A performance management system is only as good as the people who use it. The system design can certainly shape and reinforce the desired behaviours while discouraging the poor work behaviours with minimal subjectivity but essentially the extent to which it delivers on its design is dependent on the users of the system.
All the training, coaching, seminars, workshops, one to one assistance still yield managers crafting appraisals for employees that are not truly reflective of performance but are designed to meet the minimum target to receive a bonus. It seems that managers would rather alter appraisal scores and compromise the integrity of the system and all the subsequent triggers than to have an honest discussion with an employee about performance challenges.
This is unfair to the employee who is probably none the wiser about the performance problems and this is unfair to the actual high performing candidates who now have to share their bonus pool with people who did not deserve it all due to the lack of courage by few managers. The said employee may not have the good fortune of having a developmental plan designed just for them to help them out of their performance slump.
Senior Management then asks to see the distribution of performance scores across the company. When the results are skewed, everyone looks like a star but the overall company performance is poor. Then we all wonder about the disconnect.
We suggest sanctions for the managers and holding them accountable for producing proof of high performance. HR must not be tolerant of poor appraisers. We must police the appraisers to ensure the integrity of the system. “Police” may be a strong word, but we have to actively support the managers all throughout the year to ensure they provide all the performance feedback necessary for optimum performance.
As a Caribbean People, we must be comfortable with having difficult performance discussions with employees even if they are our friends or family outside of work. Historically, our Caribbean societies are close knit where our family, extended family, and friends are all interconnected and these relationships make it even more so challenging to have difficult performance talks.
We must use tact, sincerity and facts to help these conversations along where we communicate the truth in manner that retains the relationship.