How to Implement Continuous Performance Management / Managing / Last Modified: March 15, 2018
Image credit: Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

If you’re a manager or an HR professional, there is a new way of doing things. It's called continuous performance management. Here is a tried-and-tested, step-by-step guide on how to transition to continuous performance management.

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. 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 ultimately inefficient annual performance reviews.

Below is a tried-and-tested, step-by-step guide on how to transition to continuous performance management.

1. There's no time like the present – make the change today.

In all likelihood, your performance management system needs a serious makeover. Research has shown that 95 percent of managers are dissatisfied with their existing system. They feel it is ineffective and unhelpful in terms of driving performance, achieving goals and inspiring employees. If this is the case, there is no sense putting off the inevitable. Take steps today to transition to regular check-ins. The sooner you take action, the further you will progress, and the sooner you will start to see the benefits.

2. Talk to managers and 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 the use of 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.

3. Get buy-in from senior leadership.

To succeed 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.

4. 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 when compared to an arduous annual appraisal process.

5. 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 spend it training managers to conduct quality performance conversations and deliver meaningful feedback. Don't simply assume this is something that comes naturally to all managers.

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

It has been suggested that in order for a change to be fully understood by employees, it has to be repeated six to seven times. For this reason, communication planning is critical when transitioning to continuous performance management. Don't simply 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.

7. Make use of continuous performance management software.

Technology is an incredible tool that can 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, HR is also granted more visibility, meaning they can monitor 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.

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