The Human Resource: Building effective performance management

There is a plethora of reasons performance management programs are less than successful in meeting their intended outcomes.  One significant factor contributing to this problem is the reluctance or hesitation of people leaders in conducting the performance review. Over time we have observed a variety of contributing variables that inhibit a people leader from engaging the employee to provide feedback.

Supervisors who:

  • were never properly trained to deliver feedback
  • are new and lack both the training and experience
  • are unclear of what the expectations of the employee and position are
  • inherently are uncomfortable with conflict
  • have a personal relationship with the employee
  • don’t want to upset the employee
  • would rather do the work themselves compare to holding the employee accountable

As a business owner or leader, it is critical to understand these challenges of your people leaders and develop training programs, guidance documents, clear job descriptions and position goals to prepare these individuals for success.  Give your people leaders the tools, resources and support to measure, manage, and improve the workforce effectively.

Five Key Factors to Effective Performance Management?

Once your people leaders have been properly prepared to execute performance management in your organization, there are five key factors that lead to success in the workforce that we are going to review here.

  1. Setting the Right Expectations from the Start

When establishing the goals for a position, you need to make sure your people leaders have what they need to clearly communicate and review the goals and expectations of the position to the employee.  This should include job descriptions, policies, procedures, and performance program documentation.

Do not neglect other key components in this process that go well beyond paper.  This includes your company culture (the actions and behavioral norms of the organization), the work environment, and the modeled behavior of the managers and leadership team.

  1. Crucial Conversations

Recognize that discussions about performance are often challenging and require patience, trust, and mutual respect.  Establishing a comfortable environment where honest feedback can take place and is received as a tool to support the employee’s success is easier said than done. Special attention should be given in the training and support of your people leaders to have a crucial conversation with their staff to achieve success.

  1. Listening as a Powerful Tool

Here is your chance to demonstrate diversity of thought and an inclusive behavior.  If you do all the talking it is not a conversation, it is a lecture.  Think about how you could possibly demonstrate care for the employee if you refuse to listen to their thoughts and ideas, as well as their feedback.  You can be confident in knowing that you will learn something from the employee if you only take the time to listen. Empower the employee to provide you feedback, and this means teaching them how to share with you what they need from you in order to be successful in their respective roles.

  1. Accountability is not Punitive

If the only time you provide an employee feedback is when they do something wrong, the entire system of performance management will be perceived as punitive.  Instead, ensure your conversations are consistent and relay constructive feedback regarding when the employee if both meeting or falling short of established expectations.  If you are building trust and engagement with the employee, you must be sincere in your communication about performance.  Positive accountability leads to improved performance, professional development, the closure of skill gaps, and enhancement of capabilities.  Even your best employee has room to develop and grow, and you should take advantage of your performance management program to support their continued success in this manner.

  1. Recognizing the ROI of a Successful Performance Management Program

How does the business benefit from building and executing an effective performance management program? Of primary importance should be the validation that you as an employer are getting what you pay for.  If employees are not meeting expectations, you are not getting what you pay them to do.  That, alone, should motivate any employer to take performance management seriously.  Other benefits for the business are increases productivity, maximizing workforce capabilities to deliver your products and services, improved trust and engagement with management, effective communication, professional development, and opportunity for succession planning.  When executed well the organization is also informed as to the creation of effective training and development programs for the workforce.

Why the Employee’s Perspective of Performance Management is important?

In creating a workforce in which communication is effective and mutually beneficial, resulting in trust and engagement, an employee must believe confidently that the business has their best interest at heart in achieving success.  When an employee doesn’t trust their supervisor cares about their success in the company, engagement breaks down as does communication and job performance.  Employees are observing the behaviors of the management team all the time.  When they see actions not matching words, they lose faith in the leadership of the company and can become disengaged and they lose trust in those guiding the business.

If the employee is only receiving feedback when something is wrong, they will perceive the program as punitive and avoid sharing their ideas for the business.  The environment will become disconnected and morale will deteriorate, leading to gossiping and lack of engagement.

Ensure your people leaders are trained effectively to engage their staff, build trust, and communicate all forms of feedback in a consistent and fair manner to establish positive relationships with the workforce.

** The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section, or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to


About Warren Cook

Warren is the President and co-founder of SymbianceHR and provides strategic oversight for service delivery, business operations, and technical guidance on consulting engagements. He is a human resources subject matter expert with over 25 years of experience as a strategic human resources business partner, project manager, and people leader across private and public sectors organizations. Warren is responsible for the strategic planning of all client consulting engagements from initial needs assessment and compliance review through delivery of customized strategic solutions that meet the client’s business goals. He has a proven track record of providing executive coaching and guidance to business leaders and human resource professionals at all levels including the C-Suite of Fortune 100 companies. Warren is also the Chief Talent Officer and cofounder of SymbianceHiRe, a Symbiance company dedicated to providing direct placement talent acquisition services and temporary and contract staffing solutions to the business community. Warren holds a B.S. in Human Resource Management, an MBA in Project Management, and a M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Warren is the author of “Applicant Interview Preparation – Practical Coaching for Today.”



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