Managers want their employees to work at peak performance — and most employees want this, too. When everyone within an organization is doing their best, the organization is more likely to succeed, benefiting stakeholders at every level.

However, neither managers nor employees always know how to work at peak performance. The performance management process is supposed to ease communication and facilitate productivity, but performance management processes don’t always work as they should. Here are a few tips managers and workers can use to improve the performance management process and get back on track to business success:

Gather Information

Managers will not know how to improve their organization’s performance management process if they are not certain how the process currently works. The first step to improving any business process is to gather information from a variety of targets to help managers understand what processes are currently in place.

Generally, the more targets a manager can pull from, the more objective the information becomes, which helps provide an accurate picture of performance management processes as they stand. Managers can utilize data from reports and call records as well as feedback from employees, personal observation, documentation from dialogues and any other tools that provide insight into past and present performance.

Set SMART Goals

Goals guide a business, but when goals are unclear, different groups within the business will go different directions. Thus, when it comes to performance, managers need to be careful to craft SMART goals, or goals that adhere to the following criteria:

  • S: Specific. Goals should explain what the business needs to accomplish, who is involved, which retargets are involved and other specifics to provide focus to employees.
  • M: Measurable. Business leaders need to be able to track the progress and success (or failure) of goals.
  • A: Achievable. It is essential that goals are reachable. An extreme goal that is impossible to attain is merely disheartening.
  • R: Relevant. Goals must align with other business objectives as well as the organization’s overall mission and shared values.
  • T: Time-bound. Finally, goals must have a target date; otherwise, it is easy for organizations to procrastinate or ignore the goal in favor of other responsibilities.

Collaborate on Plans

With SMART goals in place, managers should work with employees to develop performance management plans that make sense. By working alongside the workforce, managers can establish processes that employees understand and accept. Managers and workers can begin with the job description and work together to establish short- and long-term goals as well as details regarding performance evaluation. Collaboration allows employees to identify issues and obstacles which managers might not be able to see, so the team can find ways to overcome those obstacles before they interrupt performance. This two-way communication should be hard-baked into the performance management plan to ensure that employees understand and buy into the processes by which they are being measured.

Provide Continuous Feedback

Managers are busy, and most do not want to think about performance management outside of annual employee performance reviews. However, once per year is not frequent enough to allow employees the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and improve their output to benefit the company and their own careers. Managers should strive to provide quarterly reviews, at least, but continuous feedback on performance is more likely to result in positive change.

During performance reviews, it is wise to begin with goals and expectations for each employee. Managers should also pay close attention to strengths and accomplishments, looking for ways to give a worker praise. It is equally important that managers listen to employee concerns and comments, as feedback from employees can give managers opportunities to improve, as well.

Document Everything

Documentation will help current and future managers understand and improve upon the current performance management process. Managers should take diligent notes on any activity related to employee performance, as these notes can be used to support staffing decisions into the future. Performance logs in particular can help managers remember individual employees’ successes and failures to address during upcoming reviews. Managers should strive to keep their documentation as objective as possible and limited to job-related behaviors to prevent irrelevant information from clouding their judgment on employee performance.

Performance management helps everyone within an organization work toward common goals. By working to improve performance management processes, managers can build a system that benefits everyone.