With many organisations moving away from rating based performance management systems, why are they making this move and what are the alternatives?

From our research at BeTalent we believe there are at least 5 reasons why the Performance Management style of measuring and monitoring talent isn’t working.

Misassumption  1: “You reach high performance by developing weaknesses”

The whole premise of traditional performance management methods is based on the belief that you can develop future performance and potential by focusing on the past and by identifying and concentrating on bridging gaps or overcoming weaknesses.

Misassumption  2: “You need to tell people when they are or are not talented”

Many organisations have been focusing on the wrong type of conversation, talking about whether someone is or is not talented.  We believe that everyone is talented, so a more meaningful and productive conversation would be to explore the nature of that talent and how it can be harnessed within the business context for the future.

Misassumption 3: “The organisation is responsible for developing their people”

Many organisations have been hand holding their employees through the talent journey; not enabling or encouraging employees to take real ownership and accountability for their own learning and development.  The very qualities that organisations require such as self-management, drive and leadership are being minimised in the performance management conversation.

Misassumption 4: “9 box ratings give insight into future potential”

Asking managers to put their employees into one of nine boxes is based on the assumption that managers understand how to observe, assess and differentiate between performance and potential.  Many managers are not educated to understand this difference, and are often too close to the individual and too removed from the corporate or talent strategy to make this assessment with any degree of accuracy or certainty.

Misassumption 5: “Performance conversations held twice a year are sufficient”

We all know that having a “moment in time” conversation with an employee just a couple of times each year isn’t the best way to really get to know them, to build sufficient trust and engagement in the relationship, or to be able to talk about deeply personal topics such as performance and potential, aspirations and ambitions, anxieties and capability.  Yet this method of performance management still prevails.

What are the alternatives?

We share a few suggestions we believe may give the performance management conversations of the past a new focus into the future:

  • Move from focusing on the past to a focus on the future; to explore aspirations and engagement as much as performance.
  • Don’t get stuck on gaps; instead truly explore, understand and leverage strengths
  • Explore more honestly the extent to which someone’s strengths, values and aspirations “fit” with the future business needs.
  • Move the accountability for learning and growth to the individual; so they make choices about the pace, the scale and the topic. Then enable and align with corporate requirements.
  • Stop putting people into boxes; unless you train managers to really understand the elements of potential, readiness and performance and how to assess each of them.
  • Focus on the conversation, building trust and engaging with employees, so that honest conversations can be had around capability and potential.

So, in summary, we encourage you to think what might happen if we changed the conversation and started focusing on strengths, values and aspirations rather than performance and management? We’d love to hear your views.

Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoyed the post.

Dr Amanda Potter, CEO of BeTalent and Zircon Management Consulting
Deborah Barleggs, Director, Zircon Management Consulting