Adopting a people-centric approach to performance management

Dr Joel Davies, Senior People Scientist at Culture Amp, explains how organisations can adopt a people-centric approach to performance management.
By: | August 22, 2022

While many employees seek flexibility in when and where they work, should they worry that being away from the office will have an adverse impact on their performance evaluation?

An increased potential for bias in the performance management process is one of the challenges presented by flexible and hybrid work, acknowledged Dr Joel Davies, Senior People Scientist at Culture Amp.

For instance, recency bias can set in when managers base their evaluations of an employee on the most recent example of that employee’s work that they can recall.

“Proximity bias can also come into play, whereby people place higher value on work they see or are directly aware of, and discount work they don’t see for themselves,” Dr Davies told HRM Magazine Asia. “When we decrease the visibility of people’s work by having them work from home more frequently, it can exacerbate the impact of many cognitive biases and reduce the perceived fairness of the performance management system.”

The other challenge for effective performance management, is increased friction that can reduce the likelihood of important activities happening.

Dr Davies explained, “Regular development-focused manager 1:1s are a key component of any good performance management system and these tend to happen organically in an environment where managers and direct reports are co-located throughout the week and have visibility into each other’s work.”

When teams work remotely, these may not be as regularly scheduled and can be overly narrow in scope if clear agendas are not established, while many managers find it challenging to provide constructive feedback virtually.

“The increased discomfort and reduced rapport that comes with communicating virtually may lead to people not having these important discussions at all,” Dr Davies cautioned.

Organisations can overcome these challenges and more by having more rigorous and comprehensive performance systems that mitigate against the impact of bias and reduce the amount of friction in performance processes.

People-focused approach to people management

Traditionally, performance management has focused heavily on employee evaluation, without enough attention being paid to the impact of the process on employees themselves.

Organisations need to adopt an approach that meets employees’ most fundamental psychological needs, such as fairness, growth, certainty, and meaning. Dr Davies explained, “When these needs are met, people tend to be highly engaged and when they are unmet, engagement almost always suffers.”

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Organisations should design performance management processes that have a positive impact on the employee experience.” – Dr Joel Davies, Senior People Scientist at Culture Amp

“Organisations should design performance management processes that have a positive impact on the employee experience, and not just be a tick-a-box exercise that most employees tolerate at best and loathe at worst.”

Dedicated employee experience platforms, he added, are designed with the end user in mind and remove as much bias as possible, giving employees more confidence in the fairness of evaluations.

“They are also designed to help employees identify development opportunities, meet their fundamental needs for growth and progress, and provide certainty around what is important in an employee’s role and where they currently stand relative to where they want to be,” Dr Davies added.

Effective performance management can help retain talent 

Over the next 12 months and beyond, employees will continue to expect more from their employers and organisations need to do whatever they can to hang to their best talent.

This will increase the need for a comprehensive and well-designed performance management system, Dr Davies predicted. “Good performance management can help address two of the main reasons that good people leave organisations: lack of growth and development, and lack of fairness.”

He also expected analytics engines to become more powerful and better at weeding out bias, which is essential to improving DEI in any organisation.

“Tools like Culture Amp are already going a long way to address this. However, new techniques are being developed that will identify systemic bias across an organisation, as well as identifying bias in individual evaluations to prompt corrective action,” Dr Davies concluded.

Key features offered by Culture Amp’s performance management platform

  • Multi-source evaluations such as peer feedback, manager feedback, and self-reflections.
  • Performance management questions and rating scales that are designed based on rigorous behavioural science research.
  • Advanced goal setting and tracking that enables employees to set motivating goals, categorise them, track progress, align them to team and organisational goals, and share them with others.
  • Ongoing feedback that is collected throughout the year from multiple people and stored in a central repository to be accessed and reviewed.
  • Quality calibrations that allow organisations to easily identify individuals who may have been evaluated unfairly and adjust evaluations accordingly.
  • Comprehensive analytics that provide actionable insights into the nature of performance across the business.

Click here to find out how Culture Amp can help you embrace a more human approach to performance management today.