Seventy-eight percent of South Africa’s managers say that they have to take on additional work each week to compensate for under-performing staff. This is according to research undertaken by The Human Edge, innovators in corporate training and organisational performance. Seventy-six percent of respondents said that they speak-up on the first or second occasion to hold staff accountable when they miss targets or under-perform, and 78% of South African managers believe they are ‘skilled to very skilled’ at handling performance conversations.
In spite of this, Helene Vermaak, Director and Business Owner of The Human Edge says that these crucial performance conversations often fail because of a mutual lack of perspective on the part of both employee and manager. According to the research, 70% of respondents believe that they see bad habits resurface within three months of a performance discussion and 66% believe they have to raise a concern two or more times to see an improvement in performance.
“It’s only possible to create a high-performance culture through having the right performance conversations,” says Vermaak. Using an iceberg as an analogy for organisational structure, Vermaak says that leaders focus on things like strategies, structure, plans and processes, which lie on the surface. “Many don’t realise that it’s what’s going on below the waterline – the health of the cultural operating system itself –that underpins everything else, including performance”.
The Human Edge’s research also revealed the following findings:
- Forty-seven percent of managers report that they are ‘anxious to very anxious’ when it comes to holding performance conversations.
- And ultimately, 32% of managers believe the performance management process in their organisation has little value.
The key to developing a healthy organisational culture lies in understanding the motivations and ability of employees and then managing the gap between expected and actual performance. Using the internationally-recognised VitalSmarts methodology for Crucial Accountability, Vermaak explains that performance conversations need to be broken down into three stages – before, during and after.
According to Vermaak, the plan should roll out as follows:
- Before addressing employee performance, it’s important for managers to understand their own motivations. Ask yourself ‘what do I really want from this conversation for the person involved, the team as a whole, and myself, and what assumptions, judgements, or attributions may I be making that could negatively influence the conversation?’
- The next step is the conversation itself. During a performance conversation, it’s important to describe the gap between expectation and delivery while making it safe for the employee by sharing your intent – showing them that you understand them and their goals, and discussing how their performance compares to expectations.
- Once you’ve been able to tap into that pool of shared meaning, you’ll be able to diagnose and address any problems on a matrix of the six sources of influence – personal, social and structural issues, based on both motivation and ability.
- After the diagnosis has been made, put a clear path of action in place, detailing who does what, by when – and follow up.
“Rather than staking everything on the performance review itself, it’s important for managers to realise that performance reviews are the culmination of all the feedback, discussions, and focused conversations you have with someone over a specific period of time,” says Vermaak. “The actual performance review should simply be a recap of all the other regular feedback you have been giving your employee over time”.
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