From Strategy to Performance Goals


Employees and Company Boards want the same thing – they want clarity around what you expect from employees, want feedback on how it is going from an outcomes perspective and want to know the steps you will take to fix it, in case outcomes are less than expected.

Most companies use a Balanced Scorecard approach whereby specific performance metrics in key performance or result areas from company strategies are used to set and monitor performance expectations into the company from the most senior roles to the most junior roles.

The benefits of this approach are numerous… for one you can get a good understanding of how well things are going with implementing your strategies in the company, you can make sure that all the initiatives being worked on relate to the strategy, identify organizational units or individual where things are going well or not so well – which mean you can provide support in the form of training for example. A balanced scorecard also helps to ensure you have organizational alignment where it is clear to every employee how he/she impacts the overall results of the company. And when an employee sees his or her own goals, it is easy for him/her to understand what exactly the company strategy and desired outcomes are about in a practical way.

Strategic Performance Areas

Having a cheat-sheet to get started may be useful…Performance Indicators can be set in many different areas. This list shows a few examples which may be handy as you read your own strategy and select the top performance areas that need to be impacted in your upcoming performance period.

In most cases 5 key performance areas would be chosen to balance current operations, growth goals, keeping current stakeholders satisfied and continuing to improve and innovate. e.g: 1) Financial outcome(s), 2) Quality outcome(s), 3) Customer satisfaction outcome(s), 4) Improving upon performance and efficiencies of previous years, and 5) Employee (leaders/specialists?) development and or retention outcomes.

Example

Let’s look at some specific KPIs and how they may translate into performance expectations into the organization. From high organizational levels deeper into the organization the goals become more specific to an individuals’ tasks and activities. In contrast, the goals of managers are typically focused on their ability to influence and lead the outcomes of teams or groups reporting into him or her. Managers ensure that things happen while in most cases the deeper you go into the organization, the more you see performance goals are based on the individual’s efforts to achieve an outcome.

Performance goals typically come in various types of outcomes based on how your KPI would require the right response to meet the company strategy.

Setting Expectations

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Cascading goals

Starting with the company’s strategy (at the highest level) the CEO or executive team can easily identify the top 4 to 7 Performance Areas where focus is needed to drive outcomes needed in the coming year. From there the heads of functions or organizational units can identify what that means for each of their organizations. Then performance goals for each organizational unit manager can be determined . And the same process cascades down until performance goals have been set for everyone at the company. All of the goals finally relate to a big-picture framework of KPIs at the top level of the organization.

Most performance expectations are set as SMART goals and each employee would typically end up with between 3 and 7 (max) performance goals for the year.

The graphic below shows how at individual level the goal may be a specific part of the overall KPI but when it is all “rolled-up” organizationally the full organizational KPI can be achieved in full by all employees contributing to the desired outcome. Not every organization group or unit might support every high-level KPI. Think for example of an organizational unit responsible for the upkeep of facilities, there may not be direct goals that relate to revenue growth for that group.

Note Goal E: It does not relegate to a KPI at the broader organizational level. This happens often – for example that a functional organization has a specific focus which may not directly relate to the KPIs that were set on a company-wide basis. That could be something like finalize implementation of a digital tool which enables better efficiency the following year. If there are no high-level KPIs related to improving on existing performance/efficiency, Goal E would not have a direct link to the overall high-level KPIs set. For this reason, it is important to set the high-level KPIs in a broad and balanced way to ensure that most goals that would be important at a level deeper into the organization to maintain or improve a specific level of efficiency or service delivery can be matched with the high-level need for renewal or continuous improvement. Some companies do not think broader than revenue or growth goals.

Interim feedback

It is important for managers to monitor outcomes along the way – do not wait until the end of the year to discover that outcomes were not trending in the right direction. Spotting issues or delays early means you can rectify or influence rectification of the situation. Give employees feedback throughout the year – make them aware of outcomes that deviate from desired outcomes, train and coach them to improve outcomes that they are responsible for and give them on-the-job coaching and support when they are inexperienced in specific areas. Every outcome matters and contributes to the overall outcome.

Learning

Evaluating outcomes and discussing those with employees is the next step. This step also includes looking at relative performance outcomes among various organizational units and overall outcomes. This can lead to an improved understanding of where further improvements may be needed. Improvements can range from awareness training, making more information available, helping to upskill or cross-skill employees in various areas. It may also lead to understand misalignment with what suppliers can or are delivering or misalignment between customer expectations and what operations is able to deliver right now.

Use what you learn from discussing performance outcomes to influence future performance outcomes and support that might be needed for the next year.

In the final outcome of the performance period you will have individual scores that relate to individual performance. When you look one level higher you see the contributions of various employees in the same organizational unit and how each of them did on their own performance goals. If the goals were created to be an exact match – between goals set for the manager and those set for those reporting to the manager – the aggregate outcome of the team would determine the manager’s score.

Looking at the organization, it is easy to pinpoint where contributions by individuals, teams, managers may not have reached expected results in the outcomes.
Understanding why this occurred would help learning from the past and improving going forward. Answering questions like:
  • Knowing what we know now, were these realistic expectations or do we need to first solve some key issues before we can make more progress in this area?
  • Do people need more training to make sure they are able to perform in new areas or with new outcomes (such as new markets or types of customers)?
  • Is this area so specialized that we need to hire some people with the specialized knowledge or experience that this team needs?

Most companies are on a learning path when it comes to their own performance management process and approach. If you are just starting, do expect it to be a journey and make sure you allow space for reviewing, reflecting and learning as you go. It may lead you to make adjustments to your strategy or the way the organization is structured, to name but a few ways that on-going organizational learning can benefit the greater organization.

Ultimately the goal of your performance management approach is to measure how much the efforts of those in the organization are helping you achieve your goals as a company, where are hidden barriers to succeeding with your organizational strategies and where are opportunities to accelerate results if you leverage great ideas and tools developed in any part of the organization. This makes your company sustainable into the future. Viable today and into the future by continuously evolving, learning and innovating without losing focus of the basic outcomes needed to drive profitability on an on-going basis.

Linking Performance Reviews and Merit Increases


Employee performance outcomes is one important aspect to be reviewed when it comes to considering merit increases. It is not the only consideration though. Overall merit increase budgets, inflation, changes in external benchmarks for specific roles, current compensation ratios etc. are all additional elements which would impact actual merit increases per department and employee.

The resource I have here ties a specific overall individual performance review score to a specific range of possible merit increases. Some managers require a highly structured and fixed process for determining % changes and this is one way to create one. One should however also be sure to consider the other aspects mentioned above: budget for increases that year, company performance in the last year (overall), the market value of specific roles (roles that are in high demand). Compensation has a powerful influence on employee engagement and retention, but it is not the only one. Employees also care about career growth, flexible benefits and being helped to develop further.

I would caution anyone to consider unintended outcomes when attempting to standardize and establish rigid structures for considering individual performance and linking that in a fixed way to merit increase percentages. While intentions may be good: to reward your best performers for their contributions and to ensure those with lesser performance improve or leave the company, a process that is overly structured could fail to accomplish that intention.

The approach shared above – see download link – indicates one way in which a group has established a direct link tying the performance review process directly to the merit increase process. This example does not take into account some of the considerations highlighted above when it comes to selecting the actual increase percentage and I chose to share this resource anyway, because it does happen that HR is asked for a process like the attached on a regular basis and I want to make an example available to you if you find yourself in that situation.

I do suggest you consider ways to incorporate the other aspects as outlined above when you finalize your proposal to implement a more structured approach to tie performance management to compensation review.

My main advice is to think it through carefully to ensure your good intentions have the best chance of being reinforced by your performance management process and pay-for-performance approach . And I would also add that you should remain flexible in working with your documented process. Be ready and willing to adjust and update it as you gather input about how successful your process is in driving desired outcomes – results and behavior that you and the executives would like to see in your pool of employees.

Performance Management – setting up the annual process


final perf imp

The HR function manages a few processes which take place at various points over a 12-month period. Think of the annual salary reviews, annual training needs analysis, bonus calculations and performance management processes.

It is important to managers to have a clear understanding of each of these processes and when they take place throughout the year. If you set all of these processes on a regular annual schedule it helps managers to correctly anticipate next steps in processes and provide input required in a timely manner.

The process

This generic performance management process schedule I am sharing with you (see download option below) shows the various basic steps that would need to be followed over a 12 month period. There are references to the link with a salary/compensation review process and also the link with identifying and reviewing individual development needs and progress along achieving improvement goals.

Download a copy below

Implementing a process like this would need a change management plan if your organization has never done anything like this before. Even if you have had some form of a performance management process in place, but would now like to expand on it to include some of the elements shown in the attachment, a change management plan would be recommended. Before you start you would of course ensure that the manager/director, who is accountable for the performance management process at your organization, is aligned with your ideas and suggestions and strongly supports the direction you would like to take.

The benefits of having a documented process for Performance Management are:
  • It is easy for HR to ensure new employees, current employees, new supervisors and existing managers understand the process and their role in the process.
  • It is a way to help stakeholders understand and then prepare for the input and actions they need to complete in order to support the process.
  • Linked to a balanced score card, the process can make it clear to individuals/departments how they collectively and as individuals support the attainment of larger organizational performance goals.
  • Knowing that there are check-in moments for feedback and discussion moments around performance expectations, progress and development needs and activities can be a strong way to reinforce employee engagement. Many employees tend to consider other employment options when they feel that their development and career progression goals are not being met by their current employer.

This list is not exhaustive. For more information about benefits see links like Benefits of performance management or Importance of Performance Management

Preparing to give employee feedback – Template


feedback

Giving and receiving feedback especially around undesired behavior can be a daunting task. Not only is it typically hard for employees to hear corrective feedback, but it is also typically hard for managers and supervisors to give that kind of feedback. It nevertheless remains an important part of ensuring that performance expectations are set and met.

This template helps a manager or supervisor think through the important aspects of giving feedback to an employee and helps to plan and prepare for the actual feedback meeting.

The template and approach also helps plan positive feedback to employees. This aspect is often neglected, but equally valuable in helping employees understand what specific actions and communications are valued and should be continued.

Some reminders:

  • Never give important feedback via an email or sending this worksheet to the employee. It should always be done in person or at least through a phone or video call. – if an in-person meeting is not possible.
  • The feedback should be given as soon as possible after the event to minimize surprises at the structured annual performance feedback meetings and to ensure the employee still has a good recollection of the situation or event that took place.
  • Do allow the employee to respond once you have shared the feedback to ensure that your message is understood by the employee and to allow you to understand any nuances to the situation which you may not have been aware of.
  • It is always a good idea to agree on a check-in moment at some time in the future. This is an opportunity to see if the employee may have further questions or comments at that time or perhaps he or she has been working on improving a particular skill related to the feedback you had shared and perhaps he or she could have some successes to share with you!

Sharing feedback with an employee, when it is not positive, can be tough to execute even with a tool like this. It depends a lot on your own style for managing conflict and whether you prefer to avoid conflict or situations where people may be upset with you. Take some time to learn more about your own conflict management style if giving feedback to employees remains a challenge for you even when you have used the template to prepare for the conversation.

Salary Review Template


salary review2

Most companies have an annual compensation review process where the salaries and other payments to employees are compared to internal and external benchmarks and adjustments are proposed, approved and implemented.

Many HR departments of larger companies have access to an online tool for salary reviews, but many smaller companies prefer to use spreadsheets like the one I am sharing with you today.

The basic principles for using this tool:

  •  You need to make sure to retain employees and avoid employee turnover by reviewing his or her salary on a regular basis. Typically once per year.
  • Employees need feedback regarding job performance expectations and also their own performance delivered against the expectations. The compensation they receive should reflect not only the market value of the work they do for you, but also their own level of delivery against expectations for that role. Performance which exceeded your expectations deserves to be rewarded. You could do it as a discretionary bonus or you could review the person’s annual salary and consider an increase.
  • Some employees bring increase requests to their bosses on a regular basis while others may just be waiting for their bosses to realize how much effort they put in and how many good results they are achieving. Without a solid salary review process which is run uniformly on an annual basis (at least) you could run the risk of not treating all of your employees in the same fair manner when it comes to salary reviews. It could happen that only those employees requesting regular increases are receiving them while those who do not ask, do not.
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