For years, students in Kenya have sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams prior to graduating from primary schools and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams prior to graduating from secondary school. The highlight of these major exams is the performance ranking published by all major media houses in the country.
A bill that is set to be tabled at the National Assembly is seeking to change this. The bill proposes the replacement of KCPE and KCSE with annual assessments which will cumulatively be used to gauge the talents and capabilities of the students. Experts have come out in support of the proposed system by stating that it will promote learning and help the individual develop his or her talents. Those who are against the proposed system opine that competition is healthy hence the old performance ranking system should be maintained. The most important lesson organizational leaders can glean from this debate is that performance management needs to be evaluated and re-designed if necessary.
Performance management is more than a ‘box ticking’ exercise
In my experience as an HR practitioner, I have watched with utter dismay as employees and employers reduced performance management to a ‘box ticking’ exercise. There is a lot of negativity that is associated with performance ranking and by extension, any form of performance management. Most employees consider performance reviews an exercise in futility. Performance management systems bring out the competitive human nature; a trait that may manifest in different ways. Some employees are quite competitive hence performance reviews will leave them bragging for days.
Most employees want to perform well hence a low-performance rating is a dent to their self-confidence. It is for this reason that human resource managers find themselves dealing with uncooperative employees whenever they carry out performance reviews. On the other hand, employers are divided on the importance of performance management. Some, based on their observations, argue that performance management encourages self-promotion and narcissism; traits that are poisonous to the organizational culture. Others contend that performance management is crucial to the decision-making process because it helps leaders make important decisions on talent.
Is there hope for performance management amidst such challenges?
What can organizations do to change performance management from a ‘box ticking’ exercise to a system that helps them measure individual performance and maximize productivity? Performance management systems often fail as a result of poor design and flawed implementation. Addressing the negative attitudes towards performance management needs to begin with an honest assessment of an organization’s performance management system. It is important to ask the following questions:
- Is the organization’s performance system beneficial?
- What is good performance according to the system in place?
- What is bad performance according to the performance management system?
- Is there a feedback mechanism that encourages good performance and addresses the issues that lead to bad performance?
Aspects of performance management
With this in mind, an organization can create a more effective performance management system by following these steps:
- Performance planning
Performance planning sets a platform for the communication of objectives to employees and the development of actionable points that will guide the employees towards the attainment of the set goals. Performance planning works best as a collaborative effort between managers and the employees. The performance planning document should be used to monitor the progress made towards the attainment of the set goals. The monitoring exercises should be used as a basis for the re-alignment of goals in line with the changing business environment. Performance planning and continuous feedback foster continuous improvement of the employees.
- Improve the information gathering process
Performance-related information should be gathered from a number of sources. For instance, during the evaluation of the performance of a sales executive, the HR department should consider the following: sales reports, past appraisals and observations from immediate supervisors. This will eliminate subjectivity and provide a more wholesome perspective on the performance of the employee.
- Embrace technology
The digital wave is here to stay. Organizations are gradually coming to the realization that they must adapt to new technologies and innovations or become obsolete. Managers need to embrace performance management systems which will streamline performance tracking and administration. The use of technological tools helps managers create effective talent management strategies and engage employees in the process of their development.
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