Performance Management 101

So you are back from the summer slump and heading into the busiest time of the year – fourth quarter. And for most employees, fourth quarter means one thing is coming… performance reviews (otherwise known as annual reviews, bull&h!t feedback updates, and so on). Depending upon where you work, performance reviews formally take place annually and impact your overall compensation in scary ways – any annual increase in base salary, bonus payouts, and/or promotions.

What is Performance Management?

Essentially, it is a grading system for the workplace. There are many ways that performance excellence is applied within work environments, but the “best” systems tend to evaluate each employee based on objective (goals) and subjective (competencies) touch points, core job responsibilities, and allow for various feedback providers. And regardless of how fantastic your company manages the performance management process, it will still be flawed (we are human, after all).

The process provides a way for your manager and other leaders, to get a snapshot view of your performance and how valuable you are to the company. It also provides you with the opportunity to add your perspective about your performance and see where you need some assistance.

All in all, it is a process that seems a bit scary, secretive, and time consuming. And it is all of those things, but the process as a whole can greatly influence your career and should be taken seriously. And a strong word of caution: no one cares about protecting you in this process, so it’s up to you to advocate for your own career.

Some quick definitions:

  • Objective/Goals: These are measurable outcomes and deliverables. They have a specific outcome and deadline written into them, and it is very clear whether achievement has been met or not. These “actions” describe or represent the job that you did – what you accomplished.
  • Subjective/Competencies: These are up to more discrepancy and interpretation; they are the softer skills of how you get the job done. These are the areas that tend to allow managers to provide their personal opinion, rather than based in hard fact. Definitions and accomplishment levels are more fluid and tend to provide more gray areas for both parties.

What you need to know:

You should have been part of the Performance Management process well before the evaluation stage, including being aware/involved in your expected achievements and goals, and know what the evaluation system will consist of.

Performance Management really is that important for your career. As mentioned above, your overall performance typically applies to several different compensation-based things: your base salary, bonuses, stock options, merit increases, and your overall career path. And it goes in your employment record at that company. These documents are looked at, more than I care to admit – by HR, by management, and so on. It is “the guide” to your performance – so it is imperative that you make sure that it accurately reflects your true performance.

Myth buster: There is not an employment record/file that follows you around forever. You get a brand new file folder at each company. This took me years to realize. 😉

Why the fourth quarter of the year is so important: Although HR teaches leaders how to avoid several different types of biases when evaluating employees during the performance management process, there is one “effect” that is consistently difficult for managers to let go of – recency effect. Recency effect means that actions, items, deliverables, mistakes, performance, etc. that happened most recent in memory, tend to cast a shadow on performance for the entire year. So if you do something spectacular during Q4, than it could put a more positive glow on your year-long performance.

And this can work both ways for you – both positive and negative. So it is time for you to get into gear and start delivering at the highest level possible for at least the next three months, if you are trying to reach super star status at work. All of those goals that you have been procrastinating on? Now is the time to start delivering them. Your company competencies or values that you can’t remember? Now is the time to review them and keep them in front of you to start modeling them.

Q4 is about to begin – are you ready?

Heads up: there will be several upcoming posts about Performance Management, as the process could fill several books.