To make this happen, senior leadership must come forward and commit themselves to develop their employees through effective training and coaching and holding managers accountable for giving regular feedback to their subordinates.
If performance reviews are treated as a mere activity to be ticked off a list, it might as well not happen. Conducting effective reviews involves real work, a deep look at the psyche and skills of an employee, and figuring out what he is best with, what can be improved and what needs to be discontinued.
There is a lot of human understanding involved in this process and it requires a significant emotional investment in the well being of an employee. If the interest shown in developing employees is not genuine, it will lead to an utter wastage of resources and time.
Employees are also smart and their expectations have increased with time. Technology has put them in the driver’s seat and it is very easy for them to lose interest if they do not see growth happening. And poorly conducted annual reviews with form fill-ups and forced discussions are in no way going to convince your talent to stay.
It’s easier said than done
Managers turning into great coaches sounds like a good thing to have. But achieving this is a huge challenge.
Firstly, managers do not have the required tools and techniques to develop into the coaches they need to be. In order to be able to pass on information to an employee that actually inspires him to do more requires training, experience, time and a certain level of knowledge. In most cases, managers do not even consider giving inspiring feedback as a part of their job description.
In cases where managers do have the right coaching skills, they may not be willing or able to take out time from their hectic schedules to undertake such an effort. This is where the role of leadership seeps in, who have to hold managers accountable to contribute to developing employees. Senior leadership must commit to this cause and lead by setting an example.
Performance management tools
Instead of focusing on numbers and ranks, performance reviews should become more about dialogue and open communication. Employees should be coached on areas they need improvement on and also rewarded for great performance. These interactions need to be regular and in real time so that the gratification is also instant. Focusing on events that happened months ago will never really inspire anyone.
Along with regular and real-time feedback, leaders should also make way for structured coaching instruction for managers. This should be by outside experts who are pioneers in the field and who know how to transfer practical knowledge to a group of professionals. These experts will also be able to provide a unified perspective on developing employees and offer your team with the tools, templates, and processes to make them better coaches. Having regular coaching conversation with experts and each other will help managers hone their skills and understand the art of giving feedback.
Putting the employee at the center
Once the managers have the adequate skills and training to coach their employees and have been held accountable for doing so, the main thing to ensure is that all these actions are centered around the employee’s development.
The feedback and coaching given to employees must pertain to his roles and responsibilities and the actual work that has been done. There is a huge misalignment in feedback given and actual feedback required. According to Gallup, 41 percent of employees strongly agree that their job description aligns well with the work they are asked to do. This is why job responsibilities need to be aligned with accountability. Management expectations should align with the employee’s work.
Managers need to be very well aware of the work their employees are doing. They need to focus on now and the future, and not on the past. Preparation is also required in order to have the best conversations from time to time, along with leadership skills such as the ability to listen and be genuinely interested in the employee’s well being and performance enhancement. Feedback should be backed by examples to make it more impactful and memorable.
A culture of engagement starts at the top, and senior leadership needs to approach it from a backward-looking performance evaluation to a forward-looking performance development. And coaching by managers can be a great step forward.
Such an approach to performance reviews will reduce the flight or flight response of human beings to feedback. Ongoing, encouraging, goal-oriented and meaningful conversations that celebrate achievements and develop skills will enable organizations to win their employees trust and shift their focus on their true development. The sooner this shift is made, the better it is going to be.