Recognise This! – “Performance management” of results alone will result in malfeasance unless recognition and reward of desired behaviours are included.

I’m encouraged by the increasing conversation around the failure of the traditional approach to performance management. Since Fall 2010, it seems to me the conversation around performance management has been sustained, not rolling in waves associated with the usual pattern of annual performance appraisal times. Generally, everyone seems to agree the traditional approach to annual performance reviews is broken, but there isn’t much on offer on how to fix it.

Then, I read questions like this one submitted to the “Dear Workforce” column of Workforce Management magazine.

    “Our financial services company is changing its performance appraisal system to place greater weight on behaviours, rather than the quantity of an employee’s work. How can we develop behavioural competencies that are objective, fair and help us know who is performing well and who isn’t? We have tried things like attendance/readiness to work in the past, but those metrics didn’t always tell us much about actual performance.”

Attendance/readiness to work are about as useful as measuring “employee satisfaction.” People show up to the office – or they are “satisfied” with the job they have – but that doesn’t mean they are giving it their all on a daily basis.

Placing greater weight on behaviours is an important first step. Without emphasising behaviours (preferably based on company values), then you could easily end up with Enron or the recent malfeasance we’ve seen on Wall Street. To make any real difference in behaviours – and gain any true level of understanding of how those behaviours are changing on a daily basis across all employees – you must implement a system to complement your performance management programme.

The best approach to achieve that is strategic employee recognition in which you encourage all employees to notice and appreciate the efforts of their colleagues that reflect your desired behaviours. There is no more effective way of making abstract behaviours like “integrity” real in the every-day work of employees. There is no better way that encourages and motivates employees to want to repeat those behaviours again and again.

Wally Bock put it this way in a recent post titled “You Need More than High Performance” on Three-Star Leadership:

    “You need a culture that’s explicitly ethical. If the stress is on performance, some people will be tempted to “perform at any cost.” That can destroy your reputation in this age of transparency. Don’t just trust them to do the right thing. Tell them what the right thing is. Get rid of people who violate your clear standards.”

What is your performance appraisal systems based on? Results and achievements? Or behaviours and attitude?