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How to Implement Continuous Performance Management

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff

Successfully transform how you conduct employee reviews using these six steps.

  • Continuous performance management is a new management strategy that can boost morale and improve communication with management and employees in a company.
  • There are strategies upper management can employ to properly implement continuous performance management.
  • Continuous performance management benefits both management and employees by creating actionable goals that each can follow to improve performance and internal relationships.

If you're a manager or an HR professional, you've probably found yourself inundated with articles discussing annual performance reviews – specifically, articles about why you should abandon them immediately. In all likelihood, your performance management system needs a serious makeover. Research has shown that 95% of managers are dissatisfied with their existing system. They feel it is ineffective and unhelpful in driving performance, achieving goals and inspiring employees.

If this is the case at your business, there is no sense putting off the inevitable. There is a new way of doing things, and it's called continuous performance management. It incorporates real-time feedback, the allocation of short-term objectives and frequent developmental conversations for all employees.

Continuous performance management is rapidly growing in popularity. If you don't currently utilize frequent check-ins, you're likely beginning the transition. However, you might have noticed that while there are lots of articles discussing why continuous performance management is the right choice for your business, there is a serious lack of information regarding how you implement this serious organizational change.

Without any guidance, it is unlikely that you will be successful in your attempts, and your company will more than likely return to old-fashioned and inefficient annual performance reviews. Below is a tried-and-tested, step-by-step guide on how to transition to continuous performance management.

1. Talk to managers to discover who is already conducting regular performance discussions.

If you are having a hard time getting managers to have a single yearly performance review with their employees, you might feel that implementing continuous performance management is an impossible feat. After all, if they can't get excited about one review, how are you going to get them thrilled about a minimum of 12?

An important step is to talk to managers and find out how many of them are already carrying out informal performance discussions. You might be surprised. Many companies that have introduced continuous performance management found that their managers already incorporated regular check-ins to a certain degree.

When it comes to designing your new process and transitioning to continuous performance management, HR should involve managers. Topics to discuss include how they organize the meetings, how frequently they happen and whether they have any useful talking points to get the ball rolling.

2. Get buy-in from senior leadership.

To succeed in implementing a new continuous performance management system, it's necessary to get buy-in from top management. It's easier to get the remainder of your workforce on board when they see the higher-ups leading by example.

It's normal to face some resistance from senior leadership when confronted with an organizational change, particularly one as big as ditching annual appraisals. Take the time to talk through the business benefits of continuous performance management, using research-based evidence.

Answer questions regarding how the new process will identify high- and low-performing employees, and how promotions, raises and bonuses will be handled. Knowing that these questions have been considered and are being handled can give leadership a level of confidence in the new system.

3. Sell the benefits to your managers.

No manager is going to be truly engaged with the new system if they don't understand what value it is bringing them, or what it will do to improve performance. For this reason, HR needs to really explain the new system, why you are transitioning and how it will help everyone improve.

To managers, stress the benefits of a more engaged, motivated and better-performing team. They should also know that, ultimately, regular check-ins save time compared to an arduous annual appraisal process.

4. Provide the necessary training and guidance.

To get the most out of your new performance management system, provide the appropriate training. Take the time normally spent administering annual appraisals and instead spend it training managers to conduct quality performance conversations and deliver meaningful feedback. Don't assume this is something that comes naturally to all managers.

5. Continually communicate the changes that are about to take place.

It has been suggested that in order for employees to fully understand a change, it has to be repeated six or seven times. For this reason, communication planning is critical when transitioning to continuous performance management. Don't rely on a one-off email announcing the change. Organize a variety of methods to communicate the transition, including newsletters, videos, face-to-face meetings, webinars and fact sheets.

6. Make use of continuous performance management software.

Technology is an incredible tool to facilitate your transition to this new method of management. With the use of software, you can schedule and track employee one-to-one meetings, exchange real-time feedback and track SMART objectives that will be revisited regularly. With the use of performance management software, you are also granted more visibility, meaning you can track performance discussions and feedback sessions while monitoring pressing performance issues. Such data is crucial when it comes to monitoring the success of your brave new performance management process.

Benefits of continuous performance management

There are benefits of continuous performance management for both employers and employees. Managers and business owners benefit by creating an easy-to-communicate system that encourages their team to put forward their best effort.

Part of the difficulty of management is demonstrating expectations and creating actionable goals team members can follow to succeed in the organization. Continuous performance management systems not only give employees a rubric to work from consistently throughout their work life, but also encourage feedback. That way, if something isn't working, it can be easily adjusted.

Employees also get consistent updates on their performance and expectations. If they are not excelling as quickly as they would like to, continuous performance management allows them to get real-time feedback that can help. Employees who are struggling can get actionable tips on how to improve, rather than checking in once a year to learn how they've failed.

The feedback loop that continuous performance management creates is invaluable to businesses looking to get the most out of employees.

Image Credit: Diego Cervo / Shutterstock
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