Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Case for Managing Employee Performance

One of the recurring themes in my presentations (“Bottom-Up Renewal”, “Living Renewal”) as well as in my writings (“An Inconvenient Renewal”, this blog) has been performance management, more specifically: managing the performance of employees.

Today I made a presentation to my department’s PS Renewal Committee on this topic. I have uploaded the PowerPoint on GCPEDIA. For those of you who don’t have access to GCPEDIA, here’s the gist of it:

Firstly, it is important to distinguish between performance management as in “organization performance” vs. “employee performance”. The two concepts are interrelated, but have very different implications for supervisors.

Secondly, despite all the criticism against bureaucracy, the “public service of Canada employee performance management framework” (i.e. legislation, TBS policies and guidelines, collective agreements, etc.) is simple and straightforward. One of the most compelling quotes I came across actually comes from this overview of the Financial Administration Act:
“Performance management is a key enabler of effective human resources management and the achievement of organizational effectiveness and results. Effective performance management fosters integration of employee performance with organizational goals and results; engagement, responsibility and accountability for on-the-job performance and organizational results; and, fairness, consistency and transparency in the treatment, recognition and promotion of people. Integral to performance management are leadership, communication, coaching, mentoring, learning, development and recognition. Performance management results in a work culture in which excellence in performance is encouraged and recognized, and unsatisfactory performance effectively managed.”
Many tools and resources are available to supervisors to manage employee performance and hone their skills. Nevertheless, employee performance management is not valued and practiced as much as other management activities (i.e. financial management). There is currently a strong push for employee performance management in the public service. However for some reason people management in general is still not something that is commonly measured.

But if:
  • the management of employee performance and organizational performance are interdependent...
  • the management of employee performance is the responsibility of every supervisors...
  • the prescriptions and instruments for the management of employee performance are built into legislation, collective agreements, TBS guidelines, policies and directives, and departmental policies...
  • and the tools and resources for the management of employee performance are widely available to all public servants...
...Why is the management of employee performance a major weakness throughout most of the public service?

Is it because:
  • Organizational performance is possible without employees?
  • Employee performance management is less important than organizational performance management?
  • We tolerate poor employee performance management where we would never allow poor financial management?
  • Employee performance management is just optional?
Managing employee performance management is simple. The hard part is actually doing it, because most: s
  • Most supervisors are not appointed in their role based on their ability to manage employee performance;
  • Supervisors must manage employee performance every single day (as opposed to once a year);
  • Supervisors must be willing to have difficult conversations with employees;
  • Supervisors must practice truth-telling;
  • Supervisors must make unpopular decisions;
  • Supervisors must face their greatest fears.
With this in mind, the rest of my presentation focuses on the steps my organization has taken to make the management of employee performance a priority and “raise the bar”.

As potential solutions, I also offer the following:
  • Give employee performance management as much importance as we give to organizational performance management.
  • Be as diligent and rigorous with people management as we are with financial management (both of which, ironically, derive their authorities from the FAA).
  • Increase focus on day-to-day management of employee performance (not just on the annual performance appraisals).
  • Appoint people in supervisory roles based on their people management skills, their ability to manage employee performance, and their willingness to have difficult conversations with employees.
  • If supervisors are able to do the single most difficult aspect of their job well (i.e. managing performance of employees), the rest should follow naturally.
I'm considering turning this presentation into a "talk"... Does it make sense? Is the PS ready for this?

Your feedback is always appreciated.


No comments: