Performance Management System False Positives: 3 Ways Your Data Could Be Lying

A great performance management system on paper doesn’t guarantee a successful one in practice. In fact, designing the process itself is just the beginning. Along the way, HR executives must wear many hats in order to ensure a smooth transition with a positive outcome. They must be:

  • Strategists tasked with coming up with the right execution plan
  • Salespeople who can secure critical buy in from key stakeholders
  • Change management experts to craft a careful communication strategy
  • Launch pros who can get a program off the ground
  • Advocates to ensure the system meets employee needs

But as with many other HR processes, the work is far from over once a program is live. In a dynamic business environment, employees frequently come and go, creating a constant need for user training and support. While people change, so, too, does the technology that serves as a system’s backbone. Providers are continuously evolving their technology, and new functionality changes the way employees use a tool.

Yes, HR leaders need to get new hires up and running and ensure all employees have access to the latest and greatest features. But they also must play their most surprising role yet – detective.

For things aren’t always what they seem to be. Just like in medicine, false positives are possible. There are a few ways that issues can disguise themselves.

Let’s take a look at three common goals of a performance management system, and how the numbers you use to measure success against those goals might actually be lying.

Goal #1: Enable the highest levels of employee performance and productivity.
Misleading Metric: All employees reach 100% of their goals.

Perhaps the most obvious red flag that we’ll share today, 100% goal achievement is never a good thing. What it shows is that employees aren’t setting stretch goals, which enable them to learn and grow along the way. Risks are an important development tool. Employees must be willing to fail in order to learn to from their mistakes and develop further into their careers.

Goal #2: Improve the overall employee experience.
Misleading Metric: Usage stats are high.

Does your performance management system create a better experience for employees? While usage stats are important, they don’t tell the whole story. No system is perfect. Ongoing communication with employees about what they like and don’t like about your process will help you make tweaks along the way. They may be setting goals, but find it difficult to modify them after the fact. Fixing that could empower them to more actively use goals to measure their success. Surveying employees can also help to better determine, as examples, the preferred frequency of coaching sessions or how they like to receive feedback.

Goal #3: Foster a positive, dynamic culture of collaboration.
Misleading Metric: Feedback is happening regularly within the system.

One of the biggest benefits of a performance management system is that it allows employees to easily give and receive feedback. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. Regular feedback from both managers and peers helps to reinforce positive behavior and prevent negative behavior from becoming a larger issue. From a cultural standpoint, it creates an additional communication channel that can be used for employee collaboration.

Even if overall feedback numbers are high, HR leaders must ensure that everyone is participating. If only certain managers are providing feedback to their team members, there could be a problem. Or, if certain employees aren’t responding to feedback requests, it might be necessary to get to the bottom of their lack of engagement. It could signal that they are a potential flight risk or otherwise disengaged from the company culture.

A performance management system is one of constant evolution. To ensure that it’s a motivational tool to help employees grow and perform their best, HR leaders must go behind the numbers to see the whole picture.

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