If the latest research is to be believed, companies are still struggling with two of the most fundamental people management issues – keeping employee absence under control and getting the best from their teams.
A report from consultants PwC shows that productivity levels within business have hit a five year low. This is backed up by a further survey from XpertHR, which suggests individual under-performance is a real problem for nine-tenths of organisations.
The finger of blame is being pointed at a number of issues – lack of training for line managers, poor quality workplace conversations and failure to give managers the tools they need to manage their teams – to name just a few.
So what exactly do businesses need to do to bring their absence and performance management processes up to scratch and ensure they are getting maximum performance from their people?
In many businesses, absence and performance management is still very much an ad hoc affair. Practices often vary wildly across departments and between managers. Some employees have regular productive reviews while others are lucky if they even get an annual appraisal. Persistent short term absence is pulled up sharply in one team – while in others it is allowed to carry on without comment. Putting just simple, basic absence and performance management processes in place can make a huge difference. Managers and employees know what’s supposed to happen and when and what’s acceptable and what’s not – while the business gets a helicopter view of the talent it has in house and can plan succession and development in line with corporate objectives.
Managers are typically expected to know how to ‘do’ performance management. But it’s not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. Often managers push poor performance or inappropriate behaviour under the carpet because they don’t know how to tackle it and are worried about getting into a confrontation with employees. A simple training programme can ensure managers understand the company’s absence and performance management processes, are confident about implementing them and have the skills to get the best out of their people.
Good conversations between managers and employees are critical to building relationships and raising performance standards. Yet it’s not uncommon for employees to come away from appraisals or reviews feeling aggrieved by feedback or confused by what they are supposed to be doing differently. Managers need help to improve their feedback and communication skills so that performance conversations are productive and impactful and everyone is clear about what’s needed and what kind of behaviour is expected.
If people are not clear about their objectives and how their role fits into the bigger picture, they will find it difficult to prioritise or get motivated about the job in hand. Good performance management processes ensure employees understand what’s important, what they are doing well, what they need to improve on and how success will be measured and rewarded. If people can see that discussions and decisions made in performance reviews are carried through, they are much more likely to focus their efforts enthusiastically on the right things. Equally, if employees see that absence is being monitored in a fair and consistent way and that unacceptable behaviour is being dealt with, they are much less likely to try and flout the system.
Often, proper management of absence and performance doesn’t happen because managers perceive it as ‘difficult’ or time consuming. Sophisticated absence and performance management software is, however, now available to help streamline the process and make managers’ jobs much easier. The latest performance management systems give managers the tools to set objectives, schedule appraisals, plan development and monitor progress. Best of all, they provide an overview of the skills and talents available within the team, making it much easier for managers to spot development gaps and plan for succession. Absence management programmes, meanwhile, can pinpoint trends that may be emerging and provide a trigger for managers when they need to take action. Good quality conversations still need to happen of course, but automated processes make it much easier to keep both absence and performance management on track.
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