A recent Sunday Times article discussed the pros and cons of an annual cull of the bottom 5% of poorly performing staff. The outcome seemed to be that many organisations advocated this approach but few were brave enough to do it.
But why is such a harsh approach necessary? If there was open honest dialogue as part of the performance management process, there would be no need for this type of action. I am constantly amazed at why managers find it easier to be downright nasty or overeffusive with praise to their direct reports, than to give an honest appraisal of performance backed up by appropriate evidence. It appears that honest dialogue is something outside most managers' comfort zones.
Take a case in point - one of my clients, a large public sector organisation, has linked pay to performance for their senior management group - about 25 managers. There are individual and organisational targets to meet. One of the individual targets is that all employees have their performance assessed. So far so good.
In the first year of the scheme all managers received the maximum individual payment - yet the evidence shows that roughly 25% of employees did not have a performance appraisal. So what can we deduce from that? Firstly that everyone in the group performed equally well - I find that surprising; and secondly, that managing performance is not important enough for all to have an appraisal.
What stops managers at any level from giving honest feedback? Is it that they want to be liked and think the way to achieve this is to be nice to people? I believe that most employees want honest feedback, particularly from their boss - and that they also know when they are not performing. A straw poll I carried out revealed that the most respected bosses were those that gave straight feedback at the most appropriate time. It's a bit like The Weakest Link on TV - most teams know which employees are performing, who takes the most sick leave, who is swinging the lead. Of course the ‘weakest link' might still have a go at deflecting some of the flak, but a bit of coaching and feedback and an opportunity to improve within a reasonable timeframe still seems fairer than the Anne Robinson style ‘you are the weakest link - goodbye'.
How effective are your managers at giving and receiving feedback? Improving their skills in this area could dramatically improve your organisation's performance - and that has to be good for business.