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Guide : Performance Management :

Did You Know?

The Basic Elements of Performance Management | Stage 1 — Performance Planning
Stage 2 — Ongoing Management of Performance | Stage 3 — Performance Appraisal
Coaching and Counseling | Reinventing Performance Management
Resources | References

Did you know: It is because of performance management that your agency is able to fulfill its mission? And the more adept your agency is at managing employee performance, the more successful it will be in achieving its goals.

Performance management, unfortunately, has a bad reputation. To most people, performance management is the appraisal they have to sign every year, a paperwork nuisance that is required by state law. The HR department hounds supervisors to complete the forms, but getting appraisals done never seems to serve any apparent meaningful purpose.

That's the reputation. However, performance management is much more than an annual paperwork exercise. If you look beyond the forms and signatures to the underlying process, you'll see that performance management is a fundamental tool used by all supervisors in all organizations in order to:

  • Get the work done, and
  • Develop people.

Even if there were no forms and no HR department, supervisors and employees would figure out a way to clarify what needs to get done, define how actual performance will be measured and set the level of performance expected. If they didn't work out such a process, there would be a lot of random activity and their organization would soon go out of business. On the other hand, the more effectively they work out a process for doing these things, the more successful their organization will be.

Did you know: Productivity increases by an average of 57% when performance expectations are clearly set 1, yet only 19% of US employees say they have clear expectations in their jobs? 2

Estimate how many of your employees would say that they have clear performance expectations in their jobs.

Although the primary purpose of performance management is to get the work accomplished, performance management cannot achieve this over the long run unless it also furthers employee growth and development. Customer requirements change. Technology advances. Job demands increase over time. Employees must continually learn in order to keep up. In addition, people have a natural need to grow.

Did you know: Lack of development opportunities is one of the leading reasons employees quit? 3

What kind of meaningful developmental experiences have you afforded your employees over the past year?

Refer to the Business Case for further insights into the business necessity and impact of performance management.

The Basic Elements of Performance Management

There are many ways to "do" performance management. However if you look under the hoods of all the different models, they are all powered by the same three fundamental elements: Performance Planning, Ongoing Management of Performance and Performance Appraisals.

The Basic Elements of Performance Management

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Stage 1 — Performance Planning

Before you take a trip, your destination is decided. Before a game starts, you make sure the players understand the rules and how to score points. Before investing 12 months of an employee's time and salary on a project, you make sure the worker knows what is to be accomplished by year's end. But wait! Surveys tell us that less than one-fifth of US employees have clearly defined goals. 4 Maybe US supervisors need to put a little more effort into this phase.

Stage 2 — Ongoing Management of Performance

This is the part of performance management that is typically forgotten or given short shrift, even more so than the planning stage. But this is where the action is and where the work gets done! In a well-oiled performance management system, employees and their supervisors are continuously tracking performance to determine how the work is progressing, seeking and giving feedback, and making adjustments to stay on track and to keep up with changing priorities. In short, they are talking to each other about performance.

Stage 3 — Performance Appraisal

This is the element of performance management that gives the entire process a bad rap. How should the written appraisal be done and what does a good supervisor-employee discussion sound like?

Coaching and Counseling

Performance management has a dark side and a sunny side. When an employee is having a problem, whether it is due to poor performance or unacceptable conduct, counseling is recommended. Supervisors use counseling and corrective action planning to address, document and, if all goes well, turn around employee problems. Apply the tools in the Counseling and Addressing Poor Performance section in dealing with the dark side.

When employees are performing well and wish to learn more, take their performance to the next level, put to better use strengths that are not currently being fully used, or prepare for new responsibilities, coaching and individual development planning are in order. In the Coaching and Developing Employees section, you can find guidance and tools for taking advantage of the sunshine - for stimulating and nourishing employee growth.

One sign that a performance culture has taken root is that you have a lot more employees working on development plans than on corrective action plans. In a performance culture, more attention is focused on top performers and employees with demonstrated potential than on poor performers. More energy is expended helping people grow than on fixing poor performance.

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Reinventing Performance Management

Across the US, many federal, state and local government agencies are attempting to shed their bureaucratic identities and embrace a performance culture. Dumping the old ways and becoming more results focused and accountable is a difficult undertaking. But performance management can be a major player in the transformative effort.

Refer to the Reinventing Performance Management section for a number of tools to help you plan and manage a performance culture in your agency and how to implement the necessary changes.

  • Streamlined, results-focused and checklist-based performance management — Suggestions and guidelines for retooling your process — whether giving it a few tweaks (streamlining it), doing a complete makeover (converting to a results-focus), or standardizing how certain "high occupancy" jobs are managed (defining and using a common set of performance criteria) are provided.
  • Evaluating the evaluations — Information on how to determine if your performance management process is doing its job.


If you are interested in reading more about performance management and performance measurement, there is plenty of literature out there. The problem is, a lot of it is not terribly helpful — consultants selling their services, academics expounding their armchair philosophies, and more! In the Readings section, we suggest a number of sources that can give you a balanced perspective on the field.

What about policy? The state's performance management policy has recently been revised to give agencies greater flexibility in designing performance management processes that support the kind of performance culture that fits their diverse missions. Check out the statewide policy and some agency's current policies.

Agencies are encouraged to revamp their performance management processes and enter the twenty-first century. The tools provided throughout the performance management section can help you pare down the process to what is really necessary to manage individuals for delivering the results that contribute to your agency's mission — to get the job done and done well, while developing your people!


1 See R. Rodgers and J. E. Hunter's classic meta-analysis, "Impact of Management by Objectives on Organizational Productivity," in Journal of Applied Psychology , 1991 (vol. 76), pp. 322-336.

2 Franklin Covey survey reported in Chief Learning Officer Magazine , April 30, 2003.

3 The Gallup Organization white paper, "Discoveries about Great Managers and Great Workplaces," October 2000. See also Corporate Leadership Council, "Attracting and Retaining Critical Talent Segments: Identifying Drivers of Attraction and Commitment in the global Labor Market," 2006.

4 Franklin Covey survey reported in Chief Learning Officer Magazine, April 30, 2003.

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page resources

Performance Management webpage

The Business Case webpage

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