The 3-Step Performance Management Process

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A landscaper from Ohio contacted me the other day to talk about various employee disciplinary issues.  His valid concerns centered on avoiding lawsuits, the time it takes to develop a performance management system, reluctance to document unacceptable behavior, and the lack of accountability throughout the organization.

Ever heard those thoughts before?

I mean, have you heard those same concerns from someone outside your company?

Now you know who I am talking to.

I explained that most companies are their own worst enemy, desiring results though minimizing coaching, espousing a team culture while placating differential performance levels.  Most companies don’t do enough training, coaching, documenting, and disciplining of under-performing employees; only to regret those omissions when they want to terminate an employee with no paper trail.  And then I hear the magic question:

“What do I do now Steve?”

The answer is “start now.”  I am certainly not advocating a bureaucratic culture in which minor issues are relentlessly documented to the point that employees lose their autonomy for fear of being written up.  We don’t want a Police State; we simply want a results-based team-oriented culture.

As I told the Ohio landscaper, “start now” by implementing the 3-step performance management process:

  1. Define the business goal to the employee(s).  For example, “we have to finish this job in 4 hours,” “our quality score must be at least 87 on this job,” “all customer calls/e-mails must be responded to by the close of business each day,” “no call-back work,” or “all time sheets must be received by Tuesday at noon.”  The employee has now been informed that his/her work performance is tied to an organizational goal; he/she is no longer ignorant of his/her role or impact.  This may sound boring to you, but this is how coaching, accountability, and success must begin.
  2. Get the employee to tell you how he/she will achieve the goal.  Again, this may sound boring to you, but it’s not about you.  It’s about getting the employee to think of his/her actions that will achieve the goal.  Did you catch that?  “getting the employee to think about his/her actions…”   Translation:  the employee is no longer a passive participant on the assembly line, he/she is beginning to take an active role in describing how he/she will achieve the goal.  It’s now his/her plan; not yours, okay Henry Ford?  Naturally, if his/her actions are inadequate, unlikely to reach the goal, have a conversation to help the employee identify additional efficacious behaviors.  I’m sorry if communication, coaching, and leadership take up so much of your valuable time, but if this is step is not done correctly, you will perpetuate dependence, eliminate engagement, and ultimately reap what you sow.
  3. Do follow-up.  Hold the employee accountable to the goal.  Stated simply:  Was the goal achieved?  After that, then ask why/not?  What aspect of the employee’s plan worked/didn’t work?  What should the plan have included?  What changes should have been made?  Based upon the responses, then apply performance management:  praise, constructive criticism, coaching, training, communication, planning, documentation, etc.

Make no mistake, this fundamental process is just that, fundamental.  It will take time, repetition, and revision.  But the sooner you get started, the sooner the results will become evident.  So, you know what?

“Start now.”

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.