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Performance management can be one of the most challenging aspects of managing others but, if done right, can be one of the most rewarding.  Strategizing and partnering with employees to help them reach their potential can be a positive experience for both the employee and the manager.

Managers need to understand the importance of creating a culture that is comfortable with development and feedback and recognizes that employee performance appraisals are a critical part of the process.  There are definitely tricks to performance management and successful managers incorporate these into their performance management process.

Three performance management tactics:

1.  Communicate Employee Expectations
Setting expectations for employees is the most critical step in managing performance.  A manager cannot reasonably expect an employee to perform at any level without first clearly articulating what their responsibilities are and what is expected of them.  Performance expectations should be a written document that is reviewed with the employee to ensure clarity and understanding.  The written document should be in the form of a job description with specific and measurable goals. The manager should spend time with the employee to make sure they understand not only what their responsibilities are but also that they know how to perform tasks and have the necessary tools to do their job. This includes providing them a mentor to go to with questions.  When meeting with the employee, it is helpful to have them verbally repeat instructions to make sure they understand the job expectations and give them the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings.

2.  Address Issues
It is inevitable that issues will come up with employees.  Dealing with issues can be time-consuming and challenging but it is important to make performance corrections as they occur.  This means nipping issues in the bud so they do not have the opportunity to develop into larger problems.  

3.  Documentation
Documenting employee performance is an important part of the performance management process.  Keeping notes on all employee conversations, both good and bad, is important so the information is available when performance appraisals are written.  All documentation should include the date, time, details of event, names of involved persons and any actions taken.  Documentation should be specific but not necessarily a lot of text.  For example:  

 Employee Name
 Persons Involved
 Action Taken
 Mark Jones
 Jan 5
 11:30 am
 Mark went beyond the call of duty by working an hour overtime to finish a marketing report.
Acknowledged and thanked Mark for his efforts
 Mark Jones
 March 16
10:30 am
Mark was 90 minutes late to work due to a flat tire on the highway. Mark did not call in so no one knew his situation.
 Discussed the importance of calling the office to inform someone of being late
 Mark Jones
 May 8
 10:30 am
 Mark saw a customer wandering around the halls and asked if they needed assistance.  Mark escorted them to the sales office.
 Acknowledged and thanked Mark for going out of his way to assist a customer.
 Mark Jones
 October 10
 9:30 am
 Mark worked the weekend to finish the final draft of the Board Report.
 Acknowledged and thanked Mark for going above and beyond to get the board report finished.

Discussing and documenting both good and not so good performance provides consistent feedback and helps employees understand expectations, behavior boundaries and it serves to reinforce positive behaviors. 

This documentation provides the necessary information for a manager to prepare an objective performance appraisal.  Managers who understand their role in developing employees think of it as less of a burden and more of an opportunity to influence the professional development of others. Helping employees grow and develop is one of the most rewarding aspects of managing others and the responsibility should not be taken lightly.


This Business article was written by Patricia Lotich on 4/20/2011

Patricia Lotich is an MBA who is passionate about helping small business owners see their vision come to life by creating infrastructures that support business development and growth through strategic customer focus. She writes for The Thriving Small Business, which provides small business performance consulting services.