Ram is having his Performance Appraisal letter in his hand and he is feeling terrible! He got an ‘Average’ rating and he was expecting an ‘Outstanding’ rating and a Promotion too. The general mood in the office is reflecting a ‘Home in mourning’. People who got ‘Outstanding’ were unhappy that they did not get Promotion. People who got ‘Outstanding’ rating and ‘Promotion’ feel they did not get enough increment to go with the new position. There does not seem to be anyone who is happy ! That is making Ram’s mood even more mournful! Ram’s Boss had been giving him very good feedback through out the year. Ram had been asking his Boss for feedback and generally Boss always gave a Positive feedback that Ram is doing quite well. He would mention some issues in overall performance of the Company. But, always ended saying Ram is doing very well. Now, at the end of the year Ram is having a big Surprise ! Ram’s Boss blamed it on the ‘Normalisation’ and kept saying ‘I recommended better rating for you, HR did not allow it’. Ram does not know what to do. When he enquires with HR, they say ‘We go by your Boss’s rating’. Ram is stuck between a ‘Rock’ and a ‘Hard Place’.
Sounds familiar ?
When I look at the ‘Performance Management’ in companies, this is the normal situation in most of the Companies. Those days when the Performance appraisal letters are given, generally mourning feeling is pervasive in the Company. The Supervisors / Bosses who give rating are busy bad mouthing the ‘System’. The same Supervisors / Bosses never give constructive feedback to the team members during the year.
My observation is that the Supervisors / Bosses usually do not have the conviction and courage to look in to the eyes of their team member and tell him/her what is going well and what is not going well. They never clearly tell them where the Team members have to improve. They give some general remarks !
Why are the Supervisors / Bosses behaving this way? I find that it has several reasons. But, one of the important one is to do with the urge of the Supervisors / Bosses to be ‘Popular’ with their Team. But, this is only one surface level symptom. The root cause lies much deeper. It is to do with an absence of ‘Performance Culture’ in the Company.
Essentials for a Good Performance Culture
It is essential for a Company to have a Culture where Good Performance is valued and the definition for Good Performance is clearly defined and understood by everyone concerned.
01. Sharp and Clear Targets:The foundation for a good Performance Culture is ‘Clear Targets’ at all levels in the Company. There are many companies who have Clear targets at the Top and ‘Unclear or No Targets’ at every other level. This creates a situation where the Supervisors / Bosses are not clear about what to expect from their teams. So, everything is okay. Even the Supervisor / Boss who is serious about Performance will not know how to make his Team members accountable. Not to talk about the ‘Popular Leaders’. A Target Deployment system has to be implemented.
02. Critical Business Reviews: Even if the Targets are deployed properly, if the Bosses are not reviewing periodically, the Performance culture will not be there. A good Business Review needs to follow a certain process. The Business Reviews have to happen at ALL levels and not just by Senior people. Conducting a review is equivalent to the concerned Boss taking responsibility to get results from his team. If only senior people are reviewing, then responsibility lies only with senior people. The Bosses have to give Critical feedback to the team. This is very important. If they soft pedal, then they are not helping the team.
03. Regular Feedback to the team members: Other than the Business Reviews, each of the Team member has to be given Personal feedback about his/her performance. I would recommend a Quarterly feedback. The feedback has to be critical, acknowledging the good things and where the person has to improve. If there are good discussions / debates, it is very good.
04. Train the Bosses / Supervisors: Every company should have a written down Performance Management System and all those involved should be trained formally in the System. It is worth having a KPI for all the Leaders about his/her effectiveness on Performance Management System. Companies need to create a discussion around the Performance Management System within the Company.
05. Promote a Self-Improvement Culture: Every Company can do this by encouraging the Leaders to take a 360 Degree feed back (Co-ordinated by an outside agency is better) and creating an ‘Individual Development Plan’ for every Leader. This has to start from the Top. A Company that can successfully create a Self-Improvement Culture can be successful on creating a Performance Culture as everyone would be reconciled that it is okay to be ‘Not Perfect’ on just about everything and it is okay to say that ‘I need to improve in this area’.
There can be more elements. But, these are absolutely essential. Companies need to acknowledge that it is not very easy to maintain ‘Performance Culture’ and have enough focus on this Vital aspect of Business.