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Crafting Better Performance Reviews

Clearly align job behaviors and competencies with company strategy.

Effective performance reviews are integrated with the company's needs. As the company's needs and goals change, jobs change with them, and existing job descriptions may no longer fit. That creates an opportunity to retool the whole performance management system and align roles with the company's strategies and evolving culture, according to Cheryl Jekiel, vice president of human resources for the Flying Food Group. Company leaders and the HR team can work together to redesign roles, incorporating new behaviors and capabilities.

As they tie roles to the company's business strategy, senior managers should define what they expect from themselves, then determine what competencies and behaviors they need from mid-level managers and employees. For every level in the organization, roles will include some organization-wide behaviors and knowledge. Likewise, every role in the company requires some job-specific skills. Functional departments like accounting, purchasing, and manufacturing will also require professional competencies.

Once roles are defined, it is time to document job content. More than just traditional job descriptions, this documentation includes the sorts of behaviors that support the company's culture. Jekiel recommends starting by constructing a job content matrix for each role in the organization. The observable behaviors and activities expected in performing the job are listed. Next to each, the knowledge required to successfully perform each activity is identified. Then measurable and visible results of each activity are documented. Defining behaviors and measurable results gives everyone a basis for accountability. Knowledge and experience gaps often cause perceived performance problems. Assessing what knowledge is required for each job may reveal some training needs.

An important tool for management to provide is a results-based visual management system of measurement and accountability. If key performance targets for such indicators as production volume, defect rates and material consumption are always visible to the employees responsible for achieving them, they never lose mindfulness of them. And when actual performance is updated on an ongoing basis, either automatically or by being written on a whiteboard, everyone knows whether things are going according to plan or if help from an employee's supervisor or manager is needed. Constant monitoring and problem solving keep the manager and employee communicating about results, accountability, performance and skills, reducing the need for a painful annual review. Developing a culture of learning, not blaming, makes people more comfortable with having metrics related to their jobs in full view.

It may take years to change role definition and documentation throughout the organization. To maintain momentum, a deliberate plan with skill building along the way will make a stronger, leaner and more capable company.


Bio: Cheryl M. Jekiel is vice president of human resources for the Flying Food Group. She is the author of Lean Human Resources: Redesigning HR Processes for a Culture of Continuous Improvement.


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