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    December 2017

    Reviewing Your School's Performance Management System

    When independent schools don’t spend sufficient time managing employee performance, the termination of an unprepared staff or faculty member can lead to claims. The small close-knit community at many schools often lends itself to relaxed or even poor performance management practices. Effective and active management of employee goals promotes employee success and retention that benefits the institution. 


    What Is Performance Management?

    Performance management—the ongoing communication between a supervisor and employee to advance the organization’s strategic objectives—is the responsibility of every supervisor, not the human resources department. At the core of good performance management is regular feedback to employees. Don’t limit performance feedback to an annual review. Rather, to ensure that feedback motivates good work performance, provide it on a timely and responsive basis during weekly or monthly check-ins.


    Improving the Feedback Process

    The goal of any performance management system should be to provide each employee with feedback that is clear, constructive, meaningful, productive, and realistic. The best feedback allows for follow up by both the employee and the supervisor, and is well-documented. Before your institution can improve how it provides performance feedback, review and evaluate the current process. Is it: 

    • Formal or informal? A formal evaluation system should be in place, though this doesn’t mean supervisors should forego informal feedback as needed.
    • Used by all supervisors? All supervisors should participate in the school’s performance management system.
    • Merely looking at past performance, or also addressing future goals? It’s important for supervisors to provide feedback on actual performance as well as reminders and encouragement on future goals.
    • Providing support and identifying training needs? Effective performance management systems provide support through honest feedback, including positive re-enforcement, to  allow employees to achieve their goals. It is important to identify, and then provide, necessary training to enable employees to grow in their positions.
    • Centralized, or is each supervisor allowed to manage as they see fit? An institution’s human resources department is best positioned to provide supervisors with a framework and support for managing employee goals. 
    • Allowing supervisors to document feedback and coaching suggestions in a formalized way? Consider adopting a centralized repository for documenting supervisor feedback if your school doesn’t already use one.

    As you revise your employee performance management system, consider:

    • The goals of your performance management system. Is it merely to document performance in anticipation of the annual review, or to provide periodic, incremental opportunities for improvement? Each school will have different reasons for adopting or revising a system; align those reasons with your work culture.
    • Whether everyone is expected to use the system and how that expectation will be enforced. Be prepared to hold supervisors accountable in their own reviews if they don’t consistently use the implemented system.
    • What training is necessary to ensure changes are understood and adopted? Do supervisors need to enhance their own skills to better assist employees? Consider holding training sessions after implementing or changing the institution’s system. If supervisors are not adept at providing regular feedback, make training available so they can become more effective.
    • Will employment policies or handbooks require updating to reflect changes to the performance management system? Employment handbooks should align with any changes that are made to how and how often employees will be evaluated and should expect feedback.

    Good performance management systems provide regular opportunities for open communication about an employee’s work performance, allowing everyone to do their best work and diminish or eliminate surprises about an employee’s performance.


    By Heather A. Salko, senior risk management counsel


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