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Posts Tagged ‘Performance Management’

So, we hire poorly, screen poorly and then are surprised when the last line of defense – performance management – fails?

I spent quite a bit of time at SHRM National listening to the full range of topics, all themed on improving productivity and getting the “HR Thing” right.  Much of it was spent on the administrative side of our world.  Why?  Because it is safe, and it is what we see as the “bedrock” of our world.

It’s wrong.  We should be looking at a better bedrock.  We should be spending our time evenly split on workforce planning and helping guide the organization to a higher level of performance and profitability, and management development, helping guide the individuals inside the organization to higher levels of personal performance.

I’m writing this during the monthly meeting of the Human Resource Professional Development Association.  Elizabeth Stahl is presenting, and she gets this point.  She is pushing people to have courage, take risks, and gain influence.  All of which is true, especially as my data shows that we in HR have a very slow decision cycle and are cautious, and want to protect our paychecks. It is also clear that for this group of mostly senior HR people that we, as a group, think higher levels of risk taking is a good idea…within reason.

Within reason?  Hey, we’re in a “seige mentality”.  We’re under attack, and everyone is hunkered down, protecting their paycheck.  This is a lousy time to take risks.  At the same time, our organizations MUST take risks to survive.  Our CEOs need to have us taking good risks, and helping the organization survive.

Maslow got it right.  First we are focused on survival, then on safety, then on community.

Focus on survival.  Take some appropriate risks.  And accept that these are mutually exclusive.

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I’m going through the presentations at SHRM National, looking for clues and trends on Performance Management and how social media might be used.  I’ll check back with updates.  Has anyone seen any data or heard of anyone doing this?  I think it’s a very interesting concept…

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One of my takeaways from the conference – everyone is mad at performance management.  Managers hate doing it.  HR hates administering it.  CFOs hate having a huge asset (people) with no real feedback loops or accountability system.

I have an idea.

Instead of using software to automate a flawed system, use new communication channels (social networking, perhaps?) to build a fast feedback system that is more direct, and get a better result with less hassle.  I’ll be meeting with some social networking wonks and geeks next week, and I will be pushing this idea on them.  They don’t have an HR background, and that may actually be an advantage.  This is a marketing and communication and system design problem, more than an HR issue.  It’s just an issue that we all need to fix.

Now more than ever.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Things that are currently hot topics –

Lots of interest in motivation and related issues – that includes total compensation plans and how the money spent creates a positive outcome, and how to make sure benefit plans are motivating the right behaviors.

FMLA.  It never goes away, and still an irritation.

FLSA and all of it’s fringe issues.

Termination and outplacement and workforce planning with an eye to the future

COBRA rules and dealing with the administrative workload

…notice that most of this is administrative, and not that strategic.  The push of the featured speakers at the conference was a push for more of a strategic role.  The average attendee, however, is facing a crushing administative workload upon return to the office, and new ideas are not exactly welcome right now…

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Got the computer working.  Sorry about the gap.  Back to some tidbits from David Kotter’s session.

Overall, this was the best general session of the conference because it came down from 35,000 feet and actually gave tactical advice that I could use.

Kotter also did some very basic, useful things from a media standpoint.  He did not use powerpoint, he used a sketch pad, a sharpie, and had the image put up on a screen.  Kind of a high tech overhead projector.  I have seen professors doing this in college, and Edward DeBono did it in a presentation that I saw.  I like it from an adult learning perspective.

He also illustrated one of his basic points – that people are very creative if the environment is right – with videos of first person interviews.  The one that had a sewer cleaner narrating how he had personalized his truck and equipment was a refreshing reminder of the creative spirit of the American worker.

Overhead projector with a modern touch

Overhead projector with a modern touch

Back to the content.  He made the point that a key executive  skill is getting traction for systemic change, and that there is a basic pattern for making it happen.

It starts with that poorly-defined but muched talked about ingredient – Leadership.

“Leadership is very much associated with vision.  It’s very market oriented, very rational.  It’s very much associated with getting people to really, deeply buy in to this, get aligned and work together, going in the same direction to solve problems.  It’s also about getting employees pumped up, empowered, motivated, inspired to make shifts happen.”

Then he talked about urgency.  He said that most orgnizations clearly aren’t feeling a strong sense of urgency to act when it comes to addressing the impact of our current situation.  This lack of urgency directly relates to the change management challenges we are all facing.

Begin with increasing a sense of urgency.  It helps shake things up and make things happen

Once this is accomplished, employers need to push for positive change, working to achieve some short term wins that will help make the changes stick.

Companies must create systems that managers can both manage and adapt, allowing positive changes to be triggered and implemented at the front lines of customer service.  This is where fear can keep leadership from seeing potential opportunities and, therefore, squelch a sense of urgency to act.  This inaction is the barrier to change.

Combine or alternate this fear with compacency, and things get gridlocked.

“Complacency is when you get a collective group that thinks what it is doing is just fine.  Take Washington DC, for example.  Do you think the two parties are behaving with you in a fundamentally different way than they did five years ago?  Do you think the administration is staffing people with a process that is different than any other administration?  It’s the same.  The same.  The same.”

Kotter urged attendees to avoid the frentetic activity that leaves people emotionally drained and burned out.  “These problems with our serious economic conditions are hurting a whole lot of people, especially the most vulnerable in our society.  This is unacceptable – and also unnecessary.”

I guess what I liked about his approach is that it resonated with the chaos and burnout that I am seeing in modern organizations, and was willing to have the competing issues of complacency and chaos on the same page.

Overall, turn up the urgency, and have a concice plan for change.  Then you will be developing the environment andoffering the tools to get some change done.

Kotter's list of 8 steps

Kotter's list of 8 steps

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Just had a chat with a very frustrated head of HR from a social service agency.  She was on the trade show floor shopping for performance management software.

I challenged her that when she installed the online system, that the managers would hate it at the same as they hate the paper based one, only at a faster rate.  They would be ignoring her at the speed of light, not the speed of paper.

The answer?  Use the guise of the economic crisis to redesign the system using a “clean sheet of paper” approach, both eliminating waste and respecting her people.  Simply put, make it better and stop the madness.

She is going to call a meeting with her managers, and redraft the system using social networking tools as the engine of communication, and get away from annual reviews.  Faster, simpler, better.  I’ll keep you posted.

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