Performance management is all about aligning employee performance with what the company needs, typically from a top-down perspective. Performance motivation, on the other hand, follows a bottom-up approach, encouraging employees to develop themselves in line with the organisation’s values.
Performance management has been the more popular choice for years now. It typically takes the form of annual or bi-annual performance reviews, or appraisals. These usually involve the manager scoring each employee against a set of criteria dictated by the company and discussing this with them.
This approach can often be stressful for employees, especially if any of their scores are notably low, causing anxiety which will inevitably have a negative impact on their productivity and engagement.
With performance motivation, however, the assessment is led by the employee. They periodically reflect on and review their own performance, typically against an individual development plan (IDP), which they have developed alongside their manager. This process will enable them to determine whether they are on track to becoming a greater asset to the organisation.
The sense that they are controlling their own career leaves employees feeling motivated and empowered.
Making a success of performance motivation
Performance motivation can be equally appropriate for experienced employees as well as new starters. But the reality is that different approaches will suit different individuals at different stages of their career.
Younger employees may prefer more regular feedback sessions at shorter intervals – monthly or quarterly – to realign with their manager who, at this stage of their career, probably has more experience than they do.
This may especially be the case for graduates, who will often be keen to develop quickly. Using this approach to performance assessment could help you engage these bright, young and talented individuals early on, empowering them to become great assets to your company. If they can see a future for themselves within your business, they may well help to pave the way forward.
Experienced employees who know exactly what is expected of them may feel happier to realign with their manager outside of a formal review structure. However they are likely to appreciate detailed feedback if there are any particular issues that need to be addressed, as well as the chance to respond.
The level of management engagement in the performance motivation process can vary. Managers who have a large number of direct reports may struggle to cope with the huge variety of input from different staff members. But this can’t be an excuse for not carrying out the exercise properly. Getting HR involved may help.
As part of this approach, you might want to embrace the concept that progression doesn’t always need to be vertical. You should aim to help employees map out their career progression, while allowing scope for deviation.
Giving employees the option to move horizontally, perhaps through a time-limited secondment, will help them develop a deeper understanding of the company. This can lead to a more unified environment and encourage learning and interaction between functions.
You may find that some of those employees find new niches within the company where they can really flourish and grow. This, combined with the benefits outlined above, is likely to contribute to increased staff retention.
Making flexibility work
What do you think? Would you be willing to allow employees time to reflect on their performance and career path rather than keeping control of the appraisal process? And perhaps to give them the freedom to move horizontally? Ultimately, if this leads to retaining talented individuals then there should be no question about it.
Sharing the news that staff can choose to assess their own performance in future is likely to have a positive impact on your workforce. Even those employees who prefer to stick with traditional appraisals are likely to appreciate being given the option.
If you feel you need support with making the transition to a new, flexible approach to employee performance assessment and career development, we can help. Do get in touch if you’d like to learn more!