Why Can’t HR Solve the Performance Management Puzzle?

© AKS - Fotolia.com
© AKS - Fotolia.com

Why can’t HR seem to solve the problem of performance management?

After decades of best practices research, an endless search for the right forms/criteria/ratings scales, and enormous investments in technology, it seems the best solution we can put on the table is a call to throw in the towel.

Perhaps the answer boils down to this: The reality is that performance management is not an HR problem at all; it is a management problem. So says Howard Risher, in a terrific new article Getting Performance Management on Track (from Compensation and Performance Review).

The “performance management system” is simply a place to store information and a form for managers to document their assessment of how their people perform. The problems arise in the way managers carry out their responsibility; continuing focus on the system design will not solve the problem.

A day-to-day responsibility of managers

Performance management is or should be a day-to-day responsibility of managers and supervisors. HR can provide the forms, send reminders and provide training and advice, but the HR community should not assume responsibility for what should be an important aspect of each manager’s job.

Branding performance management as an HR function has relegated it to the realm of administrative tasks. Yet what could be more a more critical management charge, in the age of knowledge work, than helping employees realize – and the organization effectively “extract” – the true value of their knowledge and capabilities?

How do we, then, move away from the old HR-owned, command-and-control vision of performance management to a manager-centered process which rises to the challenge of drawing high performance from today’s knowledge worker?

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Holding supervisors accountable

The article highlights the importance of preparing and holding supervisors accountable for the management of employee performance, and it also discusses a number of emerging strategies, including:

  • The improved use of analytics and multi-rater feedback (ala Google’s “Quest to Build a Better Boss”) to develop managers’ performance management skills.
  • Putting managers, as the key “customers,” at the center of the performance management system design process.

Check out the article for more ideas and potential strategies.

Got a success story to tell? Dr. Risher is currently writing a book on the topic and would love to hear from you. Contact him at h.risher@verizon.net.

This was originally published on Ann Bares’ Compensation Force blog.

Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. She has over 20 years of experience consulting in compensation and performance management and has worked with a variety of organizations in auditing, designing and implementing executive compensation plans, base salary structures, variable and incentive compensation programs, sales compensation programs, and performance management systems.

Her clients have included public and privately held businesses, both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, early stage entrepreneurial organizations and larger established companies. Ann also teaches at the University of Minnesota and Concordia University.

Contact her at abares@alturaconsultinggroup.com.