The Dire Need for Performance Management Training for All People Leaders

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This article consists of four sections:
1. Current, actual example of poor performance management practices
2. The impact of poorly managed performance conversations on the bottom line of businesses
3. Resources and suggestions
4. Summary
The Example
As a facilitator and coach who has the privilege of working with leaders in multi-nationals, government and small/medium businesses, I have met many talented leaders who understand how and to address performance in the workplace to gain positive outcomes and to also comply with their organisation’s values as well as employment laws.

For this reason, I was shocked and appalled when I recently witnessed a performance management conversation led by a senior manager of a publicly traded Australian company who tout “safety” and “integrity” among their core values.

As I sat taking notes, I could not help but think that I was watching a real-life case study of what not to do, all interspersed with frequent reminders from the senior manager that he was a very busy man and needed to move the conversation along.I can only hope that the HR Officer in attendance was as mortified as I as the list of “what not to do” was played out including:
• Repeated acknowledgement that the person being performance managed was not the only one of his peers who were under-performing in the areas addressed – they are not on PIP’s. (Note: post-meeting, it was determined that the individual was, in fact, out-performing their peers per the dashboard tool that was referred to in the PIP).
• Waiting until the performance conversation to offer training on a company-proprietary software system and, again, acknowledging that this type of training was needed for all individuals as it had never been previously provided.
• Making the individual aware of a formal complaint that had been made 2 weeks previously but never communicated as a teaching moment– and a lack of asking the participant their side of the story. (Note: This claim was subsequently proven to be false and could have been clarified 2 weeks previous if asked).
• Implying that physical violence by a contractor was justified if said contractor was offended by a company employee.
• Subjective, not measurable, requirements with vague descriptions
• And the cherry on the sundae: offering to provide a 1-day personality training course to resolve harassment issues as the manager was sure the individual being performance managed was the type that “needed a hug”.

No hyperbole, this and more really took place within a 50-minute conversation and will be the source of many a case study that I facilitate in the future.

The Impact
In this situation, the organisation might as well end the PIP process if termination is the desired outcome; at best, they have enabled a bullying and harassment investigation.
In the worst case scenario, they may face a substantial loss as a result of a wrongful termination claim: as of the 1st of July, 2014, the rate of an unfair dismissal cap has increased to $66, 500 per annum.
Even more disturbing for potential investors, they have demonstrated a lack of high performance leadership; this was not a conversation that instilled engagement and acknowledgement of root causes which are key to surviving and thriving in today’s dynamic markets.

Resources and Suggestions
As a first course of action, businesses need to ensure that all people leaders are trained not only on the process and best practices (see “Fair Work Australia’s Best Practices Guideline”: http://www.fairwork.gov.au/About-us/policies-and-guides/Best-practice-guides/managing-underperformance, but also on skills and behaviours that can often prevent performance from ever resulting in a PIP including:
Skills training for leaders such as the offerings from AIMWA including:
o Fair Work Act and Implications for Business
o Appraising and Managing Performance
o Preparing an Organisational Development Strategy
• Create and communicate clear, concise metrics that are visual and frequently updated
o Get your facts straight – ensure that your data, when contextualised against the performance of others, shows what you say it shows
Workplace coaching skills and schedules for all employees; at least monthly if not fortnightly
o Short, sharp and targeted
o Focused on wins, learns, changes, barriers and skills training needs
Team Meetings
o Team goals focused
o Aligned with value chain contribution of the team to the overall organisational goals

Summary
There is a reason why high-performing organisations spend time and money ensuring correct systems and behaviours are used in performance management: the high-cost financially and to their brand for getting it wrong.
To avoid these pitfalls, ensure that you have training and support in place to create an engaged, empowered workplace.

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