Home / The Rix & Kay Blog / What is good performance management?
Georgina Hardcastle

HR Consultant - East Sussex (Uckfield)

28th June 2024

Are you bringing out the very best in your staff and your organisation as a whole? What is good performance management?

The overall objective of managing performance is to maximise the performance of the workforce to ensure the organisation can achieve its business goals. Effective and regular conversations with staff  about their work and development and aligning those individual goals with the organisation’s overall business objectives is fundamental to organisational effectiveness.

Who is responsible for good performance management?

People managers are central to good performance management. All too often Managers see performance management as: a method of disciplining those not performing well; or they  lack training or time to give praise and recognition; or they lack awareness of the positive impact that recognition can have on boosting employee morale, increasing motivation, improving overall job satisfaction, and performance, leading to higher levels of engagement and productivity.

Managing performance should be ongoing throughout the entire employment lifecycle. It should be a holistic approach bringing together a number of different integrated activities to form an ongoing cycle of continuous improvement. This includes activities such as:

  • Recruiting the people with the right skills;
  • Effective induction into the organisation;
  • Structured probationary meetings throughout the probationary period;
  • Regular one to one check-in meetings/appraisals; and
  • Informal day-to-day feedback.

All the above activities can help to create a culture of constructive improvement, employee wellness and positive morale.

Let’s start by looking at the benefits of ongoing conversation rather than annual appraisals.

Obviously, the way you manage performance should fit your business and the way your organisation operates. That said, many organisations have moved away from the ‘traditional annual appraisal’ favouring a new focus on ongoing conversation. Annual appraisals are viewed as not being ‘fit for purpose’ in today’s agile and fast-moving business environment. Opportunities to capitalise on employees’ successes, give timely praise and recognition, maximise strengths and foster development opportunities may have been lost. Annual appraisals are also often seen as a ‘tick-box’ exercise leading to managers and employees alike paying lip service to the process.

On the contrary, a performance management process that is ongoing such as monthly one to one’s and/or quarterly check-in meetings, are likely to be far more relevant and effective. The way performance is managed has evolved and needs to be adapted to economic, technological and societal changes. Engaged, high performing employees in today’s organisations are focussed on recognition and growth and development opportunities.

Ongoing conversation with your employees will help to achieve that emphasis on personal development, develop key skills and strengths and give and your employees that regular and guaranteed time for two-way communication.

How to structure an effective and meaningful performance management conversation?

If carried out effectively the performance management process will have a multitude of benefits both to your organisation and your employees.

  1. Active commitment to having the meeting. Try not to prioritize other work over the meeting or cancel. This starts to devalue the process.
  2. Start with a supportive comment. Take the time to ask ‘how someone is doing?’ We all have lives outside of work, so it’s important to understand how people are really doing. Leading with empathy and support helps to build positive and healthier working relationships.
  3. Celebrate achievements and successes. It is an ideal opportunity for managers to celebrate and praise those successes helping to improve employee motivation and boost self-confidence. This links to the idea that opportunities for growth and improvement come from understanding what it is they’ve been doing that’s worked well, what was it that they did that contributed to that, and how can they build on and replicate that in other areas of their work.
  4. Address obstacles/problems with a view to identifying solutions. It’s important to understand the nature of the difficulties and break down the issue.
    • Are there any areas of work they are finding challenging?
    • What’s not progressing? What perhaps hasn’t gone so well?
    • Establish why the difficulty occurred.
    • Has the difficulty highlighted any particular knowledge gaps?
    • What further support is required? What changes would help? i.e. improved communication/clearer instructions/more supervision/better resources/training etc.
  5. Give constructive feedback. The key purpose of managing performance is to create an environment of continuous learning and personal development. Ineffective delivery of feedback is likely to be counterproductive to the process and instead lead to low morale/disengagement or demotivation.
    • Helpful feedback is clear, specific with examples, timely, forward looking, seeks solutions and combined with a positive comment.
    • Poor feedback is judgemental, seeks blame, non-specific, criticises personality and delayed.
  6. Agree and set goals. Agreeing opportunities and actions that will make a difference, deciding what will be done by when and what support is needed to achieve the goals. By involving individuals in the process of setting their goals and focussing on the development of skills and abilities, they are also more likely to want to be successful in achieving them. Goals don’t have to focus on a specified outcome within a defined timeframe. Depending on the individual and their job role – some goals may be ongoing and broad.
  7. Prioritise learning and development requirements. This is about exploring individual aspirations and possibilities, understanding each person’s needs and wants, building on strengths and keeping on track with how their role and career can be developed. Typical questions might include:
    • How do they see their role/ work/career evolving?
    • Is there something specific they would like to do next? What are they interested in?
    • What would make their work more satisfying?
    • What would they like to do more of?
    • Are there any key strengths they’d like to develop/areas to specialise in?
  8. Keep a written record of the review. This should be signed by both parties and agreed by the employee.
  9. Hold regular meetings to review progress. Typical questions can include:
    • How are they progressing?
    • Were the goals realistic and achievable?
    • Were any issues encountered?
    • Are the goals still relevant?
    • Stay on top of factors that might be hindering achievement of goals.
    • Keep on track and stay current and connected.

What if poor performance becomes an issue and being mindful of disability discrimination.

First and foremost, employers must ascertain whether poor performance issues are related to a health condition that could amount to a disability. Under the Equality Act 20210, a disability is defined as someone who has a ‘physical or mental impairment’ and that impairment ‘has a substantial and long-term (i.e. will affect them or is likely to affect them for at least 12 months) adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’ (i.e. things that people do in their home and social life as well as things that let people participate fully in their working life).

Employers have a duty under the Act to make reasonable adjustments for people with a disability. The aim of this duty is to ensure that, as far as is reasonable, someone with a disability has the same access to everything in keeping their job as any other non-disabled person.

Making reasonable adjustments means reducing or removing a disadvantage related to someone’s disability. In many cases the adjustments will be simple, straightforward and low-cost such as:

  • Allowing more time to complete tasks.
  • Providing more one-to-one support.
  • Providing additional training/offering modified training methods/more time to complete training.
  • Offering different responsibilities/lighter work/discussing a move to a different role.
  • Allowing more frequent breaks.
  • Changing their working pattern/flexible/part-time working.

When more formal performance-related capability procedures may need to be followed.

In the first instance, most performance concerns should normally be dealt with informally. If, however, after informal performance management reviews have taken place to give the employee the opportunity to improve their performance and performance still remains unsatisfactory, it may become necessary to start more formal performance-related capability procedures. It should be stressed that, since the circumstances of each case are likely to be different, the action taken in each case will be action that is appropriate, considering the particular circumstances of the employee concerned.

Additional Information

ACAS has lots of useful and informative resources to help support employers.

Contact us

If you need HR support to help create and implement one-to-one/performance review documents, advice on how to manage disability issues and reasonable adjustments or how to commence capability procedures contact Georgina Hardcastle, a member of our GatekeeperHR team, on e. GeorginaHardcastle@rixandkay.co.uk  or visit the GatekeeperHR website for more information on how we can help you.