This article was contributed by Jennifer C. Loftus, MBA, SPHR, PHRca, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, CCP, CBP, GRP. Jennifer is a founding partner of and national director for Astron Solutions, a compensation consulting firm.
The world of work has continued to evolve with the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, according to the Bureau of U.S. Labor Statistics, nearly 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July alone, part of a recent trend that has been coined “The Great Resignation.”
With so many employees leaving their jobs due to experiencing burnout or reshifting their priorities because of the pandemic, it’s easy to wonder what lies in store for your own employees. Luckily, despite this overwhelming uncertainty, you can make positive changes to your recruitment and retention methods so that your organization can stay strong.
That’s where fine-tuning your performance management strategy comes in.
Performance management is everything your organization and its leaders do to engage and manage your employees. Because performance management can involve dissecting and improving everything from how your organization writes job descriptions to how you conduct and analyze exit interviews, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.
That’s why we’ve rounded up the top five best practices for performance management in 2022:
- Optimize Your Onboarding Process
- Prioritize Communication and Coaching
- Hold Performance Reviews
- Revisit Your Compensation Approach
- Invest in a Dedicated Performance Management System
We’ll walk through each of these best practices and give you actionable advice on how to implement them in your organization. While your HR team, leaders, and managers should all work together to improve your performance management practices, note that it may be well worth your while to hire an experienced HR consultant to help guide you. These professionals bring a fresh, third-party perspective to the table that can help you make sustainable changes to your performance management strategy.
1. Optimize Your Onboarding Process
Onboarding is everything your organization does to train a new employee, bring them up to speed on your larger organizational goals, and set them up to thrive in your workplace culture. Without a strong onboarding strategy, an employee could feel unprepared to perform their duties successfully. Worse yet, they could quit shortly after starting.
To making your onboarding process helpful and effective for your employees, we suggest the following:
- Think through the first impression you’re trying to make. What do you want your new employee to think about your organization after their first day of work? Plan out their first day by mixing training with get-to-know-you meetings and office events to set a good tone for their employment.
- Ask current employees for feedback on your onboarding process. Current employees are a great resource for helping you improve onboarding. They’ve been through it themselves and have valuable perspectives on how onboarding prepared them for their roles. Ask them what they benefited from and what they would change for future employees.
- Define which leaders are responsible for what. What role will your HR rep play in onboarding? How much time will your new employee work one-on-one with their manager to learn their new responsibilities? What interactions will they have with your executives or board members? Defining who is responsible for each onboarding activity ensures nothing falls through the cracks as an employee learns to do their job.
- Plan a few fun events to invite your new employee to participate in workplace culture. Employees want to feel like they are part of something bigger, so make sure you show them that your organization has a strong community. Host a first day breakfast or luncheon to help them meet their coworkers and start making friends and connections. For those who are starting work remotely or who have concerns about COVID-19, consider hosting a virtual get together, such as a lunchtime chat or a happy hour at the end of the day.
By improving your onboarding process, you can set your employees up for a long term positive experience with your organization. Make sure you check in with your new employee often during the onboarding process to see if you need to course-correct your strategy further.
2. Prioritize Communication and Coaching
When it comes to employee satisfaction and its close friend, employee retention, there’s a simple mantra you can keep in mind: Communication is key.
When your employees feel like they can talk to their managers to address problems, get useful feedback, and find encouragement, they’ll be much more likely to stay with your organization.
Here are three tools you can use to communicate with and coach your employees:
- One-on-One Meetings: Regular one-on-one meetings between managers and their direct reports are an excellent outlet for questions, project updates, and helping employees discover their own values and missions in their work. But these meetings can also be a useful tool for managers to get to know their direct reports and build trust with them, which can be helpful as managers work to identify retention risks.
- An Open Door Communication Policy: Do your employees know that they can talk to their managers or your HR reps about work-related problems and burnout? It’s not enough for this to be implied. Rather, make it clear that your organization has an open door policy when it comes to communicating.
- Coworker Mentoring Program: It’s no secret that having friends at work that you can relate to and talk with makes working more enjoyable. Help your employees build those connections by creating a coworker mentoring program. Set each mentee up with another employee in a similar role whom they can get to know and get advice from.
No matter what communication and coaching tool you decide to employ, feedback will play a large role in this facet of performance management. Train your managers to give useful feedback that employees can grow from. For example, a statement like, “When you encouraged the team to create a new social media campaign informed by fundraising data, you demonstrated strong leadership skills” can go a lot further in helping an employee progress than something like, “You did a nice job today.”
3. Hold Performance Reviews
According to RealHR Solutions’ guide to performance reviews, these regularly-scheduled meetings set up direct reports and managers to discuss work performance and how they can improve and continue contributing to the organization as whole.
These meetings are crucial for making sure managers, direct reports, HR reps, and other organizational leaders stay on the same page, which is why it’s important to prepare for performance reviews effectively.
Here are six steps your HR team, direct reports, and managers can follow to set the stage for a successful performance review:
- HR reps, managers, and other leaders identify the organization’s goals and processes for performance reviews.
- Managers provide self-assessment materials to direct reports.
- Employees complete their self-assessment and turn it in to their manager.
- Managers review the self-assessment and get feedback on the direct report’s performance from other leaders and employees as needed.
- The manager holds the performance review meeting with the direct report. Together they review the self-assessment, feedback on the direct report’s performance, and job expectations outlined in the direct report’s job description.
- If applicable, the manager, direct report, and an HR rep discuss compensation changes.
Remember that performance reviews aren’t meant to be “gotcha” meetings. Clearly communicate your performance review goals and processes to your employees so they know what to expect and how to best prepare. This will make performance reviews a positive experience for everyone involved.
4. Revisit Your Compensation Approach
How does your organization compensate its employees for their work? Many organizations take a traditional approach and focus on direct forms of compensation such as salary, base pay, commissions, bonuses, and equity benefits. But more and more employees are looking for jobs that offer a more modern compensation plan, one centered on total rewards.
Total rewards compensation includes both direct and indirect forms of compensation. Indirect compensation might include the following:
- Benefits. Common benefits include paid time off, retirement plans, and health insurance.
- Flexibility. Employees want jobs that are flexible. How easy is it for them to take a few hours during the day and go to a dental appointment? Can they work from home some days and at the office on other days?
- Performance Recognition. You need to recognize your employees for their work, and you can do so in a variety of ways. You might give them a shoutout during a board meeting or give them a gift certificate to the movies after they meet a quarterly goal.
- Career Development Opportunities. Association memberships, continuing education courses, and opportunities to attend professional conferences are attractive to employees who want to grow their professional skills and advance their careers.
- Workplace Culture. What is it like to be an employee at your organization? Is the environment a fun place to work? Office holiday parties, birthday celebrations, and overall atmosphere are an important part of indirect compensation, too.
- Rewards for Charitable Work. Often employees find further enrichment in their lives by donating their time and talents to a cause they care about. Try providing volunteer grants, hosting corporate volunteer days, or offering your employees matching gifts to help boost their charitable donations.
Work is a huge part of your employees’ lives. After all, they spend a majority of their time every week working for you. To keep your employees satisfied with their jobs and resulting living situations, take a step back and see how you can incorporate indirect compensation into your organization’s compensation offerings.
5. Invest in a Dedicated Performance Management System
Performance management software can help your organization keep track of the many moving parts of performance management. According to Astron Solutions’ guide to performance management systems, the software you choose “should aim to support all employee engagements as well as provide the resources needed to grow your organization.”
With the right system, you’ll be able to do the following:
- Prepare for and hold effective performance reviews.
- Define employee job expectations to improve their engagement and performance.
- Improve your training and onboarding processes.
- Use key data to give employees actionable feedback.
When shopping for your system, you’ll find that you can invest in standalone tools, which help you manage a specific task, or you can invest in comprehensive platforms, which manage every facet of performance management. We recommend you invest in a modular solution, which allows you to tailor your system to your organization’s unique needs.
Performance management encompasses many internal processes. It can take a lot of work to improve your performance management strategies, but as you incorporate these best practices one by one, you’ll find that your employees are happier and more productive.
Get started on optimizing performance management at your organization by working with your HR team, managers, and other leaders to identify what needs to be improved. Good luck!