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People Management

How to Improve Performance Management and Engage with Your Employees

October 19, 2021
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9 mins

Learn everything you need to know about performance management, including how to hold performance reviews, how to improve learning and development, and more.

Corine Tan
Learn everything you need to know about performance management, including how to hold performance reviews, how to improve learning and development, and more.

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The world of work is changing, especially with the new phenomenon that’s been coined The Great Resignation. The term refers to employees quitting their jobs at astonishing rates. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly four million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021 alone. 

It’s hard to pinpoint the reasons so many employees have for quitting their jobs. But whether it’s due to burnout caused by the COVID-19 era, a realigning of personal priorities, or a desire for higher wages, it’s concerning for managers everywhere, especially those who can work remotely.  

However, one good thing has grown out of The Great Resignation: employers are enhancing their management methods to ensure they can recruit and retain talent at their organizations. 

After all, your goal as a manager is to make sure your employees are able to do their jobs effectively. And it has become increasingly apparent in recent years that part of this goal includes checking in on employee wellbeing and anticipating their needs.

This is where effective performance management comes in. Performance management is much more than conducting annual performance reviews. To be a truly empathetic and effective manager, you need to think holistically about everything you’re doing to provide your employees with a positive work experience at your organization. 

Here are four actionable ways you can enhance your organization’s current management process: 

  1. Prioritize consistent coaching and communication. 
  2. Hold regular performance reviews. 
  3. Offer ongoing learning and development opportunities. 
  4. Invest in performance management software. 

We know the world of remote work, from onboarding to exit interviews, looks a little different than the traditional workplace. As you explore this guide, adapt our tips to meet the unique needs of your employees, whether that means holding performance reviews over a video chat platform or providing virtual continuing education courses.

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What is performance management? 

girl working on laptop

Performance management is much more than just holding annual performance reviews to check in with your employees and see how they’re performing in their specific roles. It encompasses everything an organization and its leaders do to manage their employees, including: 

  • Writing thorough job descriptions to guide performance in individual roles.
  • Providing regular communication, coaching, and feedback.
  • Holding regular performance reviews.
  • Creating an engaging and open culture that encourages performance and communication.
  • Providing opportunities for continued learning and career development.
  • Asking employees for feedback on their experience with your organization.
  • Conducting and analyzing exit interviews.

Clearly there’s a lot that goes into setting up your organization’s process for managing your employees. You’ll need an all-hands-on-deck effort from the leaders, managers, and HR reps at your organization to ensure that performance management is carried out smoothly and efficiently, with a focus on employee engagement and retention. We break down how to hone in on your performance management. 

1. Prioritize consistent coaching and communication

man working on laptop

How do you know how your employees are doing without checking in with them on a regular basis? Too often managers incorrectly assume that because employees are getting their work done, they’re happy at work (and outside of work!). Then they feel totally blindsided when an employee gives their notice of resignation

To prevent this from happening to you, communicate with your employees on a regular basis. You can check in with them to see how things are going, coach them on their job duties, and provide feedback. Here are some ways you can use to improve communication with your employees: 

One-on-one meetings.

We recommend that you hold one-on-one meetings with your employees on a regular basis. Ideally these meetings should last 15 to 30 minutes every week. One-on-one meetings serve as an outlet for your employees’ questions and concerns about current projects or their job overall. They also give you the opportunity to coach your employees, provide feedback, and get to know them better so you can anticipate their needs. 

Informal feedback.

Though feedback will be a big part of your one-on-one meetings, you should also take the opportunity to give informal feedback when the need arises. You might share this with your employee after a Kona check-in, through a Slack message, or over a Tandem chat. quick email, text, call, instant message, or deskside chat. However you decide to share feedback, make sure you’re doing it frequently so it becomes a natural part of your employee’s experience. This will not only help to course correct your employee when needed, but will also give them the confidence to keep working hard when the feedback is positive. 

Mentorship program.

It isn’t enough for employees to connect with their managers. It’s also important for them to build relationships with people who are in a similar role. Consider starting a mentorship program where employees can get to know each other better, discuss work-related issues, and solidify friendships. Employees will enjoy work more when they have friends they can talk to and get advice from. 

Establishing a pattern of regular communication with your employees will help you retain them in the long run. When your employees know they can talk to you about the issues they’re having at work and even the challenges they’re facing with work-life balance, your organization will become a better place to work.

2. Hold regular performance reviews

woman working remotely in her living room

Just because performance management requires you to think beyond one-off performance reviews doesn’t mean performance reviews are obsolete. They’re a critical part of performance management. 

Performance reviews help employees understand how they're doing, what they can improve, and how they can reach the next step in their career.

However, without the proper preparation, your employees won’t get much out of performance reviews, and your organization won’t be able to gain the insights you need to improve their experience and push your larger goals forward. 

Here are some tips for preparing for and carrying out effective performance reviews: 

Work with People Ops, HR, and managers to set performance management goals.

Don’t set out for performance reviews without a plan. Decide what you want to learn from performance reviews and what you want to accomplish in your manager-employee relationships well in advance. 

Have employees complete self-assessments.

Self-assessments give employees the opportunity to reflect on their time at your organization, think through how well they’re fulfilling their job duties, and prepare questions to ask during their performance review. 

Gather feedback on employees’ performance.

Depending on your employee’s role, gather feedback from clients and other employees to help evaluate how your employee is performing. 

Schedule and host performance reviews.

Employees and managers both attend the performance reviews, accompanied by an HR representative. The performance review should focus on what the employee has done well and what they can improve on in the future. If any compensation changes are part of the conversation, these should be handled by the HR representative and the employee during the performance review or a follow-up meeting. 

One of our favorite tips for hosting great performance evaluations is to use job descriptions to guide the meeting. When they’re well-written, job descriptions lay out the expectations for a specific role, giving written documentation of how an employee should be performing that you can measure their progress against. 

3. Offer ongoing learning and development opportunities

offsite team bonding and learning

Stagnation can contribute to employees wanting to leave their roles. This means that sometimes employees feel like they’ve stopped progressing personally and professionally when they aren’t able to learn and grow at their job. 

Combat this by offering multiple opportunities for employees to learn and develop professionally. Here are a few different opportunities your organization might set up for your employees: 

Continuing education courses:

Many employees want to learn more about their field and just don’t have the resources to do so on their own. Motivate your employees to continue their education by using course authoring software to create your own in-house training or educational courses your employees can take advantage of. Alternatively, you can fund the opportunity for your employees to learn from an association or thought leader in their field, too. 

Recertification or relicensing opportunities

Some roles require employees to re-certify or relicense after a certain period of time. Make these opportunities possible by paying for employees to complete the training they need to in order to recertify. Not only is this convenient for employees, but it also ensures your organization stays compliant when your workers are up to date on their certifications. 

Conferences and webinars

Conferences and webinars are a fun way for employees to continue learning and growing. Often conferences and webinars are carried out on a large scale, allowing your employees to mingle with people in their field and learn from experts. Incentivize employees to attend events like these by paying registration fees and providing a per diem for traveling. 

Management training

Give your employees a glimpse into what it’s like to work as a manager and invest in custom employee training so they have a clear path to management. When your employees see roles they can progress toward, they’ll be more likely to want to stay with your organization. 

Employees want to find personal fulfillment in their jobs, and by providing opportunities like the ones outlined above, you’ll be able to meet this need while also honing your employees’ skills and competencies. 

4. Invest in performance management software 

man working on laptop

One of the best ways to organize and streamline your performance management process is to invest in performance management software, also known as talent management software. A performance management system will help you keep track of all of your organization’s employees and help you organize the insights that will be valuable in helping grow your organization. 

According to Astron Solutions’ rundown on talent management software, you can typically choose between standalone tools, comprehensive platforms, or modular solutions. Standalone tools are great for meeting a specific need, like payroll automation, while comprehensive platforms can help you keep track of every fact of performance management. 

A modular solution is a popular choice, because it tends to be the best of both worlds. A modular system enables you to choose tools specific to your organization's needs, whether you need help updating job descriptions, tracking performance reviews, conducting and analyzing exit interviews, or tracking sales commissions. 

As you shop for your performance management software, make sure to find one that will fit your current HR activities and the size of your organization. 

Employee retention is a hot topic these days among managers due to The Great Resignation, but it should be a major focus for your organization in general. Employees, especially those who are working remotely, want to know they’re appreciated and seen by their employers. 

By establishing a solid performance management process, you can meet employees’ needs as they arise, keep your organization operating efficiently, and hold on to the employees that make your work possible.

Meet the Author

Corine Tan

Corine is co-founder of Kona. They write regularly on emotional intelligence and people-first leadership. Their work has been featured by Fortune, Yahoo, TechCrunch, Entrepreneur, Harvard Business School, Forbes, and more. They've spoken at remote work conferences like GitLab Commit 2021 and advised Fortune 10 companies on remote strategy.

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