BUSINESS pressures are ever increasing. To remain competitive, organisations are required to execute better on business strategy and do more with less.

In pursuit of maximising employees’ potential, companies are renewing their focus on the performance management process as a competitive advantage.

What really sets businesses apart are actions that go beyond tweaking the performance management process.

Over the years, employee expectations have changed when it comes to performance appraisals. They have shifted from being passive recipients to active agents who want to participate in the process.

Amid the excitement and desire for greater involvement, accountability and recognition, employees sometimes forget the fundamentals of good performance dialogues and what these entail.

Companies need to continuously educate them on the importance of these crucial conversations in order to create an effective performance management culture.


Why performance conversations are important

The goal of the performance management process is to engage employees in meaningful conversations about their performance and development.

These conversations should support employees to identify key aspects of their role, strengths and development both professionally and personally, as well as their career aspirations.

The skilful facilitation of these dialogues empowers individuals to perform at their best.

Typically, employees are engaged in three performance conversations a year:

•   Goal-setting,

•   Mid-year review, and

•   Year-end appraisal.

Each needs to be handled carefully as it leads to different outcomes. These discussions are a shared responsibility, with both employee and supervisor being active participants.

During the goal-setting process, it is important to ensure that employees’ efforts and achievements are aligned with the organisation’s scorecard and values.

When it comes to the mid-year review, the discussion should summarise accomplishments to date; identify what goals have been added, eliminated or changed; review priorities and clarify performance expectations.

Finally, the year-end appraisal should be a positive experience that inspires employees to improve their performance and advance their career.

Each conversation is vital to ensure that employees recognise action points they need to take to improve their performance and increase their motivation.

To ensure that these conversations are carried out in the right manner, organisations should set up training sessions on performance management.

Proper communication through the organisation’s intranet is also useful.

At DBS Bank, for example, there is a dedicated website that provides information and toolkits on performance management to enable employees and managers to better manage their performance at work and empower them to take on these conversations.


Three tips

Some managers are nervous about having performance conversations with their employees. However, this can be a positive experience if they keep the following elements in mind:


•  Preparation is the key to success

A lack of preparation can diminish the value of the employee’s review and ruin the experience for both parties.

Managers need to consider the timing, their mindset and have clarity of thought before engaging their employees.

It is important to choose the right communication approach and style.

Managers must also be prepared to resist the temptation to respond quickly to differences in opinion during the engagement and simply listen to what their employees have to say.


•  Listen and show respect

Listening is a skill that many of us have to practise. It is essential for creating rapport, trust and understanding during performance conversations.

Managers need to show respectful eye contact, acknowledge what they have heard and ask questions to clarify.

They should also avoid cutting in conversations and use the time when their employees are speaking to prepare their next comment.

Employees should also listen when receiving advice or feedback from their managers.


•  Be clear and specific

The most positive performance conversations are the ones that are clear on intent and have specific examples.

Managers should start each dialogue by explaining the agenda, setting the topic for discussion and using facts and reason to evaluate their employees’ performance.

Generalising and giving unclear feedback will limit the desired impact.

With these elements, it is possible to provide constructive and positive feedback that focuses on encouraging and developing employees’ strengths.

Through good communication and an effective performance management culture, companies can create a work environment where employees are able to excel and grow with the organisation.


Article by Sean Goh, senior vice-president, head of talent management, DBS Bank.