How should you plan your performance management system for maximum results? How are top organizations doing it? We answer all your doubts in this article
As performance management takes precedence in growing organizations and comes to be seen as a means to engage, retain and develop talent, our second talent talk focused on diverse aspects of performance management systems (PMS) with Saurabh Deshpande. Saurabh is an independent HR partner and advisor to businesses. He works with startups and growth stage organizations as a consulting CHRO, to help them design and implement scalable HR practices.
He also partners with HR Technology companies as an SME to drive IP creation and product differentiation. Saurabh has 2 decades of experience across HR consulting (with Hewitt Associates - now Aon and Mercer Consulting) and line HR (with InMobi, India's 1st unicorn startup).
Without further ado, let’s begin the discussion.
Saurabh— I believe there are three fundamental aspects of performance management systems:
Therefore, the three fundamental blocks of a performance management system include goal setting, feedback and reviews. In addition, there are other aspects which can be customized to the context of the organization, the culture, and your business, etc.
Saurabh— Let's start with a little history of goal setting. There are 3 major milestones to this.
Management by Objectives or MBOs is a goal setting methodology introduced by Peter Drucker in 1954. Prior to the 1950s, the top management would decide the organizational goals and objectives, which were not cascaded to the lower-level team members as it was considered unnecessary.
Rather, the team members were informed about the specific tasks they were expected to perform, without an understanding of how their contributions would feed into the overall organizational impact. With the introduction of MBOs in 1954, Peter Drucker brought a huge shift in thinking which included:
From a performance management standpoint, this fundamental thinking of sharing goals with everyone and ensuring a structured cascading process prescribed in MBO has been a constant theme across all performance management systems, including balanced scorecards, OKRs, etc.
The MBOs approach for goal setting lasted for about four decades However, there were a few drawbacks of setting goals with MBOs:
Thus, the 1990s saw the rise of the Balanced Scorecard approach by Kaplan and Norton to bridge this gap and laid the foundation for a form of goal setting, focusing on:
While the balanced scorecard approach was fairly comprehensive, it was fairly static throughout the year, once the objectives were set according to the four dimensions.
However, as organizations became more aspirational with a focus on hyper-growth, higher risk appetite, etc., the need arose to adjust and refine goals on a regular basis. Furthermore, both MBOs and balanced scorecards really talk about goals which are directly achievable. For startups or growth phase companies, there is a need to quickly adapt and pivot while setting goals that have a small chance of being realized. This gap was filled by Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) as they are —
Read: Advanced guide to OKRs
Saurabh— Most startups and growth phase organizations tend to adopt an ad hoc approach and hastily take decisions in the face of investor pressure or to gain a competitive edge. However, this needs to change in favor of going back to the fundamentals of goal setting as a means to making everyone in the organization understand what is expected of them, how they will be assessed and receive feedback.
To make an informed choice about the goal setting system, organizations can start by answering the following questions:
For instance, if you are a hyper growth organization, working in a volatile market, OKRs can be an ideal choice
Saurabh— This entirely depends on the levels of management.
At the junior or professional levels, roles are better defined and there is a clarity of expectations, Therefore, OKRs may not be as relevant at the professional level. However, OKRs have worked best at the senior levels as roles get more standardized.
Even the maturity to be able to understand that a goal is set and it’s ok to achieve 75% of that goal is something that may not work at the junior or the professional levels. In fact there are organizations that have adopted OKRs across all levels, which has led to some negative outcomes where it becomes unacceptable to not be hitting goals.
Saurabh— I believe this is where the role of the manager becomes very important as they:
For instance, if the larger objective is customer delight, the KPI for a software engineer can be to reduce the number of errors in the code. Then, it becomes the responsibility of the manager to explain how the reduced number of errors contributes to the larger goal of customer delight.
Saurabh— Goal setting is typically something that should be done annually, with a few important elements:
Saurabh: Before jumping onto feedback as a means to drive performance, let’s understand what performance management systems essentially entails —
In this understanding of performance management systems, feedback plays an important role.
Even if an organization finds itself stretched for resources and seeks to reduce the administrative load, it can still replace formal annual reviews with more candid conversations
Offering employees feedback and recognition is extremely important. It can play a major role in letting employees know that you value them and are willing to invest in them. This small act of taking out time for feedback by a manager makes an employee feel valued. Thus, to drive performance, even if you are stretched for resources, honest, considerate feedback can take you a long way.
Saurabh— Undoubtedly, feedback is an ongoing process. However, while feedback should be given as regularly as possible, there should be enough time given to synthesize it too. For instance, as a manager if you are giving honest and sincere feedback to your team members on a daily basis, you need to pause and reflect on the volume of feedback that the employee will receive at the end of a month or so.
Thus, in addition to giving feedback, managers need to help people synthesize and make sense of the feedback for growth. Furthermore, the regular feedback must melt into the annual reviews. The feedback from different situations must collectively help evaluate employee performance on different goals and create a comprehensive development plan.
Furthermore, feedback needs to go beyond being just a corrective measure where managers share the areas of improvement and highlight the weaknesses and gaps in performance. Employee feedback needs to also be a reinforcement tool to illustrate to employees certain behaviors that need to continue, focusing on positive psychology. This will help your team members identify their strengths.
Saurabh— There are different aspects that feedback needs to look at:
The moment you add action items to the overall feedback, it becomes very powerful.
Furthermore, I believe that one should not get overly carried away by templates because:
Saurabh— I believe that despite the best intentions, managers and employees can lose track of the importance of feedback in the light of other business priorities, unless it’s part of a process. To facilitate the same, people managers should have a dual focus:
Saurabh— Undoubtedly, reviews are important because they:
Invariably, performance reviews often become the basis for increments and bonus. In fact, in recent times, reviews and increments are seen to go hand in hand where performance management has boiled down to a reflection of the increment for the employee.
That’s not what performance management systems seek to achieve. To break this cycle, organizations are focusing on having different performance management and increment conversations, to illustrate that performance management is much larger than the salary increments.
Increments should be based on one’s capability and its value in the market. Whereas, proficiency in performance should be seen as growth through the learning phase of a particular role where consistently exceeding expectations should be understood as being in the expert level for that role, and, therefore, a related increment
Furthermore, with the rise in market correction and other related trends, organizations are moving away from specific increments ranges linked to ratings. Thus, there needs to be a focus on using the performance conversation to assess the proficiency level of a team member and determine their pay range.
Increment is related to performance but it's not a direct translation. Bonuses, on the other hand, tend to be for previous year’s performance and therefore, there is a direct linkage of your bonus payout to your rating.
In addition to increments and bonuses, reviews also need to focus on the career movement.
Thus, performance review at the end of the year should cover goal achievement, strengths, development areas and proficiency for the role. Based on this, increments, bonuses, career movements, etc. can be direct or related outcomes.
Saurabh— There are two steps that need to be taken into consideration.
While ratings are important for compensation management, performance calibration, etc. at scale, that's an internal administrative process. That doesn’t have to be the primary goal of the performance review which should focus on areas of strength and areas to develop and not on labels.
When it comes to justifying the increment, organizations should focus on the employee’s proficiency for the role because that is the basis of the new salary
Saurabh— There's no one size fits all. What's more important is to ensure that once the frequency is set, it is adhered to. If not, it will lead to a feeling of being undervalued by the employee.
Here’s where the HR needs to play a little bit of a balancing act. Put simply, if HR professionals are spending all their time on ensuring feedback, synthesizing it and doing performance check-ins, there will be no time left for other work.
If organizations are able make performance check ins or the performance discussions quick, regular and not overly taxing in terms of the huge amounts of documentation, etc., then quarterly actually is still a great frequency
Three months is a good amount of time to observe a person's performance and to be able to synthesize feedback and give them the larger picture. However, if that’s not viable, performance reviews need to be done six monthly. It's in the organization’s best interest to make sure that that person does well and the more frequent feedback is delivered, the more they will get a chance for course correction, the better it is.
Saurabh— There are two components at play here, the stakeholders and parameters.
Saurabh— I would like to share three takeaways:
If you are trying to design a continuous and comprehensive performance management system, you would know the importance of conducting a 360 degree feedback. However, to make this exercise most effective, you need to go beyond simply involving everyone in the process to getting the process right — most importantly asking the right feedback questions to each stakeholder. This article will focus on how to write 360 feedback questions that create maximum organizational impact.
Let us quickly start by understanding what you must include in your 360 feedback questions to make it more effective.
Without wasting any time, let’s dive into the 10 tips that can help you in writing excellent and effective 360 feedback questions.
Keep the language easy to understand and avoid using technical jargon. Make sure everyone is able to gauge the same meaning of the question and the focus is not lost in translation.
Keep adding the questions list for your next 360 degree feedback to your records throughout the year.
Since 360 feedback should focus on all aspects of an employee, if you add questions at different times, they will be more relevant
Ensure that the questions don’t have an inherent bias or don’t push or influence the respondent to answer in a specific manner. Make sure that the questions can have varied options as answers and not a singular focus because that’s what you want as a result. Furthermore, the questions should not create a bias in the mind of the reader of any kind.
Focus on one specific attribute or competency for each question. Don’t try to include everything in a single question to keep the number of 360 feedback questions low. You will end up receiving responses for only a part of the question and it will confuse the respondent too. For instance, if you want to talk about collaboration, do not couple it with factors like leadership skills or problem solving.
Before you start framing the questions, identify the key competencies that are most important for your organization as well as the role. Competencies could include communication, innovation, strategic thinking, etc.
Make sure that as a whole, all the questions cover all aspects you want to gauge the employee on from an organizational and functional role perspective. However, don’t overstuff too many competencies, keep them relevant to the employee in question. For instance, a person in sales may not need a question on technology knowledge as a part of 360 feedback questions.
In addition to being specific, be clear on what you wish to gauge or understand with every question you ask. For instance, a question on whether or not the employee pays heed to the opinion of others can help understand the level of active listening and a spirit of inclusion.
You need to have a fair balance between open ended and close ended questions.
A very long or complicated process is likely to reduce participation and defeat the purpose. Therefore, keep the count of 360 feedback questions to a maximum of 30-40 and make it very easy to participate and complete the same. Preferably, disseminate it through your existing communication/ collaboration tools.
Finally, make sure that the questions are framed in a way that is simple to evaluate. Too complex evaluations might take too much time and delay the action and execution, leading to reduced faith and impact on 360 degree feedback.
To ensure that your questions are relevant and specific, you can start with writing 360 feedback questions for different situations and contexts. Put simply, in this section, we will focus on what you should be asking and when. It will also help you in picking the right questions for the right employees, instead of bombarding everyone with the same questions.
These questions will help you understand what your team members think about the overall management at your organization and the effectiveness of specific team leadership.
These questions can help you understand the level of communication efficiency in your organization to ensure there is no gap between intention and execution.
Use these questions to identify and nurture employees that show leadership potential to build an effective succession pipeline.
These questions can help you understand how committed your employees are towards the organization, which will impact their level of engagement and quality of work.
You can leverage these questions when you wish to understand which employees are quick to think on their feet and will be able to address problems/ challenges that might come their way.
These questions can help you gauge the level of alignment between what your organization stands for and the core values/ beliefs of your employees.
Focus on these questions when you want to understand how well your employees are able to connect with their peers and other stakeholders.
These final set of questions can help you gauge how efficiently the employees are able to get work done. This points to the presence of the right skills to utilize resources in the best way possible.
To keep the entire survey with 360 degree feedback questions interesting and engaging, you can experiment with different question formats and templates. While some of your questions can have simple Yes/No answers, some can have multiple choices along with room for providing open ended answers as well. Here is an easy to follow template you can leverage.
Key competency: Strategic decision making
Top line: The employee/ subject name is able to
Open ended questions
Once you roll out the survey with your 360 feedback questions and receive the answers, you need to analyze the responses to come up with a final report and plan of action. However, any response analysis is subject to biases and other factors which might put the validity and reliability of the report into question. Fortunately, you can leverage these following practices to eliminate such instances:
Before concluding this article, we would like to discuss the top 8 questions that most managers have when it comes to 360 degree feedback, highlighting concerns they may be having.
Highlight how the performance and feedback on the performance of others is likely to have an impact on their performance too. Make them believe they can be an integral part of the growth journey for their team members.
Make the feedback anonymous to prevent sugar coating. At the same time, do not rely upon a single review as the ultimate feedback for any employee. Analyze at least 2-3 feedback responses for each employee to get the real picture.
3. How to make the process time effective?
Leverage technology platforms to roll out the surveys and collect responses. Furthermore, you can rely on the NLP sentiment analysis to gauge insights from open ended questions in addition to trend generation based on quantitative questions.
Check out how SuperBeings can help you conduct seamless 360 degree feedback. Book a free demo today
Highlight the positive impact of participation as a whole. Make it an interesting part of the employee lifecycle. Provide employees designated time within their work schedule to provide feedback. Do not make it an added burden. Additionally, keep the process simple with not a lot of questions at once.
Depending on the nature of the organization you can decide on the level of anonymity. Facilitate anonymity will help you fetch greater and more authentic responses. However, sometimes, you might struggle with context in this case. Therefore, you should adopt an approach of flexible/ partial anonymity.
Create a business case for 360 degree feedback. Illustrate how it can lead to a better employee experience, strategic learning and development, greater employee retention and other aspects which can lead to better performance and productivity.
Ensure that your questions are neutral and don’t lead to a specific sentiment or response. For instance, if you want to gauge punctuality for an employee, don’t use statements like do you think the employee is always late to work, rather focus on how would you rate the punctuality and sense of time for the employee?
Try to conduct 360 feedback on a regular basis and not wait for the end of the year to ask all the questions. Maintain a cadence to gauge responses.
As we end this discussion, it is clear that if you want to write 360 feedback questions in an effective way — you need to adopt an all encompassing approach, taking into account the different aspects of employee attributes, performance, personality and behavior.
It is, therefore, ideal to leverage platforms like SuperBeings to help you roll out, gather and analyze the responses using NLP and automation for best results. You can leverage our best practices to not only get the questions right but to also enable your managers to facilitate employee development at the end of the process.
If interested, feel free to book a demo today. No initial commitment required.
In the recent years, there has been a lot of attention that is being given to employee feedback, performance reviews and evaluation as a part of the whole performance management system.
While a major focus has been to prepare managers to give feedback in a constructive and effective manner, paying attention to employee self evaluation is equally important. Knowing what self appraisal comments to use can play a major role in helping employees to effectively reflect and evaluate their performance and convey it effectively to the rest of the team.
The purposes of employee evaluation and performance review in general have been talked about time and again. However, self appraisal takes the process of evaluation at a very personal and individual level, leading to a more pronounced understanding of an employee’s performance. Some of the top benefits of employee self assessment include:
In the section above, we have talked about the purpose or the need of self evaluation mostly from the perspective of the employee. However, self appraisal, when done correctly, has equally compelling benefits for the team as well as managers. A quick snapshot is captured below:
With self appraisal, employees become active participants in their review and appraisal process, rather than simply being passive recipients. Consequently, they feel valued, motivated and the level of engagement increases. Furthermore, with greater engagement, levels of commitment, retention and productivity go up.
When employees take a step back to reflect on their performance with self appraisal, they become more receptive to diverse ideas. Put simply, in the absence of self reflection, they will have a hard time gauging where they need to improve. Consequently, they will be defensive when a manager or the team gives them feedback on the same. However, self evaluation will help them accept the gaps and be open to learning and growing.
When employees reflect on their performance and identify the development areas, they will don a problem solving hat on to accelerate their professional journey. Through the course of time, this problem solving attribute will become a part of their skill set which will benefit the team and the manager greatly.
As a result of greater alignment due to self reflection on the strengths and areas of development, teams will see a greater sense of accountability to bridge the gaps identified. Under conventional circumstances, performance improvement might be seen as just a tick in the box by employees. However, after self appraisal, employees truly acknowledge and accept the need to bridge those gaps and take greater ownership and accountability.
Now that you have an understanding of why self appraisal matters, let’s quickly look at how to make it most effective. If you are experimenting with self evaluation for the first time, it can be an overwhelming activity for your employees. It is human nature to feel uneasy when you’re expected to evaluate your own performance. However, if you provide your employees with some comments they can use for self evaluation as a starting point, you can make the journey easier for them.
Put simply, self appraisal comments are common statements that can be customized by your employees during the self evaluation process, especially, if they find themselves at a loss of words to describe their performance
These phrases are available for both strengths and areas of development to help employees paint a realistic picture of their performance. Here are the top 100 self appraisal phrases that you can use for different performance parameters.
Use these self phrases to reflect on your clarity of communication, willingness to listen to others, etc.
These self evaluation phrases reflect how reliable or dependable you are for your team members, especially under special circumstances.
Using these self appraisal phrases can help indicate how invested or engaged you are in taking ownership of work without being asked to at times.
Similar Read: 150+ performance review phrases for managers
The following self appraisal comments are important to help review your performance on the basis of how punctual and attentive you are.
Use these self evaluation phrases when you want to highlight your strengths/ areas of improvement of working with the team, your collaboration skills, etc.
Creativity self appraisal comments can help you in reflecting on how effectively you are able to come up with novel and innovative solutions to challenges and new ideas to augment the impact and value created.
The following phrase can create a picture of your quality of work and how much attention you pay while undertaking a particular task during your self reflection process.
You can use these self appraisal comments to illustrate how well you understand what is expected out of you and how well you are able to deliver on the same.
Customer satisfaction self evaluation performance phrases help gauge how effectively you are able to address customer requests or complaints that leads to a higher Net Promoter Score, brand credibility, etc.
Finally, these self-appraisal comments can help you highlight your growth plans towards your professional development and impact on the organization.
With a broad understanding of the more than 100+ self appraisal comments that you can use as a part of your self evaluation process, let’s move to this concluding section. Here, we will focus on sharing a few templates that employees can use to articulate their performance in an effective manner.
The self evaluation phrases mentioned above can be added at the right places in these templates to give a holistic picture of one’s performance. A few things to focus on include:
In the last <performance period>, I have successfully <activity/ initiative undertaken> which led to <tangible impact (metrics)> for the organization.
My focus was on <a detailed view of everything that was done> which resulted in <accomplishments>.
Overall, I believe that I have been able to create an impact by achieving <top 3 achievements> and seek to amplify the same in the future.
I believe that the last <performance period> has been full of learning and development for me.
While I was able to <quick snapshot of achievements>, I acknowledge that I need to pay attention to <areas of improvement>.
I believe that this focus will help me <intended outcome for improvement>.
Towards this, I will ensure that I consistently work towards <improvement plan (courses, behavioral changes)> to achieve <SMART goal>.
That said, self appraisal is an extremely crucial step of performance review. As a manager you must encourage your team members to provide honest reflection on their performance without being afraid of any negative consequences. Apart from providing the self appraisal comments mentioned above, you can also use assessment tools to make self appraisal a common practice within the organization.
Holistic performance reviews are integral for any organization that seeks to create a high performance culture. However, the nature of performance appraisals has undergone significant transformation with a focus on 360 feedback and review.
One of the key pillars for the same is employee self assessment and self appraisal. Through the course of this article, we will share with you why self assessment is important and how you, as a manager, can help your employees get it right to facilitate maximum impact.
As the name suggests, employee self assessment or self reflection is the practice or process where employees reflect on and assess their performance over a period of time to identify accomplishments, development areas and other performance aspects
The aim of self assessment is to get the employees’ view of their performance and add the information and data to manager and peer feedback. This can enable organizations to get a holistic understanding of the employee performance and gauge the overall contribution, some of which might be invisible from a macro view. Here are a few reasons why employee self assessment as a tool for performance review makes sense for growing organization:
With the rise of continuous performance management and regular review and appraisal, your self assessment process should follow a similar approach.
Instead of pushing employees to assess and reflect on their performance at the end of the year, you should encourage them to conduct regular self assessment
On one hand, regular and continuous performance linked self appraisal by employees will ensure that no part of their performance goes unnoticed. On the other hand, it will constantly give them a chance to reflect on their performance and improve on the development areas on the go, instead of waiting for the year end. Invariably, they will embark on the path of development and improvement at an accelerated pace.
Here, if you leverage employee pulse surveys which are short and frequent in nature, you can ensure consistent and continuous self reflection from employees. With as frequent as one question a day, you can encourage your employees to build a culture of performance-oriented self assessment.
With self assessment and reflection being a fairly new practice to performance management, many organizations and employees struggle with getting it right.
While some believe that employees might see it as a chance to explain their bad performance, others believe that it might end up biasing the manager’s perspective.
However, when done right, employee self assessment can be an extremely powerful tool to facilitate a high performance culture. Here are a few tips to get your employees conduct performance self assessment the right way:
Encourage your employees to be open and honest. Employees must not see self assessment as a place for self aggrandizing in the hope of a better rating, rather an honest assessment of one’s performance.
For self evaluation to be effective, your employees need to reflect on their performance without the worry of being penalized for identifying areas of development and improvement
It is important to not see self assessment as the sole foundation for promotions and appraisals, but rather as a journey towards growth.
Next, persuade your employees to reflect on their OKR performance. The idea is not only to assess what has been achieved with OKR grading. It should also include reflections from OKRs about the possible enablers and blockers to further refine them for the next performance period. The employee must be guided to reflect on what helped achieve the OKRs and what other support is required as well as what he or she would personally like to work towards.
Download: Free OKR grading template
Third, when self assessing for performance review, employees must incorporate feedback from their conversations with managers and peers. If your organization has a culture of regular 1:1s, this will be very easy for your workforce. The idea here is to motivate your employees to reflect on what feedback they have been able to gauge and whether or not according to them their performance is a reflection of the same. 360 degree feedback can also be a helpful tool for employees to understand all aspects of their performance.
Factors like what did the manager praise about their performance or what did a coworker thank them for are very important for self assessment.
Finally, as a part of performance review self assessment, employees need to reflect on the challenges and opportunities, both internal and external. Internally, they need to assess their attributes, skill sets and aspirations and align them with the expectations to gauge their level of performance. Similarly, external factors like resources, team support and their impact on performance needs to be documented.
When you share these above mentioned tips with your team members, they are bound to ask questions about the best practices for writing or filling up self assessment surveys in the most effective way. We have you covered for that as well. Here are a few quick tips to help your employees write effective self assessment:
If you look at these best practices closely, you will realize that the key to writing effective self assessment also lies in the questions that you ask.
Simply asking an open ended question like reflecting on your performance will seldom yield any substantial responses, mainly because your team members will struggle with starting their answers
Therefore, we have compiled a list of questions and potential answer prompts/ templates to help you make self assessment a part of your performance review process effectively.
Ensuring impact with self assessment is not only dependent on your team members. There are several ways in which managers of an organization can help build a culture of effective self evaluation.
Create an open culture where employee self reflection does not become the sole tool to penalize or promote employees, see it as an extended glimpse of performance
As we come to an end, it is clear that employee self assessments are an integral part of performance reviews and if conducted in the right manner have the potential to drive a high performing culture. However, we understand that administering and facilitating participation for self assessment can be daunting, especially for a growing organization.
Fortunately, custom pulse surveys by SuperBeings with automated sending and reminders, along with NLP based sentiment analysis can take care of the same for you. If interested, book a free demo today to learn more.