Performance Management

How to choose an effective performance management platform

How can you effectively connect employee performance to your business’ commercial results – and ensure that the right steps are being taken to maximise the potential of both? In this article, we explore how to choose a performance platform that connects performance to enablement and produce a culture of effective 1:1s that drive employee performance and productivity.

It may sound like a cliché, but your employees are your most important asset: if you want your business to thrive, those employees need to be productive, engaged and enabled. But how can you effectively connect employee performance to your business’ commercial results – and ensure that the right steps are being taken to maximise the potential of both? In this article, we explore how to choose a performance platform to enable effective one-to-ones that drive employee performance and productivity.

A performance management system offers businesses a structure to improve employee performance and drive better business results. But organisations serious about creating a culture of trust, alignment, and support to make sure that their employees feel enabled and engaged to perform need to go beyond setting and tracking goals and OKRs. With a platform that shifts managers mindsets to focus on enablement through coaching and provides them with the tools and training, they need to enable employees to do their best work every day.

Yet with so many platforms on offer, choosing the solution that’s right for your team can be tough. To make sure you get the right platform for your needs, we’ve put together a guide to choosing the right performance management tool.

What is performance management?

Performance management helps businesses get the best out of their employees by identifying areas that need development, establishing goals, and enabling professional development.

In generic terms, performance management is a corporate management tool that has historically enabled managers to monitor and evaluate an employees' work. Traditional performance management focuses predominantly upon the review and appraisal part of the process. Looking backwards at past performance and evaluating it in the present to hold employees to account for their performance. As the CIPD, states, linking it to reward, career progression and termination of contracts.

However, while performance reviews and appraisals are a core element of effective performance management, a growing number of businesses are starting to see that, to be truly successful and embed a culture of high performance, managers need to enable their employees to thrive.

What is enablement?

Performance enablement is about moving beyond objective measurement. Enablement focuses on how businesses can empower their people to grow and develop and perform their best at work. For employees to deliver their maximum potential performance enablement needs to be an ongoing, continual process.

At OpenBlend, we believe that traditional performance management is broken. To be effective in today’s environment, performance management and enablement should always be people-centric, incorporating personal and professional drivers and motivators to address every individual’s work-life Blend, generating productivity and engagement through wellbeing, development, feedback and fulfilment at all times of the year.

What should you look for in a performance management and enablement platform?

At a very minimum, a performance management and enablement tool should provide a solid framework for effective performance management that facilitates two-way discussion. With any performance platform, your managers need to be able to assess performance, provide feedback, and drive improvement.

Yet not every performance management system delivers the same experience – or the same results. Some may offer a basic framework that you are left to ‘fill in’ the ‘WHAT” of objective yourself, while others provide a more holistic approach that guides you through best practice or supports a certain method of performance management and enablement, like the people-centric approach we promote at OpenBlend. By supporting managers with coaching prompts and functionality throughout the performance process (as we explore below), next we will explain HOW to enable performance:

The performance management and enablement process: what effective people-centric management requires

1) SMART goal setting

For goal setting to be effective, it needs to Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound (SMART). An effective performance management and enablement system should enable SMART objectives to be set according to this framework, and make it easy for managers and employees to check progress and measure results against KPIs.

However, there are limitations to the SMART approach. It can be inflexible, which can make it less suitable for long term goals and personal development if it’s not managed correctly. By taking a people-centric approach to SMART objectives - it can address this problem. Managers and employees can work together to break long-term goals down into smaller, more achievable objectives that meet SMART criteria. With regular one-to-ones, goals can be revisited and reviewed, building up towards longer-term achievements.

2) Continuous feedback

Performance management and enablement should be flexible and reactive. A platform that facilitates continuous feedback drives productivity and personal development, empowers managers to support employees on an ongoing basis via regular check-ins and one-to-ones. An effective tool should be built on a framework that guides managers to deliver constructive feedback with coaching prompts that recognises and rewards success, while providing solutions to challenges and obstacles as they appear (not a year down the line).

Businesses should look for a performance tool that makes feedback constructive and consistent – and aligned to measurable KPIs. With frequent and clear-cut feedback, the better individual performance. A platform that places continuous feedback at the heart of the performance process, combined with coaching prompts for managers as and when more challenging conversations arise creates an environment that is forward-thinking, solutions based and offers ample opportunity for everyday praise and constructive advice. The more understanding employees have in there here and now as to their work, performance and what they need to develop the better engaged they will be, and they are lots more likely to meet their objectives on an ongoing basis.

3) Tailored to the individual  

SMART goals and OKRs are all well and good for assessing performance, but what factors are actually driving that performance? People-centric performance management doesn’t just set objectives and review them: it looks at every employee’s motivations, challenges and aspirations to break down barriers and drive commercial results.

A people-centric performance system empowers managers to have open, honest conversations with employees that unlock greater productivity by addressing the needs of the individual. There is no ‘one size fits all’ to improving performance, different people are motivated by different things and tools that recognise this are more successful than those that try to apply a rigid methodology to every person.

Enabling performance across your entire workforce depends on a deep understanding into what impacts your employees on an individual level, when you know what drives them to perform their best at work, what they need to feel engaged and motivated – and have clear insight into the areas they might be struggling with – that's when you’re equipped with the right sort of information to have truly effective performance-based conversations.

A people-centric platform will support managers with the right data, prompts and coaching, that encourages them to ask the right questions, at the right time, and create actions that are measurable and impactful.

4) Regular, structured 1:1s

Effective performance management and enablement needs to go beyond annual appraisals in order to maintain productivity. A good platform should facilitate regular, structured 1:1s between managers and employees that are open and honest, have a clear structure to follow, and coach managers on how to lead and respond. The ability to track results and outcomes from these one-to-ones is vital to ensure full accountability: these aren’t just conversations to be forgotten, but actionable plans to grow engagement, productivity, trust, and loyalty.

A lot can change in a quarter, and more frequent conversations allow for a timely response to performance issues from managers and employees alike.

5) Collaboration between remote and hybrid teams

Hybrid and remote working are increasingly becoming the norm, which has the potential to disrupt the regularity of performance conversations. Remote managers have less visibility than they once did, they can’t see physically employees working. They're less likely to notice them getting stressed or burnt out, unable to see first-hand how they are achieving and it's more difficult for them to assess when they might need help.

Non-flexible and business-focused appraisal systems do not accommodate for regular and frequent interaction and aren’t built to understand employees at an individual level, their unique drivers, motivators and what they need to perform at their best. A lack of connectivity combined with impersonality is a recipe for disaster when it comes to managing and driving performance amongst a remote workforce.

The best performance management and enablement tools will support managers as they transition to managing these hybrid workforces, giving them the resources they need to adapt their approach for home or office-based employees. Promote inclusion and connectedness and help managers understand the wants and needs of every remote employee, as much as they would their office-based counterparts.

6) Alignment of employee and commercial needs

There should be no separation between employee needs and commercial needs, and an effective performance tool should reflect that. Rather than just addressing whether the workforce is productive enough (e.g., are goals being met), a good performance management tool helps you to assess what’s driving – or holding back – productivity to make the necessary changes and remove blocks that are standing in the way. OpenBlend transforms the way employees interact with the goal-setting process. When adding goals to OpenBlend, you create key results and these metrics are then fed in to relevant teams every day, allowing them to see their progress and impact.

Your people are your business. Their obstacles and challenges are your obstacles and challenges. What makes a people-centric performance management and enablement tool effective is that it recognises this rather than trying to ignore it. The OpenBlend platform brings together commercial, and employee needs by aligning every individual’s motivators with measurable performance KPIs. As a result, users can see the impact that their people-centric performance measures are having on business results.

7) Helpful integration with productivity tools

In order to make sure those regular 1:1s as intuitive and productive as possible and ensure the performance management process isn’t left behind with the switch to more hybrid ways of working, integration into productivity and collaboration software, such as MS Teams, is a must. A seamless connection between your performance management tool and Microsoft Teams makes the process of booking 1:1s instinctive, enabling employees and managers to easily incorporate performance conversations into their day-to-day.

What are the elements that define ineffective performance management?

So now you know what an effective performance management system might look like, what about the alternative? If any of the below statements sound true of your approach to performance management something needs to change –

  • There’s no support for managers on how to have effective coaching-led conversations
  • The process does not include individual employee motivation and drivers
  • No opportunity for on-the-spot recognition
  • Managers treat performance management as a tick-box exercise driven by HR
  • Employee wellbeing is not included in 1:1 performance conversations
  • Goals and objectives are assigned by a manager then swiftly forgotten about or redundant by the time the yearly review rolls around
  • Rigid processes and structured reviews mean that performance conversations are very rarely a two-way street
  • Infrequent opportunity for regular, honest, and open feedback
  • Yearly appraisals or annual reviews define employee performance

With only 8% of companies believing that their current performance management processes are effective (Deloitte), it is prime time to assess whether your approach to performance management is doing more harm than good.

How is OpenBlend different, and what can OpenBlend do for my business?

Of course, it’s one thing knowing how to choose an effective performance management system, but what does ‘effective’ performance management really look like?

At OpenBlend, we’ve developed a coaching-led performance platform that promotes regular 1:1 conversation and collaboration to connect the business with the employee. OpenBlend is a new breed of performance management and enablement tech that empowers employees and managers to have honest discussion and make effective performance management ingrained in the day to day. With agile goal-setting, real-time recognition, and employee motivators and wellbeing metrics that support continual improvement. Effective performance management equals happy, healthy, and productive employees, and better business results.

What’s more, OpenBlend can be built around your business. If you’re in the early stages of exploring performance management software it might be better to focus on nailing the performance management side first. This includes making sure that the structure is in place to make effective objective setting, employee evaluations and performance reviews a regular occurrence. Once you’ve mastered the basics of performance management you can then start to engage with performance enablement. OpenBlend features such as Blend drivers, Continuous Feedback, Wellbeing, and Coaching functionality make the performance enablement process seamless and intuitive.

To find out more about how OpenBlend’s people-centric performance management and enablement tool can maximise productivity in your business, watch our video explainer here, drop us an email hello@openblend.comcall 01628 613040 or book a demo with us today.

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