Why Can’t HR Solve the Performance Management Puzzle?

© AKS - Fotolia.com
© AKS - Fotolia.com

Why can’t HR seem to solve the problem of performance management?

After decades of best practices research, an endless search for the right forms/criteria/ratings scales, and enormous investments in technology, it seems the best solution we can put on the table is a call to throw in the towel.

Perhaps the answer boils down to this: The reality is that performance management is not an HR problem at all; it is a management problem. So says Howard Risher, in a terrific new article Getting Performance Management on Track (from Compensation and Performance Review).

The “performance management system” is simply a place to store information and a form for managers to document their assessment of how their people perform. The problems arise in the way managers carry out their responsibility; continuing focus on the system design will not solve the problem.

A day-to-day responsibility of managers

Performance management is or should be a day-to-day responsibility of managers and supervisors. HR can provide the forms, send reminders and provide training and advice, but the HR community should not assume responsibility for what should be an important aspect of each manager’s job.

Branding performance management as an HR function has relegated it to the realm of administrative tasks. Yet what could be more a more critical management charge, in the age of knowledge work, than helping employees realize – and the organization effectively “extract” – the true value of their knowledge and capabilities?

How do we, then, move away from the old HR-owned, command-and-control vision of performance management to a manager-centered process which rises to the challenge of drawing high performance from today’s knowledge worker?

Article Continues Below

Holding supervisors accountable

The article highlights the importance of preparing and holding supervisors accountable for the management of employee performance, and it also discusses a number of emerging strategies, including:

  • The improved use of analytics and multi-rater feedback (ala Google’s “Quest to Build a Better Boss”) to develop managers’ performance management skills.
  • Putting managers, as the key “customers,” at the center of the performance management system design process.

Check out the article for more ideas and potential strategies.

Got a success story to tell? Dr. Risher is currently writing a book on the topic and would love to hear from you. Contact him at h.risher@verizon.net.

This was originally published on Ann Bares’ Compensation Force blog.

Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. She has over 20 years of experience consulting in compensation and performance management and has worked with a variety of organizations in auditing, designing and implementing executive compensation plans, base salary structures, variable and incentive compensation programs, sales compensation programs, and performance management systems.

Her clients have included public and privately held businesses, both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, early stage entrepreneurial organizations and larger established companies. Ann also teaches at the University of Minnesota and Concordia University.

Contact her at abares@alturaconsultinggroup.com.


4 Comments on “Why Can’t HR Solve the Performance Management Puzzle?

  1. I’ve been saying this for years.  But I can’t even get my own HR department to put a program in place – they dance around it but won’t formalize it – no company I have worked for (global or local) will train managers how to engage their employees, and then hold them accountable.  We are perfectly capable – but it seems as if HR and Executives believe that managers already ‘know’ these skills.

    If companies do not want to put a program together, then I suggest they hire employee engagement coaches or management coaches for one-on-one assessments and training of their managers.  Also, there might be a few really good people managers already in the company – HR should find them and have them train their fellow managers.  But please DO something.

  2. The focus of performance management needs to change from a focus on past performance which has can not be changed to a focus on future expectation and goals which are totally controllable by all parties involved. 

  3. Performance Management Systems and their related processes are no different than any other important business system.

    If we are talking new product development in any business there is usually a pretty clear statement of purpose, roles, accountabilities, owners and the processes. I just don’t understand why PMS are looked at differently and no the owner of this system is not HR. Governance is always a thorny issue with any system but with some time and good communciation it can be managed.

    HR certainly owns and managers certain processes associated with management and improvement of the system e.g. technology tools and training.

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