How to Assess Your Performance Management Strategy

Table of Contents

The more thoughtful organizational leaders are about performance management strategy, the better they can understand the strengths, needs, and areas of opportunity of their business. But just being thoughtful isn’t enough. 

To get the most from your performance management system, you must take a strategic approach to understand what’s working and which opportunities you’re missing.

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Why performance management strategy matters

Good talent management is like exercising regularly. We know the benefits — it’s not rocket science — yet many people just don’t do it. But organizational research firm Korn Ferry tells us the companies that are best-in-class at talent management are 3X more profitable than those that aren’t.

Let’s be real: Conversations about employee performance can be intimidating, especially without a robust framework in place. But lean in, and use the tools at your disposal to maximize performance. These performance management processes are the key to understanding the impact of your team’s actions on business results.

Step 1: Identify your performance pain points

The first step in creating a strategic performance management system? Get clear on what’s currently working for your team, and what’s not.

Start by asking the following questions:

  • Can we clearly identify and measure the impact of our day-to-day work?
  • Are our actions aligned with our organizational goals?
  • How do we identify and address performance challenges as a team?
  • How do we identify and maximize high performers?
  • Do my team members understand how their work contributes to the company mission?
  • Does leadership review employee performance and offer valuable feedback consistently?
  • If not, what’s holding them back? If so, how do employees incorporate that feedback into their work?

Bring these questions to your next team meeting. If you’re on the right track, you should have clear — and specific — answers for each of these questions. If your answers absent or vague, no worries. Let’s take a look at your existing approach.

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Step 2: Assess your current approach

Before you can go on any journey, it’s essential to know your starting point. When it comes to effective performance management, that means benchmarking the approach your organization has been using to date (no matter how formal or informal). Then, give a hard think about how that process functions.

Here are a few pointers to guide your reflection.

Consider the term of your assessment cycle 📆

The first question to ask yourself about your assessment system is, How frequently are we making assessments?

If your company is still doing annual performance reviews, it’s time for a major re-evaluation of your process. Not only do these reviews attempt to reduce an incredible amount of time and work to a single snapshot each year — they’re time intensive, and they raise employee dread.

In a flexible business climate where speed and agility matter more than ever, waiting an entire year to review performance just doesn’t work. Providing real-time feedback, coaching, and career development discussions is critical to the success of both individuals and the organizations to which they contribute.

Think about how data informs your performance management strategy 📊

What drives your understanding of company performance? Is it qualitative reviews and anecdotes from supervisors and managers? We hope not. If it’s anything but data, you’re not providing your employees with the highest possible degree of accountability. And you’re not giving yourself the best possible legal protection.

Start thinking about how you can use objective, quantifiable measures to paint the picture of how individual employees are doing. Those measures might vary from position to position. So identify clear KPIs, individual goals, and success indicators that everybody can agree on.

Driving insights with data

Gauge performance management strategy’s impact on culture 💬

How are feedback, check-ins, and talent review operating in your company culture currently? Do these give employees anxiety? Or are they part of everyday conversation, received without fear?

One of the most important things you can do to boost morale is to talk to your employees about performance. You need to know how employee awareness of expectations impacts their daily work. Plus, how the style of your assessment system impacts the way they feel, approach, or think about what they do.

Use a few different strategies to learn how your team feels about the culture of feedback, including:

  • Sit down and chat with employee focus groups
  • Survey your employees anonymously online
  • Bring in outside culture experts to help you gauge the climate

Evaluate your managers and supervisors as coaches 🏅

As you assess your current approach, ask yourself, How are we setting our leaders up to lead well?

Let’s be honest: Management is a skill that takes dedicated effort to master. Work with your leadership team and supervisors to make sure they have the skills they need to deliver effective feedback.

Want to dig in? Survey managers to learn:

  • How they feel about your current assessment system — is it helpful? Easy to use?
  • What metrics they’re using to assess employees
  • Their comfort level providing constructive feedback
  • What support they need from Human Resources to be successful

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Step 3: Create a culture of strategic performance management

A strong performance review has 6 qualities. It’s frequent, low-risk, data-driven, fair and transparent, enhanced by technology, and tied to company goals and values. Here’s how to instill all 6 in your review process.

Make sure your performance management system is:

1. Continuous

Performance doesn’t just happen once a year. Your performance conversations shouldn’t either. Kazoo recommends weekly one-on-one conversations between employees and managers, and quarterly performance check-ins. Download our 1-on-1 templates for start, stop, continue, agenda-based, and goaling approach methods, and get the full story on the power of quarterly performance reviews.

2. Low-risk

If an employee is surprised at the content in their performance review, their leader has failed them. 

But when you weave your performance management process into everyday life at your company, employees are never surprised. They always know where they stand, which takes the dread out of reviews. Additionally, frequent conversations between managers and reports create a friendly environment and invite two-way feedback.

In an environment in which everyone is used to constantly giving and receiving feedback — in which giving or receiving feedback is as common as topping off your coffee — feedback doesn’t feel scary. It’s just there. Which makes it a lot easier to listen to, making your program more effective in the long run.

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3. Data-driven

As we mentioned above, if your system is dependent on qualitative feedback (that is, the opinions of the people giving the reviews), you aren’t measuring performance objectively. That’s not fair to your employees. Not to mention, you’re probably not in compliance with human resource laws, either.

But Kazoo! you say. We are merely humans (it’s even in the title — human resources), and humans are biased! What do we do?

We start with data. Then we overlay that data with our examples, insights, and recommendations to paint a full and fair picture.

If your current performance management system doesn’t prioritize objective data, start by identifying the metrics that matter most in your organization, such as:

  • project completion rates, as determined by a project management tool
  • ticket completion times, as tracked by work tools
  • attendance to key meetings, as tracked by meeting scheduling systems
  • positive/negative impact on financial success, as indicated by work on major projects/initiatives

See how Kazoo drives insights with data

4. Fair and transparent

Using data to drive personnel decisions is a great step toward objectivity. But it’s not the whole journey. So for full fairness and transparency, make sure your performance management process is structured and consistent across the organization. Every employee should be measured using the same tools and by the same standards.

Want to make it easy for your leaders to use objective, quantifiable measures to deliver structured reviews? That brings us to…

5. Enhanced by technology

Managing performance takes time and energy. But with the right technology, you can implement a seamless system that makes it easy for leaders to execute effective performance management.

So make feedback easily documented and accessible. Set reminders for check-ins and performance reviews. Eliminate the time it takes to generate reports. These are just a few of the benefits of using technology to reap the benefits of a culture of continuous feedback.

Good performance management technology should:

  • Track goals in a way that is visible to the entire team
  • Facilitate frequent check-ins
  • Document feedback and coaching
  • Assess talent and identify high-potential employees
  • Deliver insights and reports on goals progress across the organization

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6. Tied to company goals and values

Want to drive connection and alignment? (Psst — the correct answer here is “yes.”) Then tie individual performance goals directly to overall organizational goals. This not only increases organizational effectiveness. It also drives employee engagement by revealing how employee contributions are part of a bigger picture.

And to continually strengthen company culture, make values part of the review process as well. Regularly discuss and reward the attitudes, beliefs, and soft skills that are integral to your organization’s success. That way, the entire team will find it easy to remember what’s important, and why.

Key takeaways

Performance management and assessment are fundamental to running a great business. Because an emphasis on performance provides you with a granular understanding of your team. It also creates a roadmap for how you can improve, and encourages a thriving, positive culture.

As you think about your organization’s performance management strategy, here are some key things to remember:

Making a commitment to performance management allows your business to:

  • Maximize employee work at the individual, departmental, and whole-company levels
  • Understand why and how you’re succeeding or failing
  • Protect itself legally in cases of employee termination

The first step to leveraging that power is building an understanding of your current performance assessment practice and its success. This includes thinking about your:

  • Feedback frequency
  • Approach to data
  • Employee culture
  • Management support
  • Opportunities for growth and employee development

Make continuous performance management a success

Are you an HR professional or business owner looking for a performance management system to help you streamline your processes? Then we’re here for you.

Because at Kazoo, we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work work better for everyone. That’s why the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings performance management and recognition and rewards — including Goals, Feedback, Conversations, Recognition, Incentives, and more — into one simple, easy-to-use platform.

If you’re ready to align, connect, and engage your workplace, check out our Kazoo overview. Or, schedule a personalized demo today.

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