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Definition of Performance Management

A definition of performance management can help bring some clarity to what is often seen by managers as one of the most difficult aspects of their job. An initial definition might refer to:

maximising the performance of the individual so that it is clear how their contribution meets their own needs, that of their team and as a result, of their organisation.

Whilst a simple definition of performance management is a good starting point, only a deeper analysis will help you to be a more effective manager. To do this it must be made clear how the the individual’s contribution, or performance, meets needs. This includes their own needs, those of their teams, and as a result, those of their organization. To enable this, managers must try to ensure an appropriate working environment is in place, and that development is adequately resourced.

The theory and application of performance management has evolved from a personnel management emphasis on relatively simple staff appraisals and development reviews. Whilst placing a strong emphasis on an individual’s development, these didn’t necessarily focus on performance, or on how that performance enables team and organisational goals to be achieved. Performance management is more about managing performance with a purpose.

In our article: How to Motivate Employees to Perform, we introduced our PERFORM model, highlighting the key factors managers need to understand and address, when developing a true performance management approach. The factors illustrated in the PERFORM model will help you to think through the essential elements that should be in place. You can then use a structure such as a performance management cycle to provide a clear process to follow.

Regular “Mini” Reviews

One of the most crucial elements in any definition of performance management is the need to stress that reviewing performance is not a just an annual activity (or formality). It should be an ongoing process where regular informal reviews build towards more formal meetings to review and plan. There must be a strong emphasis on regular, “mini-reviews”, which should occur throughout the year. There should be no surprises in an appraisal. Regular performance reviews will keep you in touch with what’s happening, and to make changes if necessary.

Regular meetings will also help to ensure that performance review is an effective, ongoing process, and not simply a box-ticking exercise. An ongoing performance review framework will contribute strongly to a positive organizational culture. A culture in which every team member continually feels engaged and valued, making them far more likely to strive for their own performance improvement.

For performance management to work, supportive conditions need to be in place, whereby:

  • performance can be reviewed as part of an interactive process.
  • plans are agreed to improve performance, with goals set to contribute to team and organisational objectives.
  • opportunities and resources are put in place to support development.
  • coaching is provided, to help individuals develop their potential.
  • overall performance is improved.

So, we have offered both a definintion of performance management, and some deeper insights into both what it is, and how it works. Don’t forget though, that any definition must encapsulate the essence of what really should underpin performance management. We think that is:

a desire to help your colleagues realize their potential, and the actions needed to make this possible.

You can read more about how to do this in our article: Define Performance Management.


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