6 Key Questions to Make Performance Management Work

By Jason Richmond, CEO & Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.

Accountability starts with clearly defined performance goals and being an expert at tracking those goals. When we consider the human element operformance, we consider that it is often not enough for people to just know what to do, but also important to know the “how,” “why,” and “how well,” or “how often” in order to do their best.  Without clearly defined performance goals, we cannot determine if it is the person or the process that must be coached.

Simply put, good goal management helps people focus on the right things and there are numerous studies about the impact of goal management on productivity. The foundation of this research was developed in 1968 by psychologists Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, who took a psychological approach, and found that 1) hard goals produce a higher level of performance (output) than easy goals; (2) specific hard goals produce a higher level of output than a goal of “do your best”; and (3) behavioral intentions regulate choice behavior. 

We have to wonder why effective goal setting continues to challenge organizations. After all, it seems common sense that if employees know what you want them to do, they are much more likely to do it. Questions from engagement surveys point us in the right direction and it’s important to consider how your employees answer (or might answer) these six questions, as they are the foundation for a successful goal management system and approach. 

  1. I know exactly what I am expected to accomplish in my job.

  2. I understand my company’s strategic direction and how what I do aligns with it.

  3. My pay and career opportunities are impacted in part by how well I execute my goals.

  4. My manager and I review and update my goals throughout the year to ensure they stay aligned with changes in company needs or strategy.

  5. My manager gives me regular feedback on my performance. 

  6. My manager involves me in the goal setting process.
Many years ago, Dale Carnegie stated “People will support the world they create,” while McKinsey & Company advises, “Involve employees from start to finish.” With these philosophies in mind, it’s important to ask how to begin. Start by clearing articulating company direction, strategy, and key business goals. Then, share your goals with your employees and how they tie to company goals. Ask them to articulate what they can do to support these goals and make them happen. If you want to promote teamwork, this is a discussion you should have with your team first: what they can do as a team to support the company goals. This can be a fun and stimulating brain-storming session. 

Once team goals are delineated, each employee can develop their own goals. Look for opportunities for employees to work on goals together and create shared goals along with individual ones. 

You may have to help your employees fine tune their goals. Make sure they are specific enough to be measurable, challenging enough to be motivating, and realistic enough not to be demotivating. Help them with the wording by asking questions rather than simply telling them what to change. For example, “How are you going to measure that?” “How long do you think this will take?” “Have you considered XYZ?”