tranzition executive recruitment



Ask any supervisor which aspect/s of their role they least enjoy, and chances are, “performance appraisal of my staff” will be at, or near, the top of their list.


Ask any staff member which aspect/s of their working life they dread, and similarly, “my annual performance review” will likely feature prominently on their list.


How is it that such a commonly undertaken process can be so universally disliked by supervisors and staff members, and yet be recognised (at least in principle), as an important staff management function?



In principle and in practice, performance management is important, both to the organisation and to the individual staff member, for the following reasons:


The Organisation




1)    establishing challenging, but achievable, performance objectives;

2)    regularly monitoring staff members’ performance;

3)    giving praise and/or constructive feedback, as appropriate, in a timely manner;

4)    providing opportunities for staff members to develop professionally, and therefore improve their current and future performance; and

5)    summarising and reinforcing all of this in a formal annual (or more frequent) performance review meeting;


an organisation can create a high performance culture, where staff members feel that they are valued contributors to the organisation’s success, and are motivated to excel.


The Staff Member




1)    contributing to the setting of their own challenging, but achievable, performance objectives;

2)    regularly monitoring their own performance, in consultation with their supervisor;

3)    receiving praise and/or constructive feedback, as appropriate;

4)    accepting, and making the most of, professional development opportunities; and

5)    participating in an open and honest discussion of their performance in a formal review meeting;


a high performing staff member, who feels valued and encouraged to excel, achieving individual success and contributing to the organisation’s performance, is created.


Generally, concerns and anxieties about performance management can be traced back to either a) negative past experiences of supervisors and/or staff members; or b) organisational ‘horror stories’, real or exaggerated.  The truth is, effective performance management need not be difficult or stressful for either party. 


Some useful strategies for avoiding pitfalls and making the most of performance management are:


Get it right from the beginning!   By this is meant: a) proper job design (create a job that is challenging and rewarding, with a position description that describes the role accurately); b) a thorough recruitment and selection process that results in the most suitable candidate being appointed; c) an effective induction process that sets the appointee up to succeed; and d) development of an open and honest relationship between the supervisor and staff member.


Agree on performance objectives.   Ideally, the supervisor and staff member should jointly develop performance objectives through a consultative process.  It is good practice to adopt a ‘trickle down’ approach, with organisational goals informing departmental strategic and operational plans, which then lead to aligned team and individual objectives.  However, a staff member’s performance objectives should also be consistent with the position description for their role. 


Useful rules of thumb for drafting good performance objectives are to make them: a) challenging, but achievable; b) measurable, quantitatively or qualitatively; c) specific, so that they, and the standards for their achievement, are clearly understood; and d) timeframed.


Regularly monitor progress.   Although the organisation’s formal performance appraisal cycle may prescribe annual (or more frequent) review meetings, the supervisor and staff member should monitor performance against objectives regularly, so that gaps can be detected early, adjustments made, and regular feedback given and received.


Feedback.   This should include both praise and constructive feedback, as warranted.  It is as important to reward and reinforce high performance as it is to identify and remedy performance gaps.  The more timely the feedback, the more valuable it is.


Development opportunities.   Opportunities for development are typically designed to improve the staff member’s performance in their current role, within their current, or subsequent, review cycle.  However, in forward-thinking organisations with succession plans in place, or with an eye to effective staff retention strategies, development opportunities may be designed to prepare a staff member for the next step on their career path.  Still other organisations may support personal development opportunities with potential professional benefits (eg: a toastmasters’ course or speed-reading program undertaken for personal development reasons could advantage a staff member’s professional life also).


Performance review meeting.   If the previous steps have been followed, this stage is about formalising the process: summarising the feedback given throughout the performance review cycle; ticking off the objectives met and revising or carrying forward any not achieved; noting development opportunities taken or planned; and setting new performance objectives for the next cycle.  This meeting is important - as the capstone to the process.  However, if the aforementioned sequence has been followed, there should be no surprises, and therefore no anxiety, for either supervisor or staff member.



One final word on performance management…

Performance is a function of the staff member’s ability (knowledge, skills, experience, etc), their effort (motivation, commitment, focus, time, etc), and the situation in which they operate (organisational culture, job design, development opportunities, supervision, etc).  Effective performance management strategies and processes can positively influence all three aspects. 


How well does your organisation manage performance?




By Trevor Neville, Principal, and Kirsten Ferguson (Human Resource Management Consultant), TranZition Professional and Executive Recruitment, Level 3 Waterfront Place, 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane Qld 4000. Email:  Web:



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