Lifecycle Mastery: A Learning Culture is the Key to Getting Great Performance

This is part five of a six part look at how employers can master the talent lifecycle in a way that will help build a high performing workforce. Today’s post examines performance management. Previous posts are listed at the end of this article.

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The point of performance management is clear — to make employees more effective so they can achieve their goals. Employees must have a growth mindset so they can overcome obstacles and persevere to meet expectations and continue to learn.

When companies focus their efforts on building a learning culture — a workforce made up of employees who have developed this growth mindset — magic happens. Mindsets are not easy to change. They take time to develop through a series of actions and behaviors in an environment that supports this shift in the way of thinking.

Let’s take a look at how you can change your workplace culture to focus on cultivating a growth mindset:

Recognize in real time

Thanks to the advent of performance data, employers are ditching the troubled annual performance review. There’s a reason major companies are moving forward without them.

TINYpulse’s March 2016 survey found 31% of the 100 managers who responded listed “too time-consuming” as the top reason why they don’t like performance reviews, with 26% of the 100 employees sharing that sentiment. One of the most concerning aspects of annual reviews is bias — 17% of managers and 10% of employees say managers can be biased.

Performance metrics

Performance metrics are the answer. They can be captured in real time, making it easy for leadership to measure performance and to have impactful conversations.

The worst thing you can do is ignore employees. Unfortunately, this is a common concern. A September 2016 Leadership IQ study found that most employees aren’t sure if they’re doing a good job.

Part of the one-on-one informal discussions is celebrating accomplishments. Use performance data as part of your employee recognition program. Structure it with incentives and ways you want to praise everyone fairly so employees are motivated to push themselves out of their comfort zone and to seek growth opportunities.

What’s more, employee recognition establishes respect and trust among all levels for employees. As the data comes in, you need to show appreciation in a timely manner. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition as well. When people share their progress and celebrate with each other, they start to truly appreciate the fact that they are learning.

Continuous feedback

Performance data can be leveraged to give unbiased, data-centric feedback to show your employees where their strengths and weaknesses are. Use them to host informal conversations to prevent any confusion when it comes time for a formal review.

Ongoing feedback is a great way to keep everyone, from the employee to middle and upper management, on the same page. It’s especially helpful with goal progression — the more you check in, the more constructive feedback you can offer.

Encourage colleagues to share their input during 360 reviews of goal progress. This gives the employee a full perspective of their performance from all those who work with them. Emphasize their growth, remind them that part of development is falling short, and create a plan for them to stick to what they’re good at.

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Focus on strengths

Base employee development off of their strengths, so they can succeed with what they’re naturally good at. Gallup’s Strengths Orientation Index from February 2014 analyzed how engaged employees were when they felt their employers focused on their strengths as opposed to their weaknesses. The study found that 37% of the 1,003 employees surveyed felt their employer focused on their strengths, which led to 61% of employees feeling engaged in their work.

To put it simply, employees love building their strengths. It reinforces their growth mindset because they’re proving to themselves that they can, in fact, learn and master something through committed action and willpower.

A learning culture breeds high levels of engagement. It’s best to maintain that spirit of learning and growth from onboarding. Employees are more satisfied when they can see the impact of their continued education.

When goals change

When goals change, you can too. Metrics get everyone on the same page, so when goals need to change, it’s easy to get all levels of the organization on board with the new direction.

Employees with growth mindsets embrace challenges as growth opportunities. If you let your staff fall into a fixed mindset, they will see these changes as unachievable and will give up quickly. Instead, your growth-oriented talent will be realistic, set achievable goals, learn from their mistakes along the way, and follow through with continued effort.

Transparency

Your learning culture needs to embrace transparency as well. This way, employees are comfortable speaking up, asking questions, and offering insights into how they want to see their goals through and how they want to grow.

Let them have a say in what they want to learn and how they want to grow. Over time, they will learn to take ownership of their work and their attitude. In fact, they’ll become proud of their focus on learning and growth, which can lead to a contagion effect and spread passion for learning throughout your office.

Learning cultures keep the momentum of employee engagement that you first instilled in your talent during the onboarding stage. Use performance management as an opportunity to help employees cultivate and maintain a growth mindset. This will ultimately lead a successful succession planning stage.

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