Performance Management System a Valuable Tool

By Micki Debbrecht | October 06, 2009
Evaluating an employee's performance can be the least favorite task on a manager's to-do list. However painful the experience may seem, using a sound performance management system can ease the headache.

The goal of a performance management system is to support your organization's mission and strategy. Performance measures are results-based and will give both employees and supervisors information they need to improve productivity. In addition, the organization benefits from an overall increase in effectiveness.

Job Descriptions
Once a person is hired, an evaluation is recommended to be given after 90 days and then on an annual basis. Be sure the discussion occurs in a neutral environment and is positive, yet truthful, about an employee's work behavior and skills. If a manager anticipates the evaluation will take a negative turn, refer to the employee's job description and be sure the employee understands their specific tasks. Oftentimes, a negative evaluation takes place simply because the employee does not fully understand what is expected of them. Utilizing measurement tools will ensure objectivity and provide an opportunity for clear, concise communication, leaving little room for misinterpretation.

Job descriptions are an important tool to document overall job expectations. When an employee is brought in to discuss work behavior, a manager can easily refer back to the description and review expectations for their assigned position. If a job description is not used during an evaluation, it may seem that the employee is being rated subjectively rather than objectively.

Conducting evaluations is unpopular because asking an employee to do a better job seems hurtful and unfriendly. Remember the performance evaluation should also include positive feedback about what the employee has done well. This should be an opportunity to discuss a "snapshot" of the evaluation period and set goals for the forthcoming year.

Performance Gaps
The process will also help identify gaps in performance—the difference between actual and expected behaviors. Gaps in performance identify skill sets that need further development. If necessary, a plan for improvement can be established or it may be determined the employee is not suited for their assigned position. Again, the system's intent is to support your organization's mission and strategy. If an employee lacks the competencies or skills needed to perform well, they may need to be reassigned or asked to leave the organization. A performance management system can also help managers be consistent in the amount of time they spend with average- to lower-performing employees.

Documentation is only one component of delivering the message. When conducting the review, schedule uninterrupted time to discuss the written evaluation and allow time to solicit employee feedback. Often, managers don't like to verbally deliver performance reviews because it feels confrontational and causes anxiety. Providing positive, yet truthful, objective feedback is healthy and employees are often grateful for the one-on-one opportunity to clarify and discuss expectations.

Common errors in performance management systems include a lack of documentation of both positive and negative behaviors; allowing one performance factor to weigh too heavily among others; and tendencies to rate employees as average or to favor one employee over another. In order for the performance management system to be effective, a manager has to identify and address objective facts about the employee's actual performance and modify job-related behavior.

Although it is often overlooked, implementing a sound performance management system can prove to be an effective tool in reducing legal liability, improving employee productivity and increasing morale.

Micki Debbrecht is a human resource consultant at Kennedy and Coe LLC. Reach her at or (316) 691-3736.