There’s a wave of change flowing through some of the world’s largest organisations, resulting from the realisation that investments in traditional performance based management are not providing optimal returns. As workplaces- and workers –are changing, so too are the systems and processes that most effectively assess and guide them.
The accepted definition of performance management, as summarised by Armstrong and Baron, is ‘a process which contributes to the effective management of individuals and teams in order to achieve high levels of organisational performance. As such, it establishes shared understanding about what is to be achieved and an approach to leading and developing people which will ensure that it is achieved’.
We may think this is a contemporary approach, developed to meet the needs of today’s corporate environments, however China’s Wei Dynasty used a “nine-rank system” for evaluating civil service officials in the third century! Of course, performance management systems have evolved since then, primarily in the latter half of the twentieth century, following WW2.
Today, businesses collectively invest tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in performance rating systems that have evolved from these historical models. Their intention remains to provide management and personnel guidance to improve performance and productivity. Whether the input is generated by objective metrics, ratings, forced rankings or goal achievements, these systems usually involve a standardisation process designed to assess people in similar roles by the same criteria.
This generally results in a rigid process that gives managers a sense of control and a belief that they are providing employees with feedback and direction. Meanwhile, it is assumed that at the end of the process, employees have identified, or been provided with, areas in which they can improve their performance.
When job descriptions were tightly defined and many people acted in identical roles this process was more effective than it is proving to be in the twenty first century. Technology is changing how we work. Evolving organisational structures, demands for increased flexibility and peoples’ expectations of their employers and workplaces are changing the way we work.
Both locally and internationally, a mounting body of evidence (generally proprietary for obvious reasons) is reflecting the facts that not only are many employees dissatisfied by traditional performance based ratings, but that the whole process of assessment and comparison on which promotion and remuneration are based, can also be counter-productive, a demotivational force in the workplace. It is also a system that can be successfully gamed by agile participants, if not thoroughly managed.
People are looking for something different – engaging, inspiring and motivating. The formal structures that once stratified society and consequently working environments, have been replaced by a new fluidity. Employers expect more flexibility and initiative from their people, who are in turn, entitled to expect it from their employers.
The key to an organisation successfully negotiating this change to a new working paradigm can be summarised in one word – leadership. Managers must lead their teams to more rewarding and productive working environments, while individuals must be equipped and empowered to lead themselves to develop their skills and optimise their performance and job and life satisfaction.
Executive coaching is the first step in transforming successful senior managers into successful leaders. People who not only understand themselves and how to maximise their performance, but who can also understand, motivate and coach their teams, at both collective and individual levels.
The rest of the world has come a long way since the third century, it’s time the way we evaluate performance and manage people did too.
If you would like to discuss how executive coaching can drive positive change for you, your team members or your organisation, please contact Melinda Fell email: firstname.lastname@example.org