1. Manage expectations

1. Manage expectations
How to get what you want out of employees: Rob Prowse, a UBC professor of organizational behaviour and human resources, and Michael Timms, founding principal of Avail Leadership, weigh in on effective performance management 

2. Divide and conquer

2. Divide and conquer
“Think of performance planning and performance review as bookends,” says Prowse. “Performance planning is best labelled goal setting. Performance review is about evaluating achievement of goals at the end of the performance review period.” When you separate the career development discussion from the performance review discussion, says Timms, “it’s really sending a clear message saying we think that talking about your career development is so important that we’re going to make it a separate process.”

3. Define tasks and responsibilities

3. Define tasks and responsibilities
The goals defined by a company’s strategic plan need to be cascaded down through the organization into departments and then ultimately through leaders and individual contributors, says Prowse. “Probably the most important job of management and probably the most basic need of employees is knowing what’s expected of them,” says Timms. Give staff the big picture, help them understand what you are trying to achieve—then give them some freedom to decide how to achieve the goals. “That allows them to take ownership.”

4. Act as a coach

4. Act as a coach
Coaching serves two mandates, says Prowse: to give feedback on the relative progress of achievement of goals; and to reduce the surprise factor at the end of the year. Managers should set basic parameters and then back off, acting as a resource when employees need guidance, says Timms. Micromanaging decreases employees’ motivation: “As soon as you tell them specifically what to do and how to do it, all of a sudden it becomes work.”

5. Focus on strengths

5. Focus on strengths
“You’ll get far greater bang for your buck, far greater improvement in performance, when people focus on their strengths and try to improve their strengths and, where possible, work around their weaknesses,” says Timms. “We need to be thinking in terms of what’s going well and what do people need to do differently and better, not what they’re doing wrong, not necessarily where their weaknesses are,” says Prowse. “These are words that are not empowering to people.”

6. Deliver the verdict

6. Deliver the verdict
Appraisals by the employee and manager are essentially a summary of coaching conversations during the year, says Prowse. He doesn’t advocate 360 assessments from other people as the return on investment is low. Timms says some companies are replacing the annual review with frequent stewardship meetings. “When you ask your managers who are your star employees, they can tell you right off the top of their head,” he says. “The world doesn’t fall apart if you don’t have some totally objective system in place to justify your performance ratings.”