimes all three in quick succession.

We often see the ability of a Line Manager to deliver on the trust dimension as being the most demanding and least attended to; why? Time pressures, inexperience, lack of skills, etc.

So, what top 5 tips would we offer someone looking to improve in this area?

1. Understand your own communication style and that of others – if they like facts, give them facts; if they prefer stories, craft the story.

2. Understand their frame of reference – Your world view is but one, place yourself in theirs; ask for clarification of terms i.e. When you say this, do you mean that?

3. Build rapport; your content/language, verbal qualities, non-verbal qualities

4. Ask great questions; ones that serve the purpose of the conversation and lead to greater mutual understanding.

5. Listen empathetically; from their frame of reference, not yours.

 

There’s a lot beneath these; but awareness is a good starting point.

John

 

 

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Free Webinar – Meaningful Conversations – Conducting effective Performance Appraisals

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Meaningful Conversations – Conducting effective Performance Appraisals

Friday 21st November 2014@1pm GMT

Join us for this final webinar of the year as many Line Managers approach their year-end performance appraisal conversations with their team.

“Effective Performance Management is the bedrock of sustainable organisational success and the main vehicle by which line managers communicate what is required from employees and give feedback on how well they are achieving job goals; it is essential to do it well.”

 

Eventbrite - Free Webinar - Meaningful Conversations - Conducting effective Performance Appraisals

Our series of ‘Meaningful Conversations’ webinars and classroom-based training modules build the capability and confidence of Line Managers, so that they can not only follow a process that works, but critically they can approach these performance management conversations in a way which builds and preserves the trust in the relationships they have with their direct reports.

This webinar will explore the key elements of a successful Performance Appraisal; by the end of this session, you will:

  • Understand the context of Performance Appraisal in the Performance Management cycle
  • Know how to effectively prepare for the Performance Appraisal conversation
  • Have a simple Performance Appraisal meeting structure which supports a constructive conversation

 

Eventbrite - Free Webinar - Meaningful Conversations - Conducting effective Performance Appraisals

Previous Bowland webinar participant’s feedback:

  • I like the way in which these webinars are facilitated, they are structured, easy, clear and personable. The interactive and engaging way it involves the audience even though they are remote. 
  • Excellent content delivered clearly and professionally. A great opportunity to interact with the subject and other participants
  • I liked the way you made the effort to keep it as interactive as possible, by using polls and the chat function.
  • I find Webinars hosted by Bowland, very informative, engaging, and educational. They provide quality tools to have participants involved and are always clear. 
  • Bowland’s webinars are extremely interactive and well structured. They focus on the core aspects of the subject and the tips/guidance are applicable in the business.

Presenter

John Rice, Director, Bowland Solutions

As a Director with Bowland Solutions, John brings over 10 years of experience in facilitation, training and coaching across a range of high profile & diverse clients including Legal & General, Microsoft, Revlon, CBRE, Renault, Kellogg’s and a number of top 100 law firms.

I hope you can join me on Friday 21st November.

John

Eventbrite - Free Webinar - Meaningful Conversations - Conducting effective Performance Appraisals

 

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What do you want to talk about in a performance review meeting?

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I don’t get to put bold and italics into a blog post title, so let me say that the emphasis in that question should be on the “want”.  If you are a manager – what do you want to talk to the employee about in a performance review meeting? If you are the subject of the meeting what do you want to talk about with your manager?

Plans for the coming year – sounds good.  How last year went – perhaps, although no need to linger on things we already talked about at the time.  My career ambitions – probably.  The overall grade of performance – well we’ll have to talk about that.  Whoops…did we move from want to have there?

That overall performance grade has to be very important to us if it is in nearly every performance review form and yet none of the participants particularly want to talk about it.  The employee may want to know their pay rise or bonus and the organisational process may link an overall grade to that pay decision but it is rare in my experience that a great deal of value comes from the discussion on the overall grade.  And yet it can dominate the performance review meeting.

Worth reflecting on – might just be one of those things we have to accept as part of organisational procedure but let’s not accidentally have one element of the process dominate what could be a conversation both parties want to hold.

 

Brendan

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Taking the ‘Annual’ out of Performance Appraisal

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A brief article here in Entrepreneur magazine offers advice to organisations in changing the way they approach Performance Management; most notably, banning the ‘dreaded’ (Have you noticed it’s always ‘dreaded’..?) annual performance review.

It advocates a more continuous cycle of conversations throughout the year i.e. Setting goals, giving feedback and coaching, with a move away from a review.

In part we agree with what is being laid out here; Performance Management should be a series of meaningful conversations each with a distinct aim; however, we would suggest that a ‘review’ conversation is still an integral part of that cycle.

The opportunity to jointly reflect, consider what went well, what didn’t go so well, is invaluable as part of the learning aspect of a review conversation and in that way critical to an individual’s growth and future performance.

By all means take the ‘annual’ out of Performance Appraisal, but don’t take the ‘review’ out of Performance Management.

John

 

 

 

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Busting Urban Myths – Unintended consequences of Forced Distribution

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Faster or better?

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The most common requirement that we are immediately presented with by prospective clients when they first get in touch is “our current employee’s find the current process takes too long and want it to be quicker”.  This has been the most common presenting problem over the past 10 years of providing performance appraisal software.

The tempting response is – we can make it go faster.  We could

  • shorten the form
  • take out some of the tiresome narrative process
  • increase the amount of rating/bullet points which are quicker to answer
  • move it online
  • automate the written sections based on common phrases
  • rate multiple people at the same time
  • and so on…

Is it better though?  My suspicion is that we have now “wasted less time” but at the same time we have an even less valued process.  Completion rates will fall even further and appraisal conversations will deteriorate.

It is usually possible to make it “go faster” and “be better”.  Or to use our standard language it is usually possible to increase the efficiency and the effectiveness.  Structurally, we focus on

  • What are the key objectives of the appraisal process for the individuals involved and the organisation
  • Improving the performance appraisal conversation and gearing the form, the process, training, and communication to that conversation and the objectives from step 1
  • Delivering the minimum content and process that we require to meet the key objectives

We may work then on the overall performance management process rather than simply the end of year appraisal but first we get credibility with all concerned by responding to their request for a faster process and also delivering to them a better one.

 

 

Brendan

 

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Free Webinar – Meaningful Conversations – Conducting effective Performance Appraisals

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Meaningful Conversations – Conducting effective Performance Appraisals

Friday 21st November 2014@1pm GMT

Join us for this final webinar of the year as many Line Managers approach their year-end performance appraisal conversations with their team.

 

“Effective Performance Management is the bedrock of sustainable organisational success and the main vehicle by which line managers communicate what is required from employees and give feedback on how well they are achieving job goals; it is essential to do it well.”

 

Eventbrite - Free Webinar - Meaningful Conversations - Conducting effective Performance Appraisals

Our series of ‘Meaningful Conversations’ webinars and classroom-based training modules build the capability and confidence of Line Managers, so that they can not only follow a process that works, but critically they can approach these performance management conversations in a way which builds and preserves the trust in the relationships they have with their direct reports.

This webinar will explore the key elements of a successful Performance Appraisal; by the end of this session, you will:

  • Understand the context of Performance Appraisal in the Performance Management cycle
  • Know how to effectively prepare for the Performance Appraisal conversation
  • Have a simple Performance Appraisal meeting structure which supports a constructive conversation

 

Eventbrite - Free Webinar - Meaningful Conversations - Conducting effective Performance Appraisals

Previous Bowland webinar participant’s feedback:

  • I like the way in which these webinars are facilitated, they are structured, easy, clear and personable. The interactive and engaging way it involves the audience even though they are remote. 
  • Excellent content delivered clearly and professionally. A great opportunity to interact with the subject and other participants
  • I liked the way you made the effort to keep it as interactive as possible, by using polls and the chat function.
  • I find Webinars hosted by Bowland, very informative, engaging, and educational. They provide quality tools to have participants involved and are always clear. 
  • Bowland’s webinars are extremely interactive and well structured. They focus on the core aspects of the subject and the tips/guidance are applicable in the business.

 

Presenter

John Rice, Director, Bowland Solutions

As a Director with Bowland Solutions, John brings over 10 years of experience in facilitation, training and coaching across a range of high profile & diverse clients including Legal & General, Microsoft, Revlon, CBRE, Renault, Kellogg’s and a number of top 100 law firms.

 

I hope you can join me on Friday 21st November.

Eventbrite - Free Webinar - Meaningful Conversations - Conducting effective Performance Appraisals

John

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Busting Urban Myths – Performance Appraisals

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Performance Appraisals; without follow through, it’s just not tennis!

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I know that should be cricket, but Wimbledon is here again and a sporting analogy between tennis and performance appraisals is always good inspiration!

In fact, any racquet sport will do, as the principle holds that a successful shot, bat, stroke or whatever is strongly influenced by the way the player follows through on that shot – He or she doesn’t merely get in the right position, step back, keep their eye on the ball, draw their arm back and swing towards the ball to make the shot….once they connect with the ball, they follow through…their arm swinging upwards and away from them.

In a recent article I read about how a company successfully implemented their performance appraisals;  the underlying theme that appeared to create their success, was the way they followed through on the outcomes of the appraisals – for example, they reacted quickly to the training needs that arose from the appraisals, published a clear training plan for all to see, and immediately began booking people onto training courses that were highlighted for them.

Their focus was clearly on ensuring that performance appraisals were genuinely an opportunity for reflection, learning, and in this case, development, rather than just an evaluation of performance without consideration of the potential.

Without this follow through, any good work could come undone, as employees would see the exercise as simply ‘ticking the box’ rather than actually delivering on a promise to have appraisals which serve the needs of both the organisation and the individual.

And that is what separates the top flight players from the rest, their ability to see something through correctly, every step of the way!

John

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When performance appraisals go bad…

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I read the following article on Federal News Radio website from ‘across the pond’ regarding a serious derailment of a Performance Appraisal process within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The performance ratings affected reward and there was significant distortion of ratings between those employees of different races, ages, by location, and payscale; in short, in wasn’t a fair and transparent system.

It’s worth reading through as a cautionary tale, which although representing an extreme case, does highlight a real challenge with performance appraisal processes which focus on ratings and reward.

The interesting thing for me was to note the comment which stated that “the focus for the revamped system will be on performance improvement and career development, “rather than some number rating”.”

This is the crux of the matter; when a number or rating, becomes the focus of the performance appraisal process, the ability to hold a meaningful conversation about learning, development, aspiration and improvement becomes seriously compromised.

John

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Do goals/targets limit high performance?

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I am a member of a cycling club.  Every now and again a topic will come up which can be summed up as …. “if I know I am cycling 50 miles then I tend to be exhausted at mile 48.  If I know I am cycling 75 miles then I am fine at mile 48.  Why is that?”.  With modern technology recording every pedal stroke I can assure you this isn’t simply a matter of the pace you cycle at.  There is something about how the mind starts to feel as it approaches a goal – a relaxation and a tendency to prepare for the end.  It would be devastating to be told to cycle another 25 miles if you had been told the distance was only 50.  You just wouldn’t be “up for it”.

In a similar vein, Peter (our head of technology delivery) is training to run the Edinburgh marathon.  He recently ran the Stafford half marathon and was aiming to get inside 2 hours for the first time over that distance.  He timed 2 hours and 3 seconds (I won’t mention that his wife berated him at the finishing line for not sprinting the last bit!).  Last weekend – just a fortnight or so later – he ran 17 miles in training … and went past the half marathon distance at 1 hour and 44 minutes.  Clearly many factors are at play here but for anyone who has run, cycled or trained for a physical endurance event the story is ironic but not that surprising.

When I have researched how rewards influence behaviours in the past, the top 10% – high achievers – are often excluded from findings because they do not respond to external rewards and instead tend to already be driven and motivated.  Indeed there is an argument that reward mechanisms frustrate them rather than motivate them.  When I reflect on my own experience of sporting targets and their impact on performance I wonder whether stretch goals should be past what is really required or even achievable, particularly for the high achievers in an organisation.  The cliche of “reach for the stars and you may get to the moon” has some truth.

In the workplace this can be a real issue.  If rewards in the annual performance appraisal are linked to goals then signing up to an unachievable goal is illogical behaviour – instead goals are “negotiated” with an inevitable drive by the individual to drive down the target.  However, greater performance may have been achieved by setting a distant target.

Goals give clarity, set expectations and are generally a good idea.  For some organisations, and some people within those organisations are smarter approach to performance appraisal may be required to ensure that goal setting drives the highest performance level.

 

Brendan

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What gets rewarded, gets done

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A simple reminder from Seth Godin on the idea of reward driving behaviour – it follows the maxim of ‘What gets measured, gets done’ and is a useful prompt to organisations to carefully consider what behaviour their performance appraisal processes, systems, reward and recognition schemes create.

The news is awash of organisations and institutions which have created their own ‘Frankenstein’s monster’; good intent gone awry by not thinking this through – the results can be shocking, with displayed behaviour going against the very core purpose of the organisation, be that protecting citizens, caring for them, or providing democratic governance.

John

 

 

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