Conversation: A Framework for Ongoing Performance
By Hawley Kane,
Head of Organizational Development, Saba
Hall Group’s recent report, Performance
Management Snapshot, August 2017,
found that 29% of organizations have
completely replaced annual performance appraisal
discussions with more frequent, in-the-moment
feedback. As more organizations move towards
this management approach, HR is tasked with
providing the necessary tools and support
to ensure that ongoing performance conversations
between managers and employees are focused
Proactive, efficient managers
take their employee performance and development
responsibilities seriously. And one of the
most valuable ways managers can empower
their employees to take ownership of their
performance and development is through one-on-one
meetings or check-ins. Organizations that
encourage regular meetings between managers
and their employees report significant increases
in employee engagement and participation
in development opportunities, according
to the Brandon Hall study.
Talent management software
can provide important support for ongoing
performance and development conversations,
but the same principles apply without it.
There are five tenets that will help managers
ensure a successful, ongoing conversation.
managers and employees should have ample
time to prepare for the meeting. Employees
should bring a short list of items to discuss,
be prepared to communicate progress on goals
identified during the last meeting and ready
to direct the conversation. When it comes
to broader development conversations, managers
should share questions with employees in
advance to frame the discussion. Many of
the latest cloud-based and mobile performance
management tools include a check-in meeting
capability that not only provides an outline
of key points for discussion, but that include
conversation starters to help prompt managers
who may not be adept at coaching questions.
on strengths to overcome weaknesses.
Hey, we’re only human. We can always
improve in at least one area. After discussing
and celebrating the employee’s key
strengths, the manager should shift the
conversation to skills development. A positive
way to frame the discussion is to identify
the areas for improvement by aligning them
with the employee’s aspirations. The
key is to approach each meeting with a clear
understanding of where the employee is now,
and where he wants to be in the future.
Get SMART. Dialogue is
just one piece of a holistic development
plan. Once everyone has clear expectations,
the key is to create an action plan. When
done right, employee development plans are
SMART: specific, measurable, achievable,
relevant and time-bound.
What is the specific developmental goal?
Is it improving competence in a key area?
Is it moving to a senior role as an individual
How is success measured? Think about how
you will know when the goal has been accomplished.
Perhaps it is a set of milestones aligned
to an end timeline.
are the actionable steps needed to achieve
the goal? Break the goal into small steps
and list each step. For example, one step
might be to do some reading on the development
topic. Another step might be to find a
mentor who is an expert in the area of
development and meet with them monthly
for 6 months.
Aim for the stars but ensure that developmental
goals are relevant to both the employee’s
personal aspirations for career growth,
as well as to the organization’s
needs to be successful.
Set a specific deadline for goal achievement.
When it comes to creating
and discussing performance goals, it’s
easy to get overexcited and try to focus
on too many objectives simultaneously. Instruct
managers to limit the employee’s development
plan to three to five performance goals.
Online tools allow the manager
and employee to not only create goals, but
track status, progression and notable moments
along the way as a part of the ongoing performance
Create a feedback
loop. During a one-on-one meeting,
the manager should celebrate incremental
progress and encourage an open dialogue
to flag any challenges that are hampering
The manager should ask the employee what’s
working, what’s not, and what else
can be done to support her success? Likewise,
the employee should be prepared to share
recognition and feedback that she received
from others. The beauty of supporting development
through ongoing performance conversations
is that the dialogue will begin to form
more naturally as time goes on.
Schedule It. To avoid falling
into the annual performance review rut,
it’s critical to formally schedule
the next meeting.
Organizations are increasingly moving from
a process-centric system to people-centric.
One-on-one meetings are not only important
for employee-manager relationships, they
are part of the bigger picture. These meetings
will help create a culture of learning throughout
your organization, improve employee engagement
and ensure your employees are continually
developing new skills. As a result, your
company will be better equipped to be competitive.
Learning and development is truly a business-critical