Without fear or favour!

goal setting
Representative image


Performance management

Dr BK Mukhopadhyay
(The writer, a noted management economist and an international commentator on business and economic affairs, can be reached at m.bibhas@gmail.com)

Understanding and implementing performance management in the true sense of the term calls for art of setting goals [specific, measurable, realistic, achievable over a period of time/space] and at the same time unbiased ways for appraising performance, performance counselling, reward and recognition for enhancing performance, training for improving performance, sharing experiences and at the same time managing talent, among others.

Globally, consulting and coaching for change has been emerging as the major thrust area in the context of comprehensive development of organizations. Are the organizations ready for committing to real scans, reflections and unbiased assessment and analysis of human behaviour in organizations and at the same time can the organization undertake the courageous conversations which build real understanding between the employees? Is it not the responsibility of the organisation to develop individual employees through counselling, coaching and career planning?

Often wrongly interpreted: Deliberate or knowledge gap?

Obvious enough: ‘goal setting’ is a very crucial aspect of performance management because it is a measure that gives direction for achievement and development. Every goal is linked up to targets – that is actually aimed at. Setting of realistic targets helps us clarify to ourselves and to others what our goals are, which, in turn, defines the level of desired performance and allows one to check oneself how one is performing.

Obvious enough, it is not a one time shot – rather a continuous and spontaneous process – by setting targets employees are given, in fact, an opportunity to perform.

The very prerequisite in such a context is that goals should be understood as well as communicated properly to all of the players, which, in turn, should be accepted wholeheartedly by them. Moving on the right track, in turn, makes extraordinary achievement a reality. Targets as such do not mean any positive thing if not compared to achievements. It is always to be adjudged in terms of end results.

Actually, three probabilities are there – (i) achievement falling short of target, (ii) achievement is equal to target and (iii) achievement exceeding the target set. Problems loom large in case of (i) – the employee is branded as a non-performer irrespective of place/conditions/environment of work and hence further demotivation paving the way for snowballing. In the case of (ii) it is good going. In the case of (iii) the requirement crucially arises as to what led to such a situation – is it a one-time shot or going to last – an aspect frequently overlooked! Periodic monitoring of performance is a must, therefore.

Effective performance management is true business monitoring:

A good performance management system results in alignment and interlinks age of objectives and working towards a common goal. It gives an opportunity for employee involvement and therefore gives a sense of belonging to the organization and plays an active role in motivating the employees. It is an improvement which is the sole purpose of counselling. The individual employee needs to improve his performance by seeking valid performance feedback & develop his abilities. It is desirable that in performance appraisal the appraiser and the appraisee should meet in periodical review meetings. It minimizes the heat generated at the end. In most of the cases, especially even in the private sector this terrific gap is the main reason behind demotivation on the part of the employee, which, in turn affects productivity and further growth avenues. Surprisingly the opposite things happen!

A mention here can be made having very recent reference to one private sector University in NE India where a performing highly qualified, talented, student caring and social worker / positive thinker having all the qualities to rise, was illegally forced to put up resignation letter by the Pro VC based on the ridiculous pressures created by the bullies as the said Principal protested against wrongful dealings/ corruption! Such was the fate of a number of other competent professors.

Any CBI inquiry could reveal all of the real facts.

Can it be thought of in today’s context where retaining and developing talented employees remain as the challenge – small always remain small in such cases. Personal disliking, nepotism, biased approach stands in the way of institutional/organizational growth and prosperity.

The crucial need today essentially calls for effective unbiased supervision wherefrom it will emerge who is forward-looking or otherwise. Quality control/process control is, thus, a must for supervisors. Assessment of current skill level requirements to meet the performance plan targets and consideration for improving the skills and abilities of the knowledge workers on the part of the knowledge manager remains as the major challenge. Awareness, focus and initiative help in improving performance – the natural gifts that can be enhanced with continuous practice and personal experiences. Appropriate training to cover up the natural gaps definitely help those who are willing to work and improve – of course provided the trainer is sincere, updated, competent and forward-looking.

And then: what good ideas are, even brilliant ideas, unless executed? Delivering insights should accompany actions. After all, what good is an idea that’s practically brilliant, unless it’s also brilliantly practical?
The areas to be scanned under such a situation by the performance evaluator is the proactive support to be extended and at the same time the specific type of resource(s) [financial/ physical/ technological/ psychological] that are necessary to assist the employee in fulfilling the requirement of the performance plan. It is to be assessed whether the necessary supports and resources available are adequate.

Adopting To Change:

In other words, performance counselling helps to grow, retain the employee and boost the much needed productivity. Turning the non-performer into a performer is the goal of performance counselling [may be through change in the assignment / place / other ergonomic [which speaks of man and the working environment] aspects. The counsellor, not a mentor, should have an open mind to listen with empathy – not merely know-how but show-how as well. It has rightly been said that mind and parachutes work when they are open, criticise ideas but not the person & better to light a candle than curse the darkness. This is the major problem which is being faced by many organisers throughout the globe.

Dynamic approach is fast gaining ground in the global strategy for a multi-polar world. Growth and profitability comes through innovention [innovation plus invention].

To what extent organizations are successful in retaining [not by force] the best talent is that what ultimately matters.
Is it not better to depend much on the known faces than hoppers? Attracting talents does not give rich dividends if they are not developed and then retained. Right from the beginning the new recruits are to be acquainted with positive thoughts and not by entertaining the prevalent practice of insubordination!

Human risk factor is a force to count on for ensuring sustainability. Costs and assets are to be managed for strategic advantages. So far talent and organizational performance is concerned the major area would remain in the limelight through process like – human resources transformation; talent management and human capital strategy and of course change management / adaptability to changing environment.