#Working4HRM- Agile Performance Management in an Agile Organisation

Emmanuelle Lacroix| Partnership Development Manager for EMEA – Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation| 5 luglio 2016

The “classic” performance management process tends to bring dread to most of us – managers and team member alike. In many organisations, the performance review has devolved into a mechanical, artificial annual cycle of meetings and box-ticking exercises that leads to little more than forms filling and meaningless ratings. This is particularly true in the non-profit sector where fewer agencies can provide bonuses or performance-related pay increases.

Much research has taken place around the link between employee engagement and high performance.[1] Nonetheless, the historical approach to managing performances often fails to unleash the potential for these transformational results, as staff are not engaged and the management relationship is stuck at the parent-child stage rather than the most efficient one labeled adult to adult as coined by Eric Berne in his “Transactional Analysis”[2].

So how do we unlock this engagement? Forgive me if this sounds like yet another buzzword, but starting to develop more agility within an organisation is a good place to start.

First things first: what do we mean by agility? According to one of our reports, it is how powerfully an organisation can react and adapt to changes in its operational contexts and how quickly it recognizes and closes its workforce’s skills gaps so the latter can be aligned to the former. From this foundational statement, we see how learning and performance management are intrinsically linked.

So next question: how do organisations become more agile? It will take a range of approaches and shifts in mindset and practices as there is no single path. For the purpose of this blog, let’s focus on learning and performance management, two of our “sweets spots” at the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation.

  • Expand learning beyond the classroom

Capacity development makes more sense to all of us when it’s relevant and directly applicable to our day-to-day activities.  Find ways to use embedded learning approaches such as after-action reviews, customer[3] feedback cycles, job rotations/shadowing, and peer learning groups to maximize experiential and reflective learning. Many of these approaches do not necessarily require budgets and can be implemented as part of a team’s work plans and existing knowledge sharing practices.

  • Move away from one-size-fits-all training

Building on the previous point, for learning to be effective, it must be targeted, relevant and personalized. Using technology will enable organisations to move towards creating employee and department specific development capacity building experiences more efficiently and eventually at a lower cost. And when cost and lack of bandwidth to roll out Talent Management software are seen as a barrier to leveraging technology, free open online learning platforms such as DisasterReady.org and NonprofitReady.org  are there to help organisations benefit from the innovation and resources available online.

  • Transition to on-going performance management

Agility is the result of an organisation’s transition from a static and mechanical performance management model to one that supports a continuous loop of feedback and actual employee development. These continuous performance conversations should also come from other stakeholders and be sought and captured on a project-by-project basis where applicable.

  • Make your employees’ goals crystal clear

Specific, manageable goals are much more likely to lead to programmatic effectiveness and employee engagement. Transform big, once-a-year goals into more short-term, measurable and precise objectives. Develop a system (and where possible use technology) to track on-going progresses and refine goals. This will lead to more meaningful and deeper performance conversations between managers and their staff.  It also allows your staff to see more concretely how their work is supporting the organisation’s mission and impacing the communities in which they work.

Changing the mindset and dynamics around the management of performance will help create an environment that builds engagement amongst staff. With on-going development part of the organisational DNA, employees can go the extra mile for a clear and shared purpose where processes support rather than hinder that engagement.

For a start, why not change the name of that dreaded process? Find a label that suits your organisation’s culture and vision, one that reflects the continuous conversations, and that sets in motion the shared journey to create that agile organisation.


[1] See the research work and report “Engaging for Success” by David McLeod and Nita Clarke for additional information: http://engageforsuccess.org/the-four-enablers

[2] See here for additional information: http://www.businessballs.com/transact.htm

[3] i.e. other teams/departments, external partners, service users, etc.

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