Managers Need Training for ‘Performance Conversations'

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Nov. 13 — Performance management as currently practiced at most organizations has little value and needs to be replaced by “performance conversations,” but managers need training on how to do that correctly with the employees they supervise, representatives of two consulting firms said in a Nov. 13 webinar.

When the Brandon Hall Group spoke earlier this year to representatives of 223 companies from around the world, about two-thirds from the U.S. and Canada, close to three-quarters (74 percent) said performance management has no business value, said Laci Loew, vice president and principal analyst of talent management for the Delray Beach, Fla.-based consulting firm, which sponsored the webinar.

“They told us it was nothing more than an annual sort of check-the-box exercise,” she said, although it does determine such things as pay raises. However, Loew said, “80 percent of organizations said if they could change one thing about performance management, it would be to have effective performance conversations.”

“It is simply unfathomable that organizations can do an effective job of managing performance without frequent, effective performance conversations,” she said, quoting a survey respondent. But only one in 10 of the companies said they are holding such conversations frequently, according to Loew.

The conversations need to be held often, with timely, specific and actionable check-ins and feedback, she said, adding that the talks should also be “focused on development to drive future performance” and that performance priorities should be aligned with changing business needs.

In order to change from one-time annual reviews to frequent performance conversations, 64 percent of the survey respondents said it is essential to build leaders’ coaching skills.

“The message is loud and clear; it’s really all about these conversations,” Jim Kauffman, executive consultant for Pittsburgh-based talent management consultancy Development Dimensions International, said. The first thing managers have to do is make sure team members are prioritizing their energy on the right things, he said.

Citing his company's experience with such clients as electronics and IT company Avnet and Kia Motors America Inc., Kauffman said: “Why aren’t conversations happening more frequently? Managers feel they don’t have the skills.”

Another lesson learned about a performance conversation, he said, is “we’ve found that it needs to be about the recent past.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at mbermangorvine@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bna.com