Historically, performance management has consisted of conducting annual performance reviews with employees, setting goals and objectives and seeing how well your employees perform. Although there’s definitely something to it, this style of performance management doesn’t always cope with the constant changes and unforeseen situations we are facing. We need something more accommodating, less intimidating and easier to implement.
This is where agile performance management comes in. With many top companies adopting this approach, it certainly has the credibility behind it — benefiting employees and companies of all shapes and sizes.
What Is Agile Performance Management?
Agile performance management is built upon good communication between leaders and their teams, putting your employees at the heart of the company and enabling management to learn quickly and make effective decisions in the moment of need. It creates an environment for effective teamwork and collaboration, not putting off conversations until a certain point in the year but having them as the situation arises.
Usually, this relies on regular meetings and one-to-ones, keeping the team on the same page and identifying potential challenges as soon as possible. This requires more of a coaching role from your management, rather than the traditional top-down authority figure that you might be used to. However, an agile workflow enables the whole team to be a part of feedback practices and overcoming issues, rather than leaving managers to cope with this alone.
Transitioning From Traditional to Agile
As with any change, doing everything at once can be overwhelming and off putting. Yet, with gradual transitions and taking the following steps into account, moving toward agile performance management can be an easy journey for the entire team. Take your time and be prepared for bumps in the road — they don’t necessarily mean it’s a failure, rather that further adjustments need to be made.
1) Get the Groundwork in Place
The move toward agile performance management doesn’t have to occur blindly — do your research into how other businesses implement it and helpful tools to have in place before you start. Ensure you have available channels to track and document feedback, notes, goals and successes. If you’re undertaking ensure you have the video conferencing software you need to have quality calls with your team.
Some managers might require training on how to coach their employees, as there is a difference in approach between annual reviews compared to monthly check-ins. Regular one-on-ones require a different skill set that is often overlooked. But developing these in preparation can make the difference between a seamless transition and a very bumpy journey for the whole department.
2) Check in Regularly
The main difference between traditional and agile performance management is how often you check in with your employees. Start with review meetings after a project or campaign has closed, building up slowly to a couple of times a month or more, getting used to the video conferencing features with your hybrid teams as well as the general feel of it.
These check ins are essential for treating your team as people and spotting early signs of burnout. Left unchecked, burnout can lead to all sorts of easily preventable issues in your workplace, including absences, unproductivity and creating a negative atmosphere. Through these one-on-ones, managers can point employees in the direction of resources and support for things they struggle with, reducing problems arising later.
3) Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)
One of the main purposes of annual reviews is to set objectives and goals for employees, as well as to review whether the targets have been met. This is equally important in agile performance management, whilst leaving space to adapt your key results as you go along. Where unforeseen situations show themselves, having flexibility in how you measure your goals shows you and your employees a bit of grace and still allows you to celebrate achievements.
Set shorter-term goals as well as your five-year-plan goals in meetings with team members. During regular meetings, update team members on any progress made towards these goals and encourage them in realizing the objectives. This gives you more chance to adapt your strategy throughout the year, maintain employee productivity by learning from experience and recognizing what are realistic key results for your teams.
4) Change Your Feedback System
Unfortunately, feedback has in some cases become a one-way channel for declaring what is wrong, without much room for discussion or collaboration on how to resolve those issues. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Agile performance management opens up the communication channels once more. It also allows all members of the team to provide their input in the conversation, giving them the platform to voice concerns and offer alternative suggestions.
Implement 360-degree feedback: Collect evaluations from your team members about what could be worked on and reevaluated. Use a workflow automation tool to help share feedback and notes companywide, so that solutions can be worked on right away instead of being stored and forgotten. This helps changes to be swiftly made in your departments with quicker response times to new challenges.
5) Adapt and Improve
As you introduce agile performance management to your company, you can already start to practice adapting and improving strategies as you go along. If you find something in your transition isn’t working for your team, collect feedback from everyone and collaborate on how to fix the issue. Likewise, where aspects are working well, continue to introduce other similar agile performance practices.
Being able to improve your performance as you go along is a key benefit of agile management. Companies that can face challenges and suit their strategy to the situation are far more resilient and able to adapt at the speed of change. Being able to learn from experiences and act upon feedback shows the growth that just wouldn’t be possible if you only review once a year.
6) Get Started on Your Agile Journey Today
Changing your style of performance management isn’t something you can do overnight. It takes time to acclimate and integrate it into your already existing work schedules. However, with persistence and practice, agile performance management can transform the feel of your business and the relationships between management and the rest of your company.
If you’re feeling stunted by your current management structure of setting and obtaining goals, it might be time for a management shake-up in your company. In which case, why not give the agile approach to performance management a go?