Redesigning Performance Management

Performance management has come to be one of the more disliked and abused processes in organizations


It is that time of the year when managers and employees are or will be girding up for the annual exercise of performance review. For a large majority, these conversations will be anxiety-inducing and both sides will walk out of the exercise feeling any number of negative emotions. 

Performance management has come to be one of the more disliked and abused processes in organizations. Managers and employees find the twice a year activity that encapsulates the term “performance management” stressful and something that succeeds in reducing morale and energy like no other exercise. If the raison d’être of any intervention is to create an organizational context that propels employees to shift from doing my job to doing my best, then performance management in its current avatar is doing more to prevent this from happening than any other intervention that I can think of. Therefore, I would go so far as to say that it’s better to not have a formal performance management process than have a poorly designed one.

Why then, do organizations conduct this exercise and more importantly, how do we make this exercise a meaningful one and something that injects positive energy into an organization? An intervention that propels employees to do their best.

It will be impossible to capture the litany of issues that assail the performance management process in any detail in an article of this size, but I have captured the essence of some of the key challenges and how we do things differently at Zee Entertainment to overcome the same.

All systems currently focus on measuring what is possible, rather than what is important. The quote from Albert Einstein – that everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid, is especially relevant because it reinforces the issue on what do you measure. Examples of measuring the wrong outcomes resulting in disastrous outcomes are too many to quote but some are worth mentioning because of the scale at which they occurred - the global financial crisis and climate change. Each organization should be leading a discussion on what will lead to sustained performance and how do we measure the activities that will help us deliver sustained performance, a priori because technology, data, and analytics are available to dramatically improve our ability to measure what is important.   

We are well into the Fourth Industrial Revolution - we work from anywhere; we work with people we have never met physically; we work on many projects simultaneously with different sets of people; our learning and our contributions are no longer aligned with one single person, yet when it comes to measuring performance we are largely linear, the diversity of impact is not adequately captured. We need to leverage technology that allows performance management to be continuous, real-time and brings into play, the impact and contribution we have made in this non-linear framework. Without it, there is no overlap between how we work and how we are measured and this dichotomy will continue to make any performance management process, irrelevant.

No discussion on performance is complete without rewards. While the performance rewards linkage is an entire body of study, the design of the rewards mechanism has a disproportionate bearing on how well a performance system works. 

The essence of a good performance management process is the samwad (discussion) that happens between the manager and the employee. Samwad is the fulcrum and we need to focus on improving the quality, frequency, honesty, and efficacy of this discussion.  

At ZEE, we are working on a slew of interventions that we believe will help us avoid some of the pitfalls highlighted. 

The first is an intervention that is focussed entirely on our First Level Managers - improving managerial quotient. We believe, that this intervention that will cover almost 500 first line managers and run over a couple of years, will form the cornerstone of our effort in improving the way we manage performance at ZEE.  

Our performance philosophy centres around SAMWAD, which is focussed on enhancing the frequency and the quality of conversations and by bringing in technology to make reporting automated, intuitive and therefore easy. 

Fundamentally, the performance management ecosystem is about delivering two essentials, building an organizational ecosystem that attracts the best talent and building an ecosystem of the intervention of culture and performance which enable an employee to deliver their best. If you can achieve both of this, you can build the best organization in the world. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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