July 6, 2021
Lucy Robertson

OpenBlend answer: 6 steps to an effective performance management conversation

What makes a good performance management conversation? It’s not an easy question to answer. Ask any employee or manager what they think makes a good performance management conversation, and you’ll probably get a vague response. We know when it works, because performance improves, but what exactly makes it work is another question.

Ask anyone what makes a bad performance management conversation, however, and you’re likely to get a much more vocal response. Before we outline our six steps to effective employee one-to-ones, let’s first look at the most common frustrations we need to overcome.

8 barriers to effective performance management conversations

They are too time consuming

There’s a certain irony to performance management conversations that take up so much time they start to negatively impact productivity.  

It’s a box ticking exercise

Performance management is not about ticking off objectives – it’s about personal and professional development, goal setting and identifying/overcoming barriers to success. If you’re just talking through a list of tasks, you’re not going to make a real impact.

Objectives aren’t clear

On the other hand, you do need clear performance objectives to make one-to-ones actionable and measurable. Without them, employees won’t know what they are working towards, and managers won’t know how to gauge progress.

The relationship isn’t working

If there is a breakdown in the relationship between manager and employee, these conversations are never going to be comfortable or productive. The key is preventing this breakdown in the first place, and that means facilitating clear, structured coaching-led conversations.

They aren’t frequent enough

What’s the point in performance management conversations that occur once in a blue moon? If they aren’t often enough, it’s impossible to keep track of objectives and set realistic goals.

They are demotivating

No one wants to sit through a list of their failings, without recognition of their achievements. It’s all too easy to focus on the next areas that need to be improved, and ignore existing successes, but it will hinder, not help, performance.

It’s a one-sided agenda

An agenda that prioritises one party over the other will be frustrating and, ultimately, futile. Simply citing a list of demands (be it from the employee or manager) is not going to improve performance.  

They don’t recognise the individual

It’s all well and good to set objectives and outline where improvements need to be made, but it needs to recognise the individual behind the job title. What about the employee and their mindset? What do they think/feel/need? Without that, performance management conversations won’t have the required results.

All of the above frustrations can be eliminated by taking a people-centric approach to performance management. Yet that, too, can be a difficult concept to put your finger on: how do you turn that people-centric focus on the individual into commercial results for your business?

At OpenBlend, we built our entire platform based on people-centric principles, creating a framework that enables coaching-led performance management conversations that make a real impact on productivity and engagement.

Here are our six steps to making every employee one-to-one and performance management conversation effective:

Step 1 – Be a human

We are all more than our job title. The more we recognise and embrace this, as managers and employees, the better our performance one-to-ones will be. Being able to empathise with others, and have naturalistic, personable conversations, enables us to break down barriers and get to the heart of performance challenges. If employees feel the need to hide behind a ‘professional mask’, managers won’t be able to get to the heart of any performance issues. Being human also enables us to sympathise with each other’s frustrations and work towards a shared solution.   

Step 2 – Understand work life Blend and the impact on employee performance

To pretend that factors outside of our job description don’t have any impact on our performance is pure folly. We are not machines. We are each motivated and challenged by different things, we all have different personal goals. By understanding this, people-centric performance conversations can drive productivity by seeing the whole person, not just their work persona, and supporting them accordingly.

Step 3 – Identify clear performance objectives

Rather than vague statements, make objectives clear and deliverable. For instance, a goal like ‘improve output’ is meaningless. ‘Improve output by delivering X actions per day’ is measurable, actionable, and feels more rewarding for the employee when they achieve it.

Step 4 – Let the employee set the agenda

Managers should work with employees in performance management meetings, not against them. Let the employee set the agenda and outline what they need to discuss. How do they think they are performing? What barriers are they facing? What do they need to overcome them? What makes them feel fulfilled and proud of what they have achieved? By supporting these conversations, managers will have a much bigger impact on productivity than by blindly setting tasks and goals.

Step 5 – Create a regular & achievable rhythm

If one-to-ones are too sporadic, or too far apart, it is difficult to keep up momentum. Make them too frequent, and they become time consuming and irritating. Use a performance management platform that enables you to set a rhythm that works for both parties to get the best results.

Step 6 – Don’t fear feedback

Feedback should be part of every one-to-one, and it should be both ways. Managers should have an open platform to give employees constructive feedback and identify areas to improve on, but employees should also be given an opportunity to share their feedback: about their role, their manager, and the one-to-ones themselves. This is a good thing. Just as sharing constructive feedback with an employee can unlock better performance, so can it unlock more productive, effective one-to-ones. Listen to what employees have to say and think about how your approach to performance management conversations can change for the better.

How can you ensure an effective performance management conversation every time?

Choose a people-centric performance management platform.

Effective performance management conversations don’t just happen: they need to be part of a people-centric structure, where employees and managers are guided to have the right conversations, at the right time.

The OpenBlend platform facilitates effective performance management conversations by providing a framework for regular, productive one-to-ones that recognise the individual. To find out how it can improve one-to-ones in your business, and improve productivity across the board, book a demo or get in touch.

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