Managing the performance of the employees is not a simple task, especially in large multinational organisations. According to Cardy (2011), employees are the most important stakeholders within a firm. They implement the policies developed by the top managers in a real-life situation.
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The success of a firm relies on their ability to understand and put into practice the concepts developed by the top managers. The management will always want to monitor the performance of the employees at a regular interval.
Many organisations around the world are now embracing performance contracts as a way of managing the output of their employees. In the past, Shield (2007, p. 46) notes that the performance was analysed at the department level. Each department had to ensure that its employees are performing optimally.
However, this has changed over the past one decade. Many organisations are now basing their performance analysis at individual levels. The performance of individual employees would be analysed in order to determine their importance to the organisation.
Compensation in many firms around the world is now based on the performance of the employees. As a manager, giving the performance feedback is something that cannot be avoided. The feedback may be an appreciation for an outstanding performance of an employee.
Sometimes it may be a reminder to an employee that he or she is performing below the expectation. The ultimate aim of the performance feedback process is to tune the employees to act in a given desirable manner.
In this paper, the researcher will look at the challenges of giving the performance feedback and how these challenges can be addressed in order to have an effective way of communicating to the employees about their performance.
Best Ways to Enhance Performance Feedback
According to Armstrong (2012, p. 53), many organisations have various mechanisms of assessing the performance of their employees.
It is very critical that the management ensures that their process of assessing the employees’ performance is effective in order to ensure that the management knows the true capacity of individual workers.
This will avoid cases where an employee feels that all his or her efforts are not appreciated. In many cases, the managers will only focus on the negative performance of the employees. In such cases, exemplary performance are ignored or casually appreciated by the managers.
On the other hand, any underperformance is cautioned all the times. This is not how the performance feedback should be approached. Shield (2007) says that many managers always use wrong methods of communicating the performance feedback to the employees.
They take the combative approach that does not actually solve the problem. It is important to know how to communicate to the employees about their feedback in a way that they will remain positive at their work.
There are specific parameters that should be taken into consideration when giving performance feedback. The following factors should be observed.
According to Aguinis (2009, p. 36), the performance feedback should be as specific as possible. In many cases, the managers or supervisors give a very general feedback to the employees. Telling an employee that his performance was good or bad is vague and does not add any value to the performance.
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The manager should strive to identify what the employee did that is regarded as positive. If it was about addressing the needs of the customers in a timely and friendly manner, then this should be clearly specified.
On the other hand, if the employee’s behaviour of coming to work late or inaccuracy in accounting affected the overall performance of the organisation, then this should also be communicated.
The ultimate aim of this process is to ensure that the employees understand their strengths and weaknesses at work. If possible, the management should propose ways in which these weaknesses can be addressed.
In many organisations, the performance feedback is always given at the end of an accounting year. Each supervisor would compile the performance record of individual employees and hand them over to the superiors.
The top managers will then review the performance and give a feedback to the employees either before or after starting a new financial year. There are cases where the feedback would involve dismissing an employee due to dismal performance.
Armstrong (2009, p. 37) says that this is a very wrong strategy that should be avoided at all cost. The ultimate aim of an organisation should be to retain its employees in order to eliminate the costs of training new recruits.
When an employee does something wrong, this should be addressed as soon as possible when it is still fresh in the mind of the employee. The employee will find it easy to appreciate that they actually made a mistake when it is addressed immediately.
A serious decision such as dismissal of an employee can only be taken after it is confirmed that the employee does not add any value to the organisation even after serious attempts to change his or her performance.
Armstrong and Murlis (2007, p. 73) say that statements such as ‘pull up your socks’ are clichés that managers should avoid using in the contemporary business environment. As a supervisor or manager, it is important to identify the specific issue that is affecting the ability of an employee to perform as per the expectations.
Once this fact has been established, the manager should find a way in which it can be addressed to have a positive change in the performance. Telling an employee to make an effort of reporting to work in time is an actionable feedback. The employee will know what is expected of him.
In some cases it may be necessary to give a performance feedback that is measurable. The managers will be interested in seeing a change in the performance of an employee in case it was not satisfactory before.
As such, giving a measurable performance feedback will make it necessary for the employees to know how much effort they can put to achieve the expected outcome. Telling an employee to adjust his output from two units to three units is a measurable feedback.
The sacred aim of a business entity is to increase the value of investor’s money. This means that an organisation will do everything within its powers, including overstretching the employees, to achieve this aim. However, this may sometimes be counterproductive.
When giving a performance feedback, the manager should ensure that it is achievable within the time frame and resources provided. It means that before giving a feedback, the manager will first need to assess the ability of the individual employee. The feedback should then be given as per their capacity and resources provided.
Hannaway and Hunt (2012) say that giving negative feedbacks is the biggest challenge that many organisations face. When employees do something wrong, then it may be challenging to face them and tell them that what they are doing is unacceptable.
As a result, a manager may consider summary dismissal as the solution in such instances. In case the employee is invaluable to the organisation and cannot be dismissed easily, then the manager may take a combative approach in giving the feedback.
Such strategies are counterproductive. When an employee makes mistakes or is underperforming, the manager should make an effort to ensure that the feedback is as positive as possible. The manager should identify the mistake and inform the employee why such mistakes may cost the organisation.
Performance evaluation is the most common way of determining the capacity of the employee. In many instances, the managers would give performance feedback in an evaluating approach. This may appear to be an easy way of addressing the underperformance, especially when dealing with a large number of employees.
However, Armstrong and Baron (2005) say that the management should make an effort to make this process non-evaluative. The employees should not feel that they are subjected to some form of exams that seeks to test their capacity. This will eliminate anxiety among the employees.
Establish a dialogue
The golden rule when giving the performance feedback is to establish a dialogue. Sometimes it may not be clear to the evaluator why an employee is behaving in a given manner. It may be due to sickness, wrong task assignment, or other personal issues that cannot easily be identified by the evaluating team.
For this reason, it may be necessary to engage the employees in a dialogue in order to establish what the problem could be that is making them to underperform. Gillen (2012) says that when they are engaged in a dialogue, an employee may reveal some factors that will help the managers make them better performers.
Such dialogues also eliminate any forms of misunderstandings that may affect the relationship between the employer and the employee.
Criticise in private
It is important to note that the above tips do limit the need to criticise the actions of the employees within an organisation. Positive criticism is very important in influencing the performance of the organisation.
When criticism of an employee’s performance is made in public, it will be a humiliation. They will get demoralised instead of getting motivated. Such criticism should be made in private to avoid putting to shame employees before their peers.
Finally, it is necessary to make regular follow-ups. After giving performance feedback, the manager will expect the employees to make necessary changes as suggested. To determine if the proposed changes are being implemented, a regular follow-up will be necessary.
However, Umiker (2008) says that this should not be done in a way that will make the employee feel that he is being pressured. The follow-up may be employee-based instead of making it supervisor-based.
This means that the manager will encourage the employees to make regular reports about the steps they have taken to address issues that had been identified.
Shortfalls in the Process of Giving Performance Feedback
According to Greve (2014), there are a number of shortfalls in the process of giving performance feedback. One common shortfall is inadequate or ineffective performance measurement system. Any employee would want to be given a credit whenever it is due.
However, when an organisation uses an ineffective performance analysis system, it may not be easy to determine the specific performance of an employee.
In such instances, the manager may summon an employee to criticise him of a bad performance while the truth is that such an employee has registered an outstanding performance.
When this happens, the employee will not only be dissatisfied but also demoralised. This means that instead of the performance feedback having the intended positive impact on the employee, it will actually have a negative impact (MacLean, 2001).
Another shortfall common in the process of giving the performance feedback is the inability of the manager to communicate to the employees in a clear and positive manner. Some managers may be carried over by a performance that is considered outrageous.
When this happens, instead of the manager communicating the issue to the employee in clear terms, he may start accusing the employee of the mistakes committed. Sandler and Keefe (2004) say that in such forums, the employee may become defensive instead of admitting their mistakes.
They will start looking for slightest issues that may justify why they acted in that manner. Such arguments are not productive. They make employees combative every time the issue of their performance is brought to question.
Such employees may not even take positively a comment that is appreciating their performance. They may mistake such comments as sarcasm.
Misplaced or mistaken praise or criticism is another issue that may affect the performance feedback process. According to Fletcher (2006), in the past, success or failure of a department will be considered a failure of success of the manager in charge of such departments.
This may partly be true. However, it is important to be as specific as possible when giving performance feedback. Credit should be given when it is due.
Although the manager may share the blame or praise for events that happen under his supervision, the management should make an effort to identify the individuals who should bear the blame or get the credit. This will motivate all the members of the department irrespective of the positions they hold.
They will know that the management is interested in what an individual does to ensure that the firm succeeds instead of what is done at the organisational context. It is a fact that the individual performances always define the overall performance of an organisation.
Personal interests may also get in the way of giving proper performance feedbacks. According to Garber (2004), one of the biggest threats to effective performance feedback in many organisations is the romantic relationships.
When an employee has a romantic relationship with the immediate supervisor, then the process of analysing the performance becomes almost impossible. All the mistakes done by the junior employee will always be ignored or blamed on someone else.
Whenever it is necessary to give the performance feedback, the supervisor will only focus on the positive factors, ignoring all the negatives. This is so because the supervisor lacks the moral authority to identify the weaknesses and communicate them to the junior employees as expected.
These cases always affect the overall performance of an organisation. Other employees may feel discriminated against when their mistakes are criticised while others receive special treatments. Things may get worse when the romantic relationship comes to a bitter end.
Things get very awkward between the two former lovers. Everything that the junior employees do will always have a mistake, a complete opposite version of what used to take place. On the side of the junior employee, the respect that he or she had to the superior is always gone.
An instruction from such a superior will always be seen as attempts to frustrate or punishment. Other personal interests may also exist that may cloud the ability to give an effective feedback.
Cases where the feedback is to be given to a wife, relative or friend, there will always be an attempt to manipulate the whole process in order to eliminate issues that may be seen negative.
Ways of Managing Results
In order to manage the outcomes of performance feedback process, it is necessary to manage the above shortfalls.
The management should start by establishing effective performance measurement systems. The system should capture specific issues about an employee in order to avoid cases where one is blamed for mistakes that were committed by other people.
The communication between the manager and the employee should be effective. According to Daley (2006), some employees use McGregor’s Theory X when assessing the performance and giving the feedback to the employees.
This means that they consider the employees to be individuals that are lazy and needs constant supervision in order to yield the expected results. Such managers prefer making constant physical supervision in order to establish what the employees are doing.
This may be received negatively by the employees. For this reason, it is necessary to use McGregor’s Theory Y. the manager should always consider his employees as self-motivated individuals who have the capacity to deliver incredible results even without close supervision.
This means that the management will allow the employee to make decisions as long as they make necessary consultations with the manager in order to harmonise all the operations.
How to Enhance Your Performance Feedback Skills
According to Grote (2002), enhancing an individual’s performance may not be a walk in the park. It requires dedication and commitment to do what is right at all times.
It requires the management to find a way of making the employees motivated on what they do. This is teamwork, and therefore all the stakeholders should be included as much as possible in the processes that are involved. The following issues should be observed.
Learn to be Ethical
Ethics is a major contributor to high rates of employee satisfaction. Many managers approach the issue of ethics from a biased angle. Being ethical entails doing the right thing at the right place, with the right people, and for the right reasons.
As mentioned before, a supervisor or manager should avoid being involved in romantic relationships with the junior employees.
This can be the highest level of being unethical. It erodes morality and ethics. It limits the ability of the manager to control that specific employee and other employees who may be aware of the relationship.
Learn to be Flexible
The world is changing rapidly, and as a leader, it is important to embrace these changes. In order to enhance performance feedback skills, one needs to understand how to manage change when they occur. Being rigid may affect the ability of the employee to make progressive steps in understanding the emerging technologies.
It may be necessary to use some of the theories of change in order to know how to react whenever there is a need to change the approach used in addressing a given issue. Kurt Lewin’s Change Model is one of the popular ways of introducing change within an organisation.
As shown in the figure above, this theory proposes three stages of addressing change. The first stage is to unfreeze. This involves identifying weaknesses in the existing systems and coming up with a proper justification why it is necessary to introduce change within the organisation.
As Garber (2008) says, it involves preparing the employees for the ultimate change that is eminent. The primary aim of this stage is to eliminate any possible resistance to change that may be witnessed when the stakeholders are subjected to a sudden change.
The second stage is to change. The leader and individuals involved in bringing the change will introduce it to the stakeholders. The last stage is to freeze. At this stage, the relevant stakeholders will be helping the employees to adapt to the new system that has just been introduced.
Learn to Make Sound Judgment
Performance feedback skills can be enhanced by learning to make sound judgement. When dealing with people, respect is very important. When the employees respect their supervisor, then it will be easy for the supervisor to define the path they should take when addressing various tasks with ease.
However, this respect must be earned. One of the ways of earning this respect is by making sound judgments every time a manager is faced with a complex situation.
Making sound judgment involves making necessary consultations, engaging the stakeholders, and being decisive even when faced with a situation that requires bold steps. The results of such decisions should yield the fruits expected by the stakeholders.
Learn to Influencing and Inspiring
Enhancing performance feedback skills may be a big challenge when a leader is dealing with a large number of people with a highly diversified background. He may not be present at all times to monitor and direct every activity of the employees.
In such circumstances, a leader may need to learn how to influence and inspire the employees. According to Tapamoy (2008), influencing and inspiring of the employees depend on what the manager says and does to the employees.
Using Transformational Leadership Theory may be of help at this stage. The leader will need to understand the capacity of the employees through effective performance measurement indicators. Once this is done, the leader will need to challenge the current capacities as a way of motivating the employees to expand their capacity.
Managing the performance of employees is one of the biggest tasks that a manager should understand. To do this, it is necessary to have performance feedback skills that will have positive impacts on the employees instead of demoralising them.
This paper has identified a number of issues that a manager should observe. They include regular communication, ability to understand the employees, the need to embrace change, among others. These skills are learned, they do not come naturally.
For this reason, a leader should strive to learn about the skills and new concepts about performance feedback management within an organisational context.
List of References
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