10 Steps to your best Performance Management year yet

Business person analyse high performance marketing data.

Whether you’re a manager or team member, performance reviews generally aren’t something to look forward to. Managers often see them as little more than a box-ticking exercise, and employees worry about just getting through the experience unscathed.

According to a survey of Fortune 1,000 companies  conducted by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), 66% of employees were strongly dissatisfied with their last performance review experience. This is hardly surprising, given many organizations still rely on a single annual review with no further performance conversations throughout the year.

This is bad for both managers and employees. Managers are left stewing on performance issues for months on end, and employees can slip into bad habits without even realizing they might be doing something wrong. Then, when the annual performance review eventually rolls around, employees feel blindsided by any performance concerns, and managers get frustrated that it’s taken so long to address any issues. In short, a lot of time is wasted and opportunities to improve are missed.



At the start of your organization’s fiscal year, thoughts will inevitably turn to the long-term and short-term goals and objectives for the coming 12 months, and how those goals are translated into team members’ objectives. Depending on the organization, these goals may be high-level, overarching targets, or they may be shorter-term goals for each quarter.

But before rushing straight into a fresh set of goals, it’s important to take the time to review last year’s goals and whether or not they were reached. From a performance perspective, this is about understanding whether or not the previous year went to plan, and if not, why not. Taking the time to reflect gives you valuable data and context before you start planning for the year ahead.


Ensuring everyone is on board with the company’s overarching vision and purpose is often overlooked. Working towards those all-important day-today goals – such as increasing sales, boosting productivity or achieving faster customer response times – is meaningless without the context of the organization’s wider vision. When company and individual purpose align, motivation builds and everyone understands the part they play in the organization’s success. The organization’s vision may also translate to a series of more granular team-specific visions, which can unite teams on a smaller scale.


The traditional approach to goal setting is for the manager to establish several goals at the start of the year with little or no input from the employee. These goals are then either never mentioned again or only revisited at the end of the year, by which point both parties have usually forgotten what the goals were, and they are dismissed in exchange for a new set of goals. Obviously this approach is little more than a box-ticking exercise, and is never going to motivate employees (or managers) to improve performance. If anything, this is an actively demotivating experience.

Effective goal setting is about clear, achievable objectives, with meaningful success metrics for both the individual and the organization. Quantitative goals may be used for  things like increasing sales, boosting output or improving Net Promoter Scores (NPS.) Qualitative goals may cover things like improving communication skills, handling difficult conversations better or changing behaviors. Both types have value, and some may be better suited to certain roles. For instance, a receptionist’s performance may not be assessed against any specific metrics, but instead factors like professionalism, visitor feedback and friendliness; whereas a salesperson is likely to be assessed on their sales figures, lead conversions and level of activity. This makes it essential to set different goals for each individual rather than measuring everyone’s performance against a standardized set of goals.


Goals are really just the start – the next step is to set up a comprehensive development plan to give managers and employees a clear vision of how to progress.

Competencies are measurable skills, knowledge or behaviors that employees require to perform their roles, and are closely linked to development plans. Products like Totara Perform allow managers to build compliance and competency structures across all divisions and positions within an organization, with competencies being linked to courses, positions and learning plans. Creating a development plan should always be a collaborative process – the manager shouldn’t just impose a plan on an employee, but they should listen to how the employee wants to progress and provide advice and guidance.


Check-ins are an essential part of the modern performance management calendar. Managers should be scheduling informal check-ins with their employees to ensure that they remain aligned, focused on their goals and that any barriers to success are removed in a timely fashion.

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