The term “performance management” often conjures images of a closed-door meeting in which a manager delivers a mystical assessment score to the employee who is helpless to change the past. For some companies, who have embraced technology to automate some of those processes, performance management is considered just a function of online human resources (HR) information systems (“Don’t we have an app for that?”). Lists, charts, rubrics and vague summaries of past actions are, sadly, synonymous with “performance management.”

In fact, as we collectively enable the concepts behind an engaged and dispersed workforce, performance management should be tightly connected to the goals of any training team — to enable its learners to meet current knowledge standards, to adapt to change and to expand skills to be future-ready. Training is the cornerstone of an effective performance management strategy that enables active, ongoing communication across an organization so that it realizes its business goals.

When Does Training Intersect With Performance Management?

Once an organization realizes that training is of the utmost value to the business, it embeds it into the performance management strategy at every step.

At the recruitment step, the organization should share with all candidates how performance is not only managed but supported. This conversation sets the stage for an employee experience in which professional successes and performance management are aligned with business goals, rather than being a stick-and-carrot system to bribe and punish workers. Then, at the hiring step, the hiring manager should speak to performance expectations and how he or she will support and monitor them.

Next, the onboarding process should give employees clear information on goal setting, including its alignment with performance, how often are goals set, where are they documented, how they align with the employee’s goals, how they align with the business goals and how they connect to compensation.

During their tenure with the organization, employees should actively seek learning opportunities — from job shadowing to attending classes — as part of ongoing performance improvement. Simultaneously, managers should include training recommendations in performance conversations to guide employees’ efforts to keep their skills current and to gain new skills. Saying “go take a class” is not nearly as impactful as talking through which skills an employee needs and ways to gain them.

When an employee completes training or shares an example of a recent learning experience, the manager should provide positive feedback to the employee regarding his or her participation — assuming, of course, that the training is relevant. (Underwater basket weaving may be a great class but will probably not teach skills that align to your business.) Performance management should be about guiding employees through learning and experiences to help them be their most effective.

Who Needs Performance Management Training?

Everyone — and more than once. It might be through a different lens, but it should be there for both leaders and contributors in order for the organization to realize the benefits of performance management. It is important for people leaders to understand the purpose of performance management (ongoing, directed communications that guide an employee toward skills and knowledge that feed into the company’s strategy). However, those classes are focused on the leader role, which is only half of the performance management equation.

Individual contributors also need performance management training covering topics such as the performance management systems used at the company, the responsibilities of both leaders and employees in the process, and which metrics the organization uses to measure performance management. An informed employee base better ensures that your performance management strategy is focused on productivity rather than checking off items on a list.

Which Training Topics Enable Effective Performance Management?

For both leaders and individual contributors, there are skills that directly feed into the effectiveness of performance management. Those skills also support improved productivity, employee morale, employee engagement and communications. Consider these topics for your training catalog as standalone offerings as well as themes to weave into performance management training:

Which Metrics Indicate Training and Performance Management Impact?

Some training offerings, depending on specificity and customization, require unique metrics in order to determine success. Fortunately, you can leverage existing talent metrics to monitor your training-enhanced performance management efforts. Start with a baseline of recruitment and retention rates. Then, as you bring more purposeful training elements into each step of the employee experience, you can see how those metrics evolve. With the maturity of your training-enhanced performance management strategy, leverage other metrics, such as productivity, employee morale rankings and internal mobility.

Enhancing Performance Management for the Future

According to Deloitte, “With new talent approaches, the way many organizations compensate and reward workers has fallen out of date. Today, only 11 percent of respondents felt that their rewards systems are highly aligned with their organizational goals.”

Performance management must free itself of its reputation as a punishment and reward system, and organizations must fully integrate it with training efforts and align it with business goals. When training supports the workforce, and the workforce is managed based on known performance goals, the business will enjoy success.

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