The main goal for performance-management systems is to improve employee effectiveness. Employers understand how important those systems are, but some employees have a tough time buying into the idea of them.
A 2014 Employee Outlook survey conducted by YouGov for the U.K.-based Chartered Institute of Personnnel and Development found that 30 percent of the 2,523 employees surveyed saw performance management systems as unfair. This begs the question: How can companies create performance-management systems that employees can support, and believe to be objective?
First, of course, trust must be established. Once employees trust their employer, they will believe that performance-management systems are the best tool a company has to understand how employees contribute, and to improve productivity. They are intended for company and employee growth, not, as many people fear, to fuel an office witch hunt.
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Here’s how to establish trust and credibility with employees:
1. Prioritize employee recognition.
Employees struggle to respect authority and trust managers who don’t recognize their successes, and most employers are failing at employee recognition. A September 2015 study from Achievers found that 57 percent of the 397 employees surveyed didn't feel recognized for their progress at work.
When companies use an employee-recognition plan, they celebrate staff successes and create incentives to keep people motivated. Such a plan engages employees because they feel that they are noticed for their progress and performance. In fact, the 2015 Globoforce Survey found that 90 percent of the 823 HR professionals participating said that an employee recognition program positively impacts engagement.
The ability to provide ongoing feedback is a byproduct of employee recognition programs. When managers are engaged with their staff, focusing both on where employees can improve and where they are exceeding expectations, they are building trust and showing employees respect. And trust and respect are vital to an effective performance management system.
2. Lead by example.
A strong work ethic isn't learned from managers who talk about it without backing it up. In other words, practice what is preached. Employees will respect leaders who live by the direction and guidance they provide.
For example, if supervisors remind team members to complete their purchase orders while they themselves fail to perform this task, employees won’t be motivated. All levels of the staff need to trust leadership, and true leaders demonstrate company values and teach policies and procedures in their actions, not just their words.
3. Assume personal accountability.
Passing the buck is neither productive nor admirable. When leaders avoid taking responsibility for their actions, employees lose trust and respect for them, and sometimes people even jump ship because of it. A 2014 BambooHR survey found that one in five employees surveyed had left a previous employer because of a boss who “passed the buck.”
Just as they should lead by example in terms of work ethic, managers also need to show that personal accountability is something the company values in its employees. If you're a manager, admit oversights and mishaps, then develop solutions and preventative measures to avoid future problems. After all, that’s what performance management is all about -- improving productivity and empowering employees to be more accountable for their actions.
4. Remain positive.
Speak in a positive way that is forward-thinking and solutions-oriented. The company’s values and direction are important to talk about on a regular basis. Keep employees informed about where the company is going and how each person is contributing to that vision.
Unfortunately, a large number of employees miss out on this big-picture kind of thinking. The September 2015 study from Achievers found that 61 percent of participating employees didn't know their company’s mission or cultural values. Additionally, 45 percent didn't trust their company’s leadership.
When managers can establish the large-scale vision from the get-go, employees know their role in the company’s growth plan and are far more invested in their work. They welcome performance management with open arms when they know how it will help them achieve their goals.
5. Invest in career development.
When employers invest in their employees and guide them toward career growth, those employees feel valued and respected. A talent mobility program is the perfect way to systematically identify top performers, create action plans and execute an effective training and development process.
Companies that help employees define their personal goals are building a trusting relationship. Employees will understand that the performance-management system is meant to help them improve in ways that help them reach their individual goals as well as achieve organizational objectives.
Performance management doesn’t just play a part in the company’s needs -- it benefits those who want to grow and move within the company and industry. Employers who can illustrate this connection for their workforce will be well on their way to large-scale growth.