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Welcome to episode 20 of the Rethink HR podcast, brought to you by bettHR.

In today’s episode, we focus on performance management as a whole and why it’s so important to the employee experience, especially in our current workplace. Specific tactics are shared on how to give feedback quickly and easily so your employees receive it, and an overview of PIPs – performance improvement plans (PIPs).

Your employees want to know that the work they do each day, matters, and adds value to the company. And the quickest way you can do that on an ongoing basis is by providing clear and specific feedback—both positive and constructive—so your employees are able to know exactly where they stand.

The once-a-year annual performance reviews aren’t enough—especially as they are usually done quickly and without any real feedback included. Instead, having ongoing conversations during your 1:1s using the S/TAR method shared in this episode, will go a long way. And I also share how to capture objective feedback quarterly to provide additional support and metrics around performance.

Listen in, to learn more!

In This Episode

  • What performance is and why it’s so important to the employee experience.
  • How broken the current process is, the gravity issues within the process, and how we can control it within our own departments.
  • How to provide effective performance management through conversations as a leader, quickly.
  • Performance Improvement Plans: what they are, how to create one, why they work.


Melissa Anzman (00:00): Performance management is even more important. Now I would say it always is, but the impact that it has on your employees who are left behind at the company who are still working for you is really important. I'm Melissa Anzman, HR practitioner turned CEO of a thriving employee experience company, but it wasn't all that long ago that I worked as an HR business partner, responsible for increasing employee engagement at companies nationwide. And I struggled to move the needle even after trying everything under the sun, fast forward, past many fail tactics and lessons learned. And you'll see how I've been able to crack the code and replicated at companies of all sizes for creating true engagement and doing HR work that matters work that changes the lives of leaders, HR professionals, and employees. By focusing on the employee experience, I created the rethink HR podcast to give you actionable step by step strategies to help you make an impact.

Melissa Anzman (01:02): If you're an HR leader or one on the rise, who's looking to stop spinning your wheels, doing the same tired activities that aren't driving results, or you want to have a career. You love your in the right place. Let's get started. Let's talk all things performance management today. Now performance management is really an umbrella term that encapsulates your entire performance review process, which includes goal setting, measuring the goals, talent management reviews, performance for individual employees and so on. So basically it's how your employees are performing and meeting the stated expectations for your company. Now, the funny thing about performance management, it's one of those things that you either love or you hate. First of all, it's never fun to address an employee who may be underperforming. And it's always fun to give kudos to an employee, maybe a high performer, a key talent who is over-performing.

Melissa Anzman (02:05): So we know that and usually where we default is handing off the performance management duties to our leaders. So they have to deal with that. And that's right, like that program, that process, et cetera, really is the responsibility of each leader to make sure that their employees are performing. But the thing that I have found is our leaders don't know how, because we don't quite know how either. So it's one of these things where we have these processes and these rules and this timeline and cycle and all the things we provide, all the help that we think we need to. And yet performance management is one of those things that we forget about, or don't keep an eye on until it's absolutely terrible until we have an employee who will not do their job, cannot do their job. And the is completely at their wit's end about it.

Melissa Anzman (03:03): And that's not good for anybody. I, when I started blogging in the HR space, it was back in 2011. So yes, I did just date myself like usual. One of the things, one of the posts that still to this day gets the most traffic is my template for performance improvement plans, which is interesting because you would think that that's something that most companies already have and provide. Most companies have a standard performance management process. That includes how to get your employee back on track through a performance improvement plan, also known as a PIP, but the thing is, is leaders don't feel comfortable about it or don't know how to work it, or maybe it is a small company and they don't have it. And so traffic to my PIP template is crazy bananas at all times. So I thought it warranted its own episode here because performance management, which includes the PIP is really part of the employee experience.

Melissa Anzman (04:06): So that's what we're going to dive into deep today about how it fits into it, how you can make sure that it aligns with your employee experience and not only the strategy, but I'm going to get into nuts and bolts details and some overviews with how to do it correctly, to ensure that your performance management process is super aligned with creating more positive employee experiences for your employees. Because remember we can't influence employee engagement, but we can create positive employee experiences that create a connection, a bond, a relationship between our employees and the company. So while most companies still follow like a loose standard of performance management, a lot of companies have been exploring different ways, how to measure performance outside of the annual review process and the bell curves that have gone out of date and all those things. And right now in this really difficult, weird, awkward time of COVID and economic downturn and all of that, having the employees who are the left at the company, be actual performers and delivers has become more important than ever. And I think what a lot of us have seen, at least what I've heard and what my clients have told me they're seeing is that the lack of the fluff, the latter of having, you know, being staffed up or

Melissa Anzman (05:38): Having people be doing mediocre or doing bare minimum has really shown the fissures in certain roles has really put pressure on key talent has really created this sense of why am I working so hard if this person over there isn't and now that person's gone and it's like, wow, what now? And so performance management is even more important. Now I would say it always is, but the impact that it has on your employees who are left behind at the company who are still working for you is really important. And if you work at a company, that's doing something different outside of the traditional performance management process, and it's successful in getting people to perform in measuring success in delivering ongoing, positive, and negative or constructive feedback. That company is a very rare breed because performance management in an annual basis where we say how you're doing super surface level, not helpful at all is still the most common approach.

Melissa Anzman (06:47): And that's what I want to really break down today. So before we dive deeper into that, I want to review some perspectives and insights into the overall performance management process, just so that we're all on the same page so we can create together better experiences. So first I want us to all agree that this process is broken and inefficient. Even if your company has all of the right elements in place, performance management as a whole is still really hard to do well across the board because it relies on so many different elements and participants. So it's not a great process. It can be okay, it can be good. But the fact that we only do this once, that we have a very rigid process or not want at all, you'll fall into one of those things is why this process itself is broken. The second thing to know is that once a year is not nearly enough to provide frequent and effective feedback.

Melissa Anzman (07:51): So if you only check in once a year and you're you get an employee who's underperforming, that's your fault. It, performance management needs to be ongoing. And even if your company only does the effective or measured one once a year, I want to you to change the way that you lead your organization, your little biosphere, maybe it's your team of three people, whatever that is, you have the ability to do reviews more frequently and they don't have to be those big ones. I'm going to talk about that in just a minute, but you can do it more often and you should. The third thing is that everyone leaders, managers and HR dreads performance reviews, they're way too time consuming if you do them well. And therefore, most leaders don't do them well. Like I can't tell you hundreds, probably thousands of performance reviews that I've read that leaders have filled out that are just complete fluff and crap.

Melissa Anzman (08:48): Like they don't say anything. They're not helpful. It's yep. Got the golden great job. And you know, that that been complaining about that employee's lack of performance, nothing matches up. They're just not done properly because it's hard to do. And it's incredibly time consuming. And finally, the approach of ranking your employees on that bell curve distribution in order to solve your budgeting, merit, whatever issues is asinine like that is just so crazy. And it sucks. And a lot of companies has said, we've given up the bell curve and guess what? Those same companies are still putting their employees on a dis forced distribution. So it may not actually look like a bell curve, but it's pretty darn close. So the thing is, you're trying to solve two things with one problem. You're trying to reward your high performers, which you absolutely should with a system that's broken and a budget that you don't have and you're smashing them together.

Melissa Anzman (09:47): And then we're being unfair and the performance metrics don't actually match the employee's performance. So all those things aside, I want us to take those things that we know as what I call gravity issues. And if you want to know what that means, you can read a little bit more in the book, but essentially like gravity, if you can't change it, you gotta move on. So those things are gravity issues. I know it's a lot to ignore, but I want to understand why the performance PR and management process is important to the employee experience. So here's the thing. When we talk about onboarding new, important new employees, we know that setting them up for success is really critical. And part of that is they have to understand what success looks like for them, how it's going to be measured, what those conversations will look like, and how do they know if they're doing a good job or not.

Melissa Anzman (10:44): So we know that for new employees, we still aren't great at it in most cases, but we know that that's critical and the same is true for your employees who are with you on an ongoing basis. We know that employees want to feel connected, find meaning in the work that they do feel valued in everything. And a big piece of that is understanding how they are contributing to the company's bottom line, how they're adding value and the easiest way for them to do that is understanding how their performance matches up with their goals, with the company's goals, with their department goals and so on. And then clearly identifying that work, this specific tasks and things that they do every day

Speaker 3 (11:29): That contributes to the success

Melissa Anzman (11:32): Last of their goals and the company's achievements. So it may feel a little bit of an archaic approach, but it gives us something visually to see if we can lay out an employee's goals and draw a line to the company's goals. Here's what you do that makes a difference for the company. And we can then see like the, the bad, when we have a bad day or a negative experience moment, we can then look at, you know, this is how I can create the connection. This is how I create value here. And you can make it a little easier and try and negate that negative experience a little bit more. So understanding how you're doing is a critical part of this. And you've all probably experienced bad performance management, or I say performance management gone wrong in your career. I mean, I have, particularly when I had a boss who wasn't comfortable at all giving feedback, we've all had that boss.

Melissa Anzman (12:39): We all know someone who's that way. She's super polite, never directly said what was and what wasn't working. So I was constantly questioning if what I was doing was right and helpful, and it caused so much angst and ill will toward her whom frankly, I really liked her as a person, but it led to so many negative experiences in my own employee journey that I ended up leaving the company, even though her boss was super direct and provided great feedback to me, she sort of skipped my boss to do so. Most of which was positive and reaffirming, by the way, it wasn't from the person, my boss, who was ultimately responsible for my success at the company. And I left in part in big part, honestly, because it wasn't clear for her, from her, if my performance was adding value. And so I want you to really consider that from your employee's perspective, if you are not giving direct and clear feedback in an ongoing basis, not just the once a year thing, although your once a year performance review should be specific and clear, but if you're not doing that, your employees are left to wonder, they're left to question or worse.

Melissa Anzman (13:57): They're left to fill in the blanks like I did. And instead of maybe you think they are a great performer and maybe they had a mistake here, or they should fix this. Or this one tiny tweak would make everything work so much better. They are going to build up an angst, Oh, well, questioning and start disengaging start disconnecting from their relationship with their company and with you. And when you look at it through the employee experience framework, it's really easy to do this. You want to use no feel, act in touch in order to help assist you, deliver the feedback so that employee for know, needs to know exactly how and what I'm doing and working toward will help the company thrive. How is that going to be measured? And how will information be shared? Set those expectations, use that one bullet point sentence to reset everything going forward.

Melissa Anzman (14:56): And for the feel that employee wants to feel confident in their capabilities and next steps to success, and to be part of the community at your company for act, they want to strive to achieve their goals, to ultimately support the company's success. What's that one next action they can do to do that. And touch clearly defined touch point systems, processes, an ongoing conversation, templates and requirements, or a process flow so that they know what to expect and when to expect it. Now, their requirements for ongoing official performance management are going to vary based on your company, but your goal setting should absolutely be tied to your employee experience, strategy and statement. And you can learn more how to do that in a previous episode of the rethink HR podcast, about the framework where I talk about how important it is to create that high level strategy.

Melissa Anzman (15:53): But the key here is outside of your annual performance reviews, you need to have really direct conversations with your employees about their performance. So to start, you can create a more formal process. Either quarterly or more frequently, I have found quarterly is, is easier for you to start with. So I'm going to recommend quarterly. And this is something that I've done with some of my teams in the past where I've done a 10 question like thing, it's a survey. I set it up in a survey tool. It's a free survey tool and I create these 10 questions and I send it to the employee. I send it to their manager and I send it to their clients. And so basically I ask everybody for a pulse check in survey, what's working. What's not, what's some direct feedback and it's not the fluff. It's not about like an employee engagement survey where we're asking these high level fluffy things.

Melissa Anzman (16:58): It's things that are easy to complete for them. Easy to answer. They're relevant feedback related to how that person is working within the framework of your company and their capabilities. And basically we, sir, we send this out, they're anonymous and you can do it internally only, or you can add external clients, but the data is going to give you a more objective way to capture feedback along with subjective with when you have verbatims and fill in the blanks. So you're able to do many objective feedback conversations, at least quarterly, and this helps your employee feel like they're, they are being seen and responded to by not just you. So the conversation, your performance conversation is not just what you as their boss thinks, which we're going to talk about in a minute, but also how they are being perceived in the work community. And they're going to get some real examples and objective data numbers, a average as to how they're meeting those expectations.

Melissa Anzman (18:09): So that's a really great way that you can do that. Now, as you have your one on ones with your employees, I want you to try using the employee experience framework to set up those things. But I want to give you a little helpful tool, a nugget dare I say, of the easiest way in the world to provide performance feedback is spatially of its negative performance feedback to your employees. Are you ready? It's called Viva star method. Now a lot of us have heard of stars for interviewing and I love it. It is a way to answer behavioral interview questions very quickly as the interviewee, how however, what I found when I started doing HR work was the star method worked really well for providing negative feedback for providing positive feedback for starting and having difficult conversations. Now star stands for situation or task action and result.

Melissa Anzman (19:15): And the thing is, is as you're giving feedback, I want you to think of it as three sentences in the star method, you're going to explain the situation or task. The next sentence is the action. And the last sentence is the result. So that may give you an example. Usually we get feedback like the project seems to be going well, keep up the good work. And the employee is like, what the heck does that mean? What, like, what's going well, what is the good work? I mean, it's positive, but I don't know what to keep doing to stay positive. And I don't know if there's anything else that needs my attention, but if we put it into his star feedback format, here's what it looks like. The time tracking project met this week's deadline. When you share the report, I am pleased to know this is on track and our client partners will be receiving the graphs on time.

Melissa Anzman (20:12): Which one is clearer, obviously the star example. So let me break that down too. You can see the sta are within it. When I talk about this time tracking, when I say the time tracking project, that's the S and the T when I move into a met this week's deadline, when you shared the report, that's the action that the employee took. And now you're going into the actual result in feedback. I am pleased to know it's on track. That's the feedback you're giving and our client partners will be receiving the graphs on time, which is the result it's super easy to do. It probably is going to take you less time because you won't be editing and re-editing and rethinking is this clear? Is this fluffy enough? Are they going to read between the lines wrong? Are they going to get their feelings hurt? No, we are being super clear. We're giving the situation or task the action and the result. Let me give one more example. So another typical feedback is I received some feedback from a team member that you are out of line during our recent call. So this is a more negative situation

Melissa Anzman (21:18): I've actually had, like,

Melissa Anzman (21:20): I've seen this said, I've heard it said it's a really weird thing. And for the employee, that's confusing because they're thinking, well, what's the feedback? Well, who's the team member. What does out of line mean? And what call was this? Like to know those things is really important, but let's all between the lines wrong. Are they going to get their feelings hurt? No, we are being super clear. We're giving the situation or task the action and the result. Let me give one more example. So another typical feedback is I received some feedback from a team member that you were out of line during our recent call. So this is a more negative situation.

Melissa Anzman (21:59): And I've actually had, like,

Melissa Anzman (22:01): I've seen this said, I've like heard. It said it's a really weird thing. And for the employee, that's confusing because they're thinking, well, what's the feedback? Well, who's the team member. What does out of line mean? And what call was this? Like to know those things is really important, but let's also give a star version of this. So during our recent call on project snowflake, that's a situation or task a team member reached out to share with me some concerns with your tone during the meeting, specifically, when you were telling the client that we weren't able to complete the tasks that you've reviewed and that you've reviewed it with them several times already in a perceived snippy tone, that's the action that they took. Now, we're moving into the feedback and the result, while I understand your point of view, it's important that our client feels heard and supported at each at every touch point and that we're doing our very best to maintain an even keel at all times.

Melissa Anzman (23:04): So, which one is clear, obviously the star and, you know, that's like a little bit of a lengthy example, but I do that because I want you to know that feedback is only helpful. If we are being specific, I didn't disclose the call date or the team member who said it to me, but I did share enough information with the employee, that it was an external call with a client, which, you know, clients come first. So if they're really upset and you're being snippy with them, we have to like address that. But I'm able to share the project information, the impression, and I'm able to also wrap it in a perceived moment. This is how it was perceived by those on the call, not this is what happened, how dare you. But this is also these, you know, I'm giving you a specific result or an action task and situation that you are able to then move forward and correct your behavior.

Melissa Anzman (24:05): Now, this is a practice skill, just like anything else in performance management, you have to practice it. You have to work at it because it is going to be very uncomfortable to start with. But the star method is really, really easy for you to do I still, to this day, write down S T a R on the side of my notebook and write one sentence before I go into feedback conversations. And I do this for positive, and I do this for negative because I want to be sure that the, those employees I'm working with understand exactly where they stand at any time that they're meeting their expectations. And we're making even a negative conversation or a perceived negative conversation into a positive experience for that employee, because there's nothing worse than hearing bad feedback and not knowing what it's referring to, how to change your behavior and so on.

Melissa Anzman (25:00): So now I'm going to dive into the most loved thing that I have on my website, which again, confounds me significantly, which is my performance improvement plan template. Now, performance improvement plans are helpful, but you have to make sure you go into it with the right intention. The whole point about a PIP template or a pit plan is to help the employee improve their performance. It's not to get them fired or have documentation to terminate them. Now, yes, this is considered documentation, and you'll have to work with your employer relations or legal department to understand if it's enough, but this really is about helping your employee get better, meet and exceed your expectations in their role, because we want our employees to know how they add value to our company's bottom line. That's really important for the employee experience and for an engaged employees. And so in the template, you are going to find that you're going to set out very specific buckets.

Melissa Anzman (26:11): You can't boil the ocean here. People can't work on improving a bunch of different things. So instead, I like to do one to two, like buckets of performance, whether in the examples I shared with the negative one, the tone I would have like client communication as the bucket. Number one. And within that, you want measurable milestones, two or three measurable milestones so that the employee knows the check-in dates and what's expected by those things. Okay? And that's how you set it up. And you have ongoing conversations related to the PIP template and overall performance and gas high. You give that feedback, you put it in the star format, you create ongoing conversations. You send update emails. If that's something that you're into and you can do, and you do it in this star format, this not only helps your employee, but it helps you understand where the disconnect may be.

Melissa Anzman (27:17): A lot of times we feel like our employee is under performing, but we can't put our finger on it. And it's not fair for our employees to be a quote unquote under-performer if we're not able to accurately define and clearly, and be clear and specific about where the disconnect is. So the, your stars are going to give that direct feedback and clarity to not just your employee, but also to you. Now, the performance improvement template, the PIP plan is usually 30, 60, or 90 days. It can be shorter, although real change doesn't happen overnight. So know that, but you want those ongoing check-ins. So that employee, the employee feels very connected to what's expected and how they are doing along the way. Now, if you have an employee who is just not going to meet the expectations that the PIP, they tend to see that pretty clearly on for themselves.

Melissa Anzman (28:17): And they'll look for another job, but you still want to work the process as though they are going to improve and become a key talent, high functioning member, whatever that is of your team. So if you want to snag the template for the PIP, just go to my website, I'll put it in the show notes so that you can do that. And if you want to learn more about stars, you can go to better.com/star and get a little handy dandy tool. For that. Remember, performance management is not just a onetime HR thing. This is something that our leaders should actually do, but we can do a better job at teaching them how and making our lives easier. If we use the star method. And if we understand performance management is super tied to employee experience, this podcast is brought to you by better micro-sites with your HR budgets being cut, and you being on the hunt for ways to do more with less. Why not consider a total rewards or benefits microsite to not only increase your employee experience, but also deliver increased value at half the cost. We all know that your off the shelf benefit administration website is extremely user unfriendly, lacking customization, easy to find information, a crazy firewall, and a missing search function. All at an extremely high cost, better microsites are a hundred percent designed based on what your employees need to know your branding and your inflammation, improving the speed in which your employees.

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