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Why Performance Alignment Is Replacing ‘Performance Management’

The old way of managing employee performance is backwards-looking, manually-driven and fails to drive accountability and engagement. New, more progressive solutions are here to change all that. 05.21.21

By Stacy Litteral 

Managers: Quick, what comes to mind when you think of “performance management”? If you are like most people, you probably think, “Oh, great, more work to do” — or something along those lines.  

That reaction is understandable, given the kinds of employee performance management processes and tools most people have experience with. Rather than striving to improve or update processes to match the modern workplace and contemporary value, most tools on the market today have simply codified outmoded, manually-driven processes and philosophies into a digital format.  

It is not just that these tools typically emphasize looking back on past performance, often with an eye toward chastising or “correcting” past mistakes — an approach that is known to foster a culture of fear, rather than empowerment. It is all the work associated with engaging in the process. Many vendors tout their infinite customizability as if that were a benefit. But in today’s modern, app-based economy, managers want what everyone else wants: a clean, intuitive user experience that does all the busy work for them. 

Rethinking Performance Management 

If we really take a step back, what we need from our HR management software is not more bells and whistles. What managers — and their employees — really need to drive their team’s success is an entirely different way of engaging with performance. Employee management software in 2021 should be: 

- Forward-looking: There is nothing wrong with reflection, per se. In fact, it is an important process by which humans grow in work and in life. But reflection, at least in the context of business settings, often focuses on the areas that “need improvement” for the employee, an approach that can erode morale and actually hamper performance. Moreover, looking backwards on past performance is meaningless unless you can translate it into a plan for the future. A modern, progressive approach to employee performance appraisal empowers, rather than chastises, employees by allowing them to create plans (with the assistance of their supervisor) that will help them reach their professional and personal goals. 

- Automated: Let’s face it: Performance management is not a “need-to-have.” There are no government regulations that require it; it is not something investors or banks will be checking for. It is however, extremely important to any business’ success. The primary problem for those charged with managing talent is how to drive engagement with the tool. And one of the best ways I have seen to do this is to automate away as much of the homework as possible. The platform should drive processes, set according to a pre-defined structure, tagging in managers and employees only where their thoughtful attention is required. The platform should also reflect the fact that IT teams, who are almost always already over-burdened, do not want another piece of software that they need to constantly customize, maintain or upgrade. Instead, the app or platformed should be thoughtfully designed by human resources professionals such that it requires very little work on behalf of IT and upper management to implement. 

- Employee-driven: Much has been made about the trend in professional spaces for employees to change employers every few years. In my experience, a lot of this has to do with the fact that paths for promotion or growth within the employee’s current organization are hazy, leading them to jump ship for a bigger salary or a better title. This is just a long way of re-stating the essential truth that employees want a way to move up. Too often, HR performance management tools do not take this into consideration, focusing instead on “encouraging” the employee to meet certain metrics that management has defined for them, with no room for the employee to set expectations about professional growth and promotion within their employer. I would hope that it is obvious that modern talent management philosophy does not think too highly of this. A modern, employee-driven performance management tool, by comparison, empowers the employee by making them a stakeholder in their own performance (that is, beyond keeping their job). And let us not overlook another huge benefit of having performance management be employee-driven: It further reduces the amount of work managers need to do. 

Introducing Performance Alignment 

I hesitate to even refer to tools in this category I have defined here as “performance management” tools. Instead, I prefer to call this approach performance alignment. More than a kind of tool or app or even platform, performance alignment is a philosophy that values automation over manual processes, transparency over fear, humanity over robotic paper-pushing. Performance alignment is progressive, both in the sense that it embraces modern values surrounding the workplace — such as diversity, equity and inclusion (often referred to as “DEI”) — but also in the sense that it fosters a forward-looking, growth-centered mindset among managers and employees. 

So look out “performance management,” because the end of your time on this earth is nigh. Performance alignment is the future, and leaders who like to be ahead of the curve owe it to themselves to educate themselves as soon as possible. 

Finally, a Performance Alignment Tool for the Modern Workplace 

“Performance alignment” is a lot like DevOps: It is a philosophy, not a tool — although there are tools that can facilitate the process. Designed from the ground up by HR leaders, BPM Link is the progressive, forward-looking performance alignment tool your managers and employees have been seeking. With its easy-to-use interface and automation of key processes, BPM Link drives employee and manager engagement, fostering transparency and accountability from both parties. Contact BPM today to learn about how BPM Link can help your organization optimize employee performance and attain your business goals.