A performance management process includes an ongoing review of the employee’s progress in achieving established goals and coaching to support their performance and growth. Monitoring performance does not mean watching over every aspect of how employees carry out assigned activities and tasks, which can be demoralizing and disempowering for an employee. Instead, regular check-in meetings, taking place quarterly at a minimum, are important for engaging an employee and supporting their sense of purpose, progress, and autonomy.
On-going review meetings should include:
- Assessing progress towards meeting performance objectives.
- Identifying any barriers that may be preventing the employee from accomplishing performance objectives and deciding how to help overcome them.
- Sharing feedback on progress.
- Identifying changes to the employee’s work plan that may be required due to a shift in organizational priorities or the employee’s required responsibilities.
- Documenting meetings and updating the performance plan accordingly.
Coaching for performance
Performance management includes coaching employees to reinforce strengths and address performance-related challenges or concerns. Coaching is based on the belief that every employee has value to offer the organization and their contributions can be increased through an open, honest, and supportive two-way feedback relationship between employee and manager. Coaching includes providing ongoing guidance, direction, and support to help the employee achieve their goals.
As coaches, managers need to work with their employees to address areas of improvement and identify strengths relative to the job-specific tasks and/or competencies. Good listening skills on the part of the coach and the ability to deliver honest feedback are essential to successful coaching. In a coaching role, you’re not expected to have all the answers, but should do your best to guide employees in finding solutions.
An example of coaching would be discussing specific work situations with a view to pointing out desirable behaviours and then giving feedback and reassurance while the employee practices the behaviours themselves.
Positive feedback involves telling someone about good performance. Make this feedback prompt, specific, and frequent. Recognition for effective performance is a powerful motivator.
Constructive feedback tells an employee that an area of their performance could improve. It’s descriptive and should address the action or behaviour, not the person. Constructive feedback helps employees know if part of their job performance or behaviour needs to improve.
It’s often easier to give positive and supportive feedback about an employee’s performance than tell them something needs to improve. However, when an employee needs feedback about improving their job performance or behaviour, managers should address it quickly and be constructive and honest. Neither you nor the employee want minor performance set-backs or infractions to turn into a more serious problem.
Here are a few points to consider when giving constructive feedback:
Prepare for the meeting
- Plan to meet in a private setting where you won’t be interrupted. In a unionized environment, you may have to have a union representative present during the discussion — follow the collective agreement.
- Think through what issue you want to talk about in the meeting. Confirm the facts of the performance issue or behaviour beforehand. Make sure you know and can describe what you’re addressing.
- Be clear about why the feedback is important to the employee, their colleagues, and/or the organization and, if needed, the consequences if the employee’s performance or behaviour does not change.
- Be calm — approach the discussion objectively, focus on the behaviour or action of the employee. Don't make it personal. Manager's can show they are there to work with the employee so they can be successful.
State the facts
- Describe the performance issue or behaviour objectively in a factual, nonjudgmental way.
- Provide specific examples.
- Identify the negative impact of the employee’s poor performance or behaviour on the team, clients, customers, and/or on your organization where applicable.
Compare the statement: "You are always late," which is general and lacking in detail, to "You were late three times last week. When you arrived late for the staff meeting, you missed an important discussion about our new fundraising campaign," which is factual and specifically addresses the performance issue and the impact of being late.
Listen to understand
- Let the employee give their perspective about the improvement area.
- Be open to any new insights that may arise.
- If needed, respond to denial or blame by restating factual information, reviewing the expectations of the job or goals, and reviewing the negative impacts of the performance or behaviour issue.
Although managers may sympathize with an employee’s unique personal circumstances and reasons for not performing, they should remain focused on finding solutions to address the performance gap or behavioural issue. When assessing performance or behaviour, be consistent.
Part of the feedback conversation should include asking the employee if something prevents them from performing or behaving as expected. The employee may share personal matters or issues. Personal issues do not mean an employee’s poor performance or behaviour is excused but having this information will give a broader context to the matter and ultimately help you and the employee develop effective solutions to improve the performance or behavioural issue.
Managers may consider discussing accommodations, such as temporarily reducing some of the employee's tasks so they have more time to focus on the areas needing attention, assigning a peer with more experience to work with the employee to assist with questions or reviewing processes. Where applicable, encourage their employees to access their organization’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), medical benefits, or community resources.
Agree on an action plan
- Ask the employee for their suggestions to address their performance or behaviour and offer your suggestions as necessary.
- Agree on a specific plan of action, including what the employee and/or supervisor will do and a timeframe to accomplish it.
- Document the action plan and share a copy with the employee.
- When necessary, re-state the consequences for the employee if the performance issue or behaviour is not resolved.
- Monitor results and meet regularly to discuss progress or adjustments as needed.
- Provide positive reinforcement for improvement and continue to offer support.
- If the issue has not improved or been resolved over the specified timeframe, enact the consequences discussed in the action plan. This may include moving to progressive discipline.
Self-assessment is a common part of performance appraisals. Using the performance plan and assessment form as a guide, employees can reflect on and evaluate their performance in preparation for the appraisal meeting, helping the employee feel engaged and prepared for the appraisal and provide the supervisor with important information regarding the employee’s perspective.
Many performance documents include sections where the employees can document their progress and comments throughout the year. This can improve both the quality and effectiveness of reflection and evaluation since examples of performance and behaviour are easier to remember and respond to.
Self-assessment can find gaps between how the employee thinks they are performing and the views of the manager. This can create a more in-depth discussion about the employee’s performance during the meeting. Therefore, where possible, managers should request and review self-assessments before their review meeting so that they are prepared to have a more thorough discussion.