There is a lot of research that suggests that the traditional appraisal process has moved from the annual appraisal meeting towards a continuous performance process since around 2012. However, in my experience it has actually been this way for many years before this.
My NHS experience
I started my HR career in 1996 working for the NHS and even back then I was brought up in a working environment of continuous performance improvement.
Yes, the Trust did conduct annual appraisals but also delivered so much more to support and assist in the development of their staff. The words ‘continuous performance improvement’ were not being used back then but that didn’t mean the principles were not being carried out.
Even back in 1996 the Trust I worked at conducted monthly supervision/one to one meetings, quarterly check ins on progress towards achievement of goals/objectives, on going training and development courses/programmes, upskilling by shadowing colleagues or secondments to different departments to learn new skills and as already mentioned the annual appraisal which brought all of the above together for one big assessment on how all of the continuous performance activities were progressing.
Having taken my 15 years extensive experience of working in the NHS, where, whilst the NHS gets a lot of hard press I like to believe that I was actually a part of a forward thinking organisation in terms of people management and development, I have now been able to share this with the SME’s we support through my Company HR Elite.
What is Continuous Performance Improvement?
So, what does continuous performance improvement actually mean in practice?
This is a performance management processes that is ongoing and takes place continuously throughout the year. It does not involve the traditional function of the annual appraisal meeting only and is a much more holistic approach to managing and nurturing performance improvement.
It means giving and receiving regular feedback, on going coaching, day to day interactions between managers, employees and colleagues, goals setting ideally in line with Company objectives and of course some of the recognised traditional methods of learning such as training programmes.
As mentioned in my recent post, my niche is getting the best performance out of staff. Below is a case study on how I have achieved this for one of HR Elite’s clients:
Case Study – Client A
Client A came to me because they were experiencing high employee turnover and frustrations with the performance of their Managers where ultimately they had had to let a number go due to poor levels of performance and a lack of achievement of their targets and goals.
My first priority was to look at what they were currently doing with regards to staff performance and development.
This company was an evolutionary company, ahead of the game in their industry with a fantastic product whilst promoting themselves as an ever evolving company providing great opportunities for staff to be a part of a continuously growing and developing company.
Of course, the staff they were recruiting had ambitions to progress their careers and to grow and develop but on starting with the company were finding opportunities for growth and development limited due to a lack of effective performance management processes.
Annual appraisals were conducted but discussions were then shelved until the next annual appraisal meeting, objectives were set but then forgotten about and were too individualised rather than being set in line with what the company wanted to achieve and the Managers were not trained in how to conduct an effective appraisal meeting. Finally training and development opportunities were sporadic and only given where there was a sudden need to have an individual trained to meet the customers needs.
I set about working with the Managing Director and Senior Management Team in looking at how performance management could become an on going feature of the culture at the company.
Vision, Goals and Objectives
We started by looking at the Company vision, identified the longer term objectives for the company and then broke these down into short to medium term goals. We then turned the short to medium term company goals into team/departmental goals and then worked with the mid level managers in turning these into individual goals.
We also looked at how we could provide continuous feedback to employees and introduced a one to one feedback process where Managers regularly met with their staff. This didn’t have to be formal but did have to be structured and meaningful.
Upskilling Managers in feedback and listening skills
Managers were trained in how to give effective and constructive feedback and on how to listen attentively to get the necessary understanding in order to give the appropriate, proper and necessary response.
Individual goal setting
Individual short term goals were set with each employee that fed into the achievement of the overall company objectives and were regularly assessed at each one to one meeting to ensure the staff member was on track in achieving them. This also allowed for adjustments to be made to the goal where necessary or in some cases to completely change the goal where company arrangements had led to this goal being defunct.
Training, development and learning plans
Finally, a company training, learning and development plan was created that ensured staff had the necessary training and development to achieve their individual goals and ultimately the company objectives and to ensure they were trained in advance to deliver the required services to customers.
This approach has now led to a dramatic decrease in employee turnover, highly skilled managers and staff and an increase in employee engagement and satisfaction (as proven through a recent staff survey we conducted) and ultimately a culture of learning and development.
The key lessons learnt here are:
- Objectives/goals aligned with the company objectives
- A focus on short term goals at an individual level
- Regular one to one check ins ensuring achievement of goals is covered
- Managers skilled and equipped to carry out meaningful regular one to one meetings
- Performance centred around on going development and coaching
If you feel you or your company could benefit from a continuous performance management process and you would like HR Elite to support you in creating this please contact the office on 01206 700690 or e mail firstname.lastname@example.org. One of our Senior HR Consultants would be happy to help you.