Launch Continuous Performance Management - Improve Business Results & Make Talent Development Easier

It's time. You've built a solid design and implementation plan for continuous performance management. Now it's time to launch the program and assess the results.

In this last post on the design and implementation of continuous performance management, we're addressing the big moment you've been working towards - Launch Day.

Is this your day?

You've coached both managers and employees on the result of performance appraisals and you didn't really get anywhere.


The employee is upset because he had no idea he wasn't meeting expectations. The manager is frustrated because she's busy, and performance management conversations take up a lot of time and they can be hard.

If you've had this kind of day, you're in luck. We're wrapping up a series on continuous performance management. (Start with this post on the Design of Continuous Performance Management.)

Did you know?

A 2016 report from CEB indicates that 95% of managers are not happy with their companies’ performance management process and 56% of employees share that they don’t receive feedback on how to improve their performance.*

Continuous performance management is a shift from an annual appraisal about performance to a discussion throughout the year with multiple touchpoints dedicated to addressing performance. Continuous performance management design stresses the importance of manager + employee discussions in conversations that re-direct, guide, clarify, encourage and coach. I am passionate about the difference it can make for businesses, and I've seen it in action.

Continuous performance management improves:

  • employee performance through frequent feedback and guidance from leadership

  • trust between leaders and employees due to the increase in candid performance guidance

  • employee engagement through increased trust and more frequent touchpoints

These things work hand-in-hand to improve business results. When all parties are on the same page and working to the same end, work productivity increases. The work we do in talent development should be focused on increased business productivity and employee support. Moving your organization to continuous performance management supports that aim.

Let's Recap - Steps to Develop Continuous Performance Management

If you've worked through the steps, you've done some excellent work: As a recap, you have:

1 Set your guiding principles and fleshed out your idea in Design

2 Gained buy-in with Alignment

3 Conducted focus groups and/or surveys to Discover customer insight

4 Hosted a pilot program to Learn on the fly what works most effectively in your design

5 Built a change management plan to Over communicate the why behind the move to continuous performance management

6 Prepared leaders to have the conversations

7 Prepared employees to engage and own the conversations

…and now, you are:

8 Launching your program with the final step, Step 8 - Implement

Well done. It's been a journey, I'm sure. The best programs are.


Launch Timeline for Continuous Performance Management

In this final step, we'll walk through a timeline that will set you up for success both before and after the program has launched.

Before we talk tactically about timeframes, let's discuss the optimal time of year to launch. I recommend implementing new performance management processes with a fresh year - whether you are on a calendar year or some other annual plan. However, ultimately, implement when it makes the most sense for your business unit. For example, if you are supporting Finance, year-end can be a challenging time to prepare for a new talent program. Consider waiting until mid-quarter of the first year to allow employees and managers the headspace needed to adopt the new program.

It's more about the behaviors that managers and employees are engaging around performance versus the compliance to the process or completed forms. When I implement a new performance management process I care that conversations about performance are happening or that they are beginning to happen - that folks are moving in the right direction.

Also, be sure to give the program one full year. Adopting new behaviors and a new process will be awkward for many. Watch, listen and learn during the first year. We'll earmark a step in the launch timeline to incorporate what you are observing.

T minus 4 weeks: Polish up the Communication Plan

You're communication plan is ready and you may have already launched some of the tactics. If not, now's the time to build awareness and set expectations. Revisit Step 5 - Over Communicate if you need to develop a communication strategy. Ensure that the launch of this performance management program is clear and distinct from the previous process. I'd recommend being clear on the closeout of the previous process and build in a few weeks before you launch the new program.

T minus 3 weeks: Partner Preparation

Make sure your partners, HR Business Partners, HR Managers and other supporters are prepared and ready to go. Get them together for one last update, and throw in some appreciation for their ongoing support.

T minus 2 weeks: System / Tool Checks

The system or tool(s) you are using to capture performance conversations should be ready to go. If you're using an application, run a few extra tests - use that Program Implementation Team to help with testing. If you're using another tool - yes, a paper form is ok! - make sure they are ready and in working order and you have a process nailed down to capture the data in those tools.

TAKEOFF

It's go time! Press send on all those communication tactics you have prepared. Talk about the new process and share your excitement. Host "office hours" to address questions. Be ready to lean in to support where needed.

rocket launch across water scene

T plus 1 - 4 weeks: Touchpoints with Employees and Managers

Take a big breath and give yourself time to revel in the achievement of a program launch. Then keep up the communication outlined in your communication strategy. Yes, you've launched. Now you're in muscle-building, behavior-changing mode. Keep up continued touchpoints with employees, answer questions, update FAQs, share office hours to field support requests and so forth.

T plus 1st cycle: Manager Support & Measuring Results

Once it's time for the first performance check-in per the performance cycle you've designed, your main priority should be manager support. Host lunch & learns or virtual workshops to remind managers how to engage the process and have a performance conversation. Send reminders to managers and employees on steps they need to take for this first cycle or engage partners to do so.

At this time, you'll also want to begin measuring results. Results may include key metrics like

  • Number of conversations to number of participants

  • Span of ratings, if you've included ratings

You'll also want to get a beat on qualitative results, such as feedback quick hits. Those might include:

  • Trends you and your partners are noting in the questions received about the process

  • Any complaints about the new process

Results may cause you to adjust your communication strategy or lean into additional training needs.

T plus 2nd cycle: Touchpoints with Managers and Employees

After the second cycle it's time to check-in with managers on how they are using the new process. I recommend that you conduct one-on-one discussions with managers about the process. A quick 30 minute meeting will give you time to ask them pointed questions about how they are using the process and how their employees are navigating. You should also begin to pick-up on tidbits that the process is changing behaviors. For example, a key point my team noted in one implementation at about this time in the launch period was that managers were addressing performance trends before they became issues. Huzzah.

You could use the same approach with employees. Catch-up with a few employees on how the process is going and how their managers are doing at facilitating the process. You're not going to make updates to the design at this point, but you might decide to work with your partners to offer training or coaching sessions before the next cycle. You might also need to help teams catch-up. Remember, you're building new muscles for your managers. They might need some extra accountability to engage the process.

You also want to measure results after the second cycle, just like you did after the first one. Get into a habit, as you'll be measuring your key metrics after each cycle at least for the first couple of years using the new process.

T plus 3rd cycle: Gather Feedback & Planning for Next Year

Once you're through the third cycle, it's time for more formal information gathering with a survey and a focus group or two. Survey both managers and employees to gain their feedback and input on what's working and what's not. At this point, you're taking notes - you're not making changes to the design of the current year's program. You want a full year under your belt before you change the program.

Use the same tactics you used in Discovery for this feedback cycle.

Don't forget your communication plan. You should still be supporting behavior change with training and learning points.

Now is the time to begin working in updates to next year's program design. Work through the feedback you've received at the end of cycle two and three to make adjustments. You might consider getting your Program Implementation Team together to provide input and make final decisions. Two to three months before the beginning of the year is about the right time to begin gearing up for the next year.

You'll also want to take notes on the additional skills managers and employees need to more effectively engage the process and each other. Look specifically for gaps in managers' ability to have quality performance conversations. Layering in training components to next year's plan may be just the thing.

T plus 1 year: Celebrate & Share Results

Congratulations! A full year of continuous performance management. It's likely been touch-and-go at times. That's ok - changing behaviors on such an ingrained process can be.

At this point it's time to share the results of the new program with a report or dashboard. Each organization does that differently, so tailor your approach. A place to begin is with the roadshow deck you created during the Alignment step. Polish it off, abbreviate the "sales" slides and add in one or two that highlight both the quantitative and qualitative results. It may feel redundant to reiterate previous slides, but I find that reminding people where you began and intended to go help with the story as you tell them where the organization landed.

And now?

Now you share your story with other talent development professionals. Get them started with this first post on the design of continuous performance management. Coach them on how to maneuver the process and think through an influencing plan. And don't forget to keep your eye on how the process is going in your own organization.

If you've been or are in the midst of navigating continuous performance management, I'd love to hear about it - bonnie@simplystrategictalent.com.

Endnote:

CEB. “Performance Management Can be Fixed: Driving Lasting Behavior Change Through Experiential Learning.” https://www.cebglobal.com/content/dam/cebglobal/us/EN/talent-management/performance-impact-solutions/pdfs/White%20Paper%20-%20Performance%20Management%20Can%20Be%20Fixed.pdf accessed April 2019