Over the past year, more and more people are starting to talk about agile performance management. It’s becoming more well known, but we find not everyone really knows what it is and whether it would be a suitable replacement for your existing performance management processes.
It won’t come as much of a surprise that people have been frustrated and/or irritated with appraisals and performance review processes for decades. Numerous reasons have been given by both managers and employees, but a viable alternative has been a long time coming. We have created this guide to help you understand more about what agile performance management is as well as how it can benefit you.
What’s changing? Why something new?
So what’s changing? What has driven the current change? Well, the modern world now demands flexibility and adaptability in all areas of the workplace. Jobs come and go, tasks come and go often at lightning speed, an ever more diverse workplace means that traditional staff management approaches are being challenged and marketplace/economic issues and pressures keep us all permanently on our toes.
As a result, we need a way to manage and develop staff that is fit for our rapidly changing and evolving organisations. We need something that is flexible, adaptable, something Agile!
Here is a quote that perhaps sets the tone for agile performance management:
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence…”
Benefits of agile performance reviews
Some reports suggest that by ‘going Agile’ there is the potential to make improvements of up to 30% from the outcome you are currently getting from the performance management process!
But for us at Jaluch it’s not just about what comes out of the process itself, Agile can be used to modernise your working practices, bring in energy, better focus training and development opportunities, increase employee engagement, improve communication, aid retention etc.
Agile, if you want it to be, can become the foundations for your organisational culture, rather than just another name for your performance review process.
At Jaluch we have been supporting organisations wanting to jump on board with Agile and develop new performance management processes that are valued by managers and employees alike. Ask us if you would like us to share some of our experiences. But first, let’s consider what a more traditional performance management process looked like …
The ‘old style’ performance review process
It’s fair to say that traditional performance reviews are not loved, quite the opposite, by everyone involved!
The ‘old style’ process:
- Centres around the annual appraisal and annual/6 monthly feedback.
- Focusses on an evaluation of performance over the previous 6/12 month period.
- Allows management to set goals to be accomplished over a 6 monthly/12 monthly time-frame.
- It is time and paperwork heavy.
As a result, this more traditional form of performance management has suffered from various criticisms including:
- The ‘recency’ effect – with managers focussing on the employee’s most recent performance, rather than assessing all performance across the review period
- Fixed goals even where both the manager and employee considered them no longer achievable or relevant.
- Very little good quality communication between appraisals,
- Appraisals are seen as very formal, often overly negative and often little more than an irritating and pointless admin task
- The formal training identified annually as part of the process, but with too few reviews to identify whether training needs were changing and training committed to by the manager often forgotten totally.
Moving to Agile
Agile performance management is quite different from this traditional approach. Rather than being concerned with appraising performance, it focusses on the process as much as the end goals, it’s forward-looking, involves regular communication, 360-degree feedback and prioritises employee growth and development. Specifically, it incorporates:
- Regular check-ins and two-way communication.
- Continuous constructive feedback, including 360-degree feedback, or crowd-sourcing (asking a group of people for feedback).
- Consistent employee growth, learning and development, including a focus on coaching.
- Positive recognition by managers and others, including social recognition amongst the team.
- Collaborative goals agreed by employee and manager and changed/adapted as needed.
Why should you consider adopting agile performance management?
- Who wouldn’t’ want to be ‘agile’ in today’s world? Don’t be a stick in the mud, be excited by an opportunity for something new, something envigorating!
- The data shows that organisations who adopt a more agile approach with more regular (quarterly) check-ups can achieve up to 30% more return from their performance management process.
- Traditional performance management tends to be a fairly ineffective way of assessing an employee’s performance which doesn’t focus on development and (most of the time) isn’t particularly motivational for employees.
- Increasingly, we are used to and expect instant feedback (think Instagram, facebook etc), particularly positive feedback and most workplaces don’t yet adopt this approach.
- Agile performance management focusses on flexible individual and team goals which can adapt and flex as necessary.
- Allowing an employee to set or collaborate in the setting of their own goals, results in a far more motivated employee, who has a sense of accountability towards the goals and boosts performance.
- Focusing on employee growth and development will ensure not only that employees are more motivated and engaged at work, but that you have the best skill set possible within the team.
What are some of the dangers of agile that you need to ensure you sidestep?
- Managers who conduct monthly/quarterly reviews (especially those with many direct reports) can often feel overwhelmed by the time involved in conducting the reviews. Managers have to be engaged and committed to the process and believe in the return on investment that the time brings. The introduction of agile may well involve a radical overhaul of the way in which reviews/meetings are conducted!
- Employees need to feel that the process is supportive, productive and motivational, and not a time or energy drain! Often historical pre-conceptions may need to be transformed!
- At Jaluch, we have always said that appraisals/reviews done well can be highly motivational and effective, but they are better not done at all rather than done badly, as poor appraisals can be highly demotivational. Managers need to be properly trained to ensure that they carry out the performance management process in an effective way that’s going to have a big impact on performance.
- 360 degree feedback or crowdsourcing can be really useful if done constructively, but poorly done, feedback can be viewed as criticism and as a result the employee can become very demotivated. This needs to be very carefully implemented and managed.
Agile means agile!
We have for some time been moving away from procedures, training, employment contracts etc that are ‘one size fits all’. In the same way, don’t listen to those who tell you there is only one way to do ‘agile performance management’. It’s ‘agile’, so be confident to make it your own.
Pick up and put down those bits of it that appeal to you and that will bring your organisation value. Here is the example course agenda that we run to develop supervisors and managers skills, why not use this to identify what ‘agile’ might look like in your business and where your energies need to be focussed? If 360 is not yet right for you, then consider adding it in a few years down the line, equally if your managers simply aren’t bought into the benefits of day to day performance management, then perhaps its time to really focus on where the blockers are?
Example Course Content:
- What is agile performance management?
- The benefits of making performance management an on-going process
- Less paper, more value – using documentation as a guide, not the focus
- More listening, less talking!
- Identifying your key message – one thing at a time, please!
- Using 360 feedback – opportunities, anxieties and best practice
- Effectively managing sensitive issues
- Giving motivational and constructive feedback without the “ouch”!
- Dealing with an employee “in denial”
- Setting SMART objectives and adapting objectives as you go!
- Assessing development needs without setting unrealistic expectations
- Developing coaching skills to develop your staff
Bringing Agile to life in your team:
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow”
How do you introduce agile performance management?
Agile performance management can be introduced, gradually and gently, or by a more radical overhaul of the current performance management/review (appraisals) system. As we said above, there is not a ‘one size fits all’. As initial suggestion you could run a pilot, which would help you firstly introduce this to the organisation and would also give you meaningful data which will help you prove value and get buy-in from accross the organisation.
If you would like to discuss your current performance management system and support to incorporate some or all of the elements of agile performance management, then please do give us a call and we would be delighted to work with you to find a solution that suits.
Jaluch is a long-established and widely respected HR and Training provider in the UK. As an award-winning business we always try to practice what we preach, adapting and flexing our offering to suit every organisation we work with, and in line with whatever the timescales that are thrown at us! We can support you with grievance investigations, disciplinaries, Tribunal claims, and day to day staff management issues as well as providing coaching and L&D support. If you’ve not tried us before, perhaps its time now! No lengthy or complex contracts – we like all our business relationships straight-forward, transparent and rely on our clients coming back to us year after year because they like what we do, rather than because the paperwork demands they work with us! Go on, give us a call!