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To Engage Employees Break the Performance Management Mold

March 13, 2020 Blog Post

The competition for top talent is fierce. Here’s how to engage employees & keep your best staff from flying the coop.

It wasn’t too long ago that annual performance reviews were the gold standard for evaluating and developing employees at all levels of an organization. Managers compiled feedback from the previous year (and perhaps from the employee’s team), and took an hour or two to discuss reported strengths and weaknesses, and maybe plans for the future.

And that was it.

Fast-forward to today, and the old order of things is dead. The competition for top talent is cutthroat, and employee loyalty to companies is not what it used to be. So how can organizations keep their best workers from flying the coop?

A recent LinkedIn study showed that 94% of employees would stay with their companies longer if they felt the organization was invested in their career development.

Today’s workers don’t just want to be managed — they want to be coached.

“From Silicon Valley to New York, and in offices across the world, firms are replacing annual reviews with frequent, informal check-ins between managers and employees,” wrote Peter Cappelli and Anna Tavis of the Harvard Business Review.

In today’s workplace, it’s no longer enough for managers to simply delegate tasks. With five active generations in the workforce — including millennials, the largest slice of the workforce and Gen Z, the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce — much more is expected of today’s leaders, including training and development opportunities.

Integrate Coaching Into Performance Management

So what exactly is the difference between management and coaching?

While “managers” focus primarily on authority and directing, “coaches” focus on teaching and facilitating, wrote Holly Green for Forbes. “In business, we have to be both coaches and managers. To lead effectively, we need to know when to wear which hat,” she said.

The fact of the matter is that in order for managers to reinforce the behaviors they want to see in their employees, the secret isn’t annual performance reviews: it’s instant (and frequent) feedback that can be related back to an employee’s specific goals. Today’s workers expect leadership to provide them with personal growth opportunities in areas that matter most to them.

For the modern manager (slash, coach), putting these pieces together in the workforce can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. In fact, organizations should be setting managers up to coach easily and effectively through policies and technology.

Employee Coaching and Development: What Workers Want

First, it’s important to know how today’s dominant generations prefer to learn and engage with developmental materials.

Millennials, for instance, demand flexibility. Laura Berger of Forbes pointed out that “...as free-thinkers, some members of this generation don't respond well to simply being told what to do — they value meaningful coaching relationships built on exploratory conversations.”

Jim Link, CHRO of Randstad, points out that their younger counterparts, Gen Z, have similar aspirations.

“They’re looking for you to be highly engaged,” said Link at the EBN Benefits Forum and Expo as reported by HR Dive. “They want you to listen to their ideas and opinions. 46% of them want you to be giving them feedback regularly.”

The bulk of today’s workers don’t just want coaching — they demand it. The organization’s job is to provide managers with systems that enable documentation of what can be carried out as a more informal process on a more frequent basis than the traditional performance evaluation.

Tools to Facilitate Employee Development

In addition to more than just a one-off annual performance review, today’s workers expect quick access to learning and development opportunities, as well as feedback from leadership.

Valerie Bolden-Barrett of HR Dive pointed out that “...trainers will need to respond to these new workers in the tech-based milieu they're comfortable with, which includes social media and smartphones.” The same report points out that Gen Z prefers learning online, through apps and on-the-job.

In other words, employers need to think outside of the box and use new, previously unconventional platforms and formats for sharing information to communicate anything from insurance plan details to deadlines.

Thanks to tools that can be integrated into the technology that workers are already familiar with, managers have resources to make this tall order much more, well, manageable.  

For instance, a growing number of HR solutions offer integrated social collaboration tools that act as a one-stop shop where employees can message and interact with their managers and colleagues anytime, anywhere.

Feedback should be multi-directional as well, where peers have the opportunity to recognize each other for a job well done. Systems that enable centralizing manager feedback and peer recognition make the evaluation process more well-rounded and breaks the top-down mold.

What’s more, in a recent blog, Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte, explained that “app ecosystems” are the future of HR tech stacks, which makes it easy for managers to take a more malleable approach to coaching their workers.

Indeed, a growing number of applications offer a mobile-ready, mobile-friendly experience that integrates seamlessly into the programs employees use every day. This means leadership now has tools to monitor employee performance and provide that continuous feedback today’s workers crave.

Not to mention, with an HR and payroll solution with an integrated learning management system (LMS), managers can foster learning and development through custom training videos created and shared by workers, a library of on-demand training content tailored to different learning styles, dashboards that track employee progress and assign courses based on an employee’s unique challenges and focuses.

And it can all be done in one place.

Coach More Effectively

With an up-and-coming workforce that wants always-on access to more frequent guidance, feedback, and development, it’s critical for organizational leadership to take both the relational and technological realities into account when creating talent development strategies.

New generations of workers are soon to dominate the workforce, and they expect a lot more than an annual performance review when it comes to their personal and professional development. They want their managers to be personally involved in their professional development and to provide frequent feedback that relates to their goals and sets a clear path forward.

The best way to achieve this? An HR solution that houses responsive, accessible, tailored, and on-demand tools and learning opportunities reflecting the consumer technology your employees are accustomed to. Download our latest ebook to learn more about how you can create an ecosystem that facilitates feedback and coaching while delivering the consumer-driven employee experience your workers crave.


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