A Guide to Performance Planning: Part 3

Today’s post is a continuation of two earlier posts on performance planning. If you have not read those yet, I suggest starting here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

So, now that you’ve done your planning and had the conversation with your employee, you’re in the clear, right? Not so fast. As I mentioned earlier, the reason you are investing in a performance plan is because it is in everyone’s best interest for your employee to succeed. To maximize the probability this will happen, you both still have a lot of work to do. Today I’m going to address some best practices for managing an employee on a performance plan.

There are many different ways to structure a plan, and while I have my views on that, I’m going to focus here on best practices for approaching the follow through, rather than the format of the plan itself.

1) Document It

In many corporate settings, managers are required to document performance plans. Even if it is not required at your organization, I recommend you document performance plans. The first reason for this is to increase the effectiveness of communication between you and your employee.  You may think you have agreement in a meeting only to learn much later that your employee misunderstood you.  Having them review and sign off on their understanding of the document is a great way to guard against miscommunications.  Documenting it also ensures that everyone agrees on the expectations and the ways in which progress will be evaluated. Additionally, having a living document  is  an easy way to track progress and make the plan transparent.  No matter what format you choose, make sure it is written down and shared with all relevant parties.

2) Make it a Collaboration

While you as the manager are ultimately responsible for creating the plan and evaluating your employee, you should still approach performance planning as a partnership. After all, your employee is the one who has to actually change their behavior, so you need to make sure they understand the plan and that they believe it is attainable. Involving your employee in the creation of the plan has some other benefits too. Firstly, having them partner with you to create it gives them a sense of control over the process. This, in turn, will increase their motivation to follow the plan. Secondly, they likely understand the daily details of their role better than you do. Therefore, their input on what is reasonable and attainable is key to making sure your plan is realistic.

3) Check in regularly

One of the most common reasons why performance plans fail to result in actual behavioral shifts is that they become static documents that are abandoned soon after the initial feedback conversation. The plan should be a living document, used to track progress and document examples. That said, the plan itself cannot substitute for continued open conversations between the manager and the employee. Set regularly scheduled meetings, review the plan, and agree on progress or setbacks in an open and direct dialogue. This ensures that you are getting on the same page regularly, so that you won’t be surprised by a major disagreement at the end of the assessment time frame.

4) Get outside opinions

While you and the employee are the main owners of the plan, it is very helpful to get outside opinions on how much progress is being made. Just as you checked in with relevant co-workers to gather the initial feedback, you should continue to follow up with those people to get their views on the progress being made. This ensures objectivity, and it helps you to get a more accurate picture of your employee’s performance. Perhaps there are some aspects of the plan where they are excelling while they are still hitting major roadblocks in other areas. You might miss this if you don’t regularly get feedback from people who interact with your employee on different aspects of their role.

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