For those in leadership that missed the memo, performance management is a full-time job and one that requires that you take proactive steps to manage it. I absolutely abhor hearing the following discussion:

Recruiter to Hiring Manager: Jane Doe applied for your position.

Hiring Manager to Recruiter: Oh yeah, we’ll interview Jane but we wouldn’t offer her the job. She can barely do her current job let alone this one.

In this scenario, we will assume that Jane Doe is working in the department with the vacancy; has applied to it and qualifies for said position. Essentially, the hiring manager doesn’t see Jane as a fit for the position and has cited some issues with her performance.

Ignorance is bliss.

The bigger question is does Jane know that there is an issue with her performance? If not, it is unfair to not address the issues upfront. Of course, Jane will continue to pursue opportunities that suit her background. However, had she been told of her performance issues and perhaps been warned against applying for vacancies in the department- she and the department could have been spared an uncomfortable and underhanded conversation/situation.

In my opinion, it is a red-flag anytime a hiring manager seeks to hire outside of their department or organization when the knowledge, skills, and abilities are already there. Let’s face it, if the job they are posting is a direct match to the skill profile of the people already working there- the hiring manager could save time and resources and merely reassign and/or promote from within if applicable. To do otherwise screams, “I know there are performance issues with my people, but I’m too much of a coward to address them.”

Does coward seem harsh? Forgive me.

I use “coward” because this particular issue with performance management isn’t as much about not knowing how to manage people and their performance. Instead, it is more about an inability to be forthright with constructive criticism that could improve your employee’s performance or at the very least substantiate the employee’s inability to improve. Either way, it is your job as a leader to explore either scenario and take the appropriate action. Attempting to address a performance deficit or issue at a time where the employee sees the potential for a promotion or reassignment is negligent and sloppy leadership.

How would you feel if you were plugging along in your role, meeting standards every year during performance evaluation time- only to happily apply for that promotion or opportunity you have been waiting for and be shut down; because your boss never had the guts to tell you your work wasn’t meeting muster. For a lack of better words “it sucks”.

No matter what you said in new hire orientation or what your latest branding exercise purports-these types of shenanigans don’t make employees feel valued. When they don’t feel valued they check out and when they check out- they are out the door. Now this is a good thing if the employee in question was not holding up his or her end of the deal. In deal-breaker situations, long live the termination process; but in the case where someone good exits, it’s a sad day for retention and a missed opportunity.

I implore every leader to do the following three things to ensure that they don’t make these mistakes:

1) Create accountability in your performance management system by requiring your managers to have regular conversations with direct reports about their performance. Performance issues that go undetected should be traced back to the manager that failed to do their due diligence. You would be surprised how serious your managers will get about managing performance if their performance evaluation is dependent upon their success in this area.

2) The rules of effective behavioral management say that you must reinforce good behavior and punish for undesirable outcomes. In either situation, the reinforcement or punishment must be immediate, consistent, and used when reasonable. While the word “punish” is rather harsh, the point here is the same principles apply to performance management. Reinforce positive outcome consistently, immediately and take a balanced-approach (that is overdoing it doesn’t produce good outcomes). The same is important when it comes to addressing poor performance outcomes.

3) Do a quality check of your performance management policies and system annually to assess any bottlenecks or areas for improvement.

These three tips will ensure that both leaders and employees benefit from your proactive approach to managing performance. When you put talent first and use a smart approach to managing your talent you can’t go wrong.

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