Performance management is sometimes hailed as being the magic bullet that will transform any organization, or it is regarded as the cure for all business ills. In reality there is no magic bullet and there is no cure all. Performance management is a tool, a strategy, something to help; it is not the answer to every business ailment and it can be tricky to implement. In fact there are five common problems when it comes to performance management:
Staff can be resentful of the fact that their performance is being measured and targets for performance are being set, instead of staff just ‘getting on’ with things. Initially there can be a definite suspicion that the targets will be unreasonable, that management will use these targets and goals to get rid of staff whom they do not like. There may also be suspicion that the targets will be changed without notice. These are actually unfounded fears and staff should not worry that they will come to reality, but at least initially, there can be a reasonable amount of suspicion.
Staff may try to sabotage the implementation of a performance management strategy. They will be fearful (either worrying about exposure or closer management) and as a result they will seek to add fuel to the fires of suspicion that surround the implementation of a performance management strategy and they will resist its implementation; usually through means such as “my process is very difficult to measure”, “my results are not the same as yours” etc.
The next common problem that performance management strategy encounters on a regular basis is that management fail to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to ensure that performance management is seen as being a continuous event. Often management will embrace performance management. They will see an improvement in performance. Then they pat themselves on the back and simply move on to something else. This is a classic mistake and when this happens, performance will be adversely affected.
There are some problems in terms of performance management strategies being time consuming to implement, at least initially. This process has to be both strategic and corporate; it cannot be implemented in some parts of the organization and not others. But this means that the whole organization has to adopt the performance management strategy and this will take time. Any large organization will require staff to be briefed, to be helped to embrace the new strategy, to understand what is expected of them and so on. But management also have things to learn. They need to learn what is expected of them, how they can carry out employee reviews, set targets, give and receive feedback etc. So this all takes time.
Sometimes management can forget that the strategy is one that requires feedback from top to bottom and bottom to top. No one will be immune from receiving feedback. So management have to be ready to embrace that kind of feedback. It may not always be positive, it may even highlight deficits in terms of their management style, but they need to embrace it, or the performance management strategy will soon become vulnerable.
When management embrace feedback, then staff will continue to believe in the process. If feedback is ignored, then they lose faith!
Problems such as these are often cited as being reasons why a performance management strategy should not be adopted. However, in reality these problems are significant, but they are not insurmountable. Often they can be anticipated and once an organization is aware that a problem may be encountered, then action can be taken to minimize the risk of these problems undermining the process of adopting performance management throughout the organization.