Monday, May 17, 2010

Role of HR in Performance Management

What would happen if HR were responsible for doing apprasials for the employees? Wouldn´t it be great? The role of the HR function increases in its importance tenfold, the managers can twindle their thumbs doing as little as possible when it comes to managing their own people, and when the proverbial mass hits the fan - blame HR for all the wrong-doing starting with the Tower of Babel and finishing with the Greek mishaps of days not so far ago.

A couple of months ago I did my World at Work certification in Performance Management. Guess what? Suggested HR involvement is minimal. Undoubtedly, its role is crucial in:
  • designing the process
  • setting the framework (communicating the policies, deadlines, key principles, educating employees, line managers and the senior executives)
  • ensuring compliance and managing complaints
  • industry benchmarking
  • tying performance management to remuneration and other people related fields (Talent Management, i.e. how your rankings impact your promotions or development opportunities, such as rotations, leadership development, international options, etc.; Learning and Development, i.e. the learning interventions required to close the identified developmental gaps as an outcome of your performance discussions)
  • communicating the outcomes of each perofrmance management cycle to the relevant stakeholder groups including the employees (maintaining confidentiality, but still being able to provide the big picture, so that the employees can feel the tangible impact of the process on their everyday worklife)
  • adjusting and adapting the process in case faults are identified
  • making sure the new employees are appropriately onboarded with regards to the performance management process
However, it is the line that must do the work. Then they feel empowered. Then there is more trust between them and the employees. Then there is a learning curve. You cannot teach people to manage others by giving them lectures. Until you have had a tough performance conversation, until you have fired someone for underperformance, until you have coached someone who is on a performance management plan, you will struggle to grasp the true meaning of managing people. Trust your managers. Empower them!

Those who suggest firing "non-key" people (instead of managing their performance )underestimate three aspects:
  • morale within the company (how do you think the "key" people feel about their colleagues losing their jobs? also, i would not like to have my assistants changing every six months)
  • legislation - in many countries you will be taken to court if you are laying off and hiring people at the same time
  • unions (imagine your 3-people logistics department joins the Transport Barganing Council, and then in case you make a decision to lay them off, you will have to defend that decision on a country level, faced with the industry, threatening stalling your logistics operations whatsoever)
There is a fine line between owing the process and executing it. There is a large gray area in between. There are people who will take the personal advantage of that gray area unless you get the process right.

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