Performance Management: What Do Employees Want?


In the business world, there is a huge amount of discussion around the future of employee performance management. At the current time, only 8% of companies report that their performance management process drives high levels of value, whilst 58% have said it is not an effective use of time 1. Specific criticisms have been aimed at methods which force rank employees, while literature elsewhere has argued that performance management conversations should be more future-focused.


The most recent 2015 CIPD survey has looked to consider the current practices, in addition to asking employees what they think is important in performance management. The findings help to highlight the gaps between current and desired employee performance management practices. While a lot of it may seem a little like déjà vu, it is worth repeating given the huge gaps between current and desired performance management practices.


Clear Objectives

The frustration with lack of clear objectives remains since 40% of respondents indicated that they do not have any objectives to work towards, despite 79% of individuals believing that performance feedback should provide clear objectives. Equally, over half of respondents believed it was important that the feedback linked personal contributions to wider organisational goals (though this seems to only happen 19% of the time). Long standing research from business psychology has found that employees who link their day-to-day operations with the organisation’s goals show greater productivity levels 2, but it seems that we are still unable to bridge this gap.


Future and Past Focus

Implicit in the concept of objective-setting is the idea that performance management is to some extent future-focused. Indeed, respondents were split down the middle by whether they believed the future or past should be the primary focus of performance discussions. Conversely, 85% of employees stated that their performance discussions are primarily past-focused. Solely focusing on previous performance may merely fuel excessive rumination over past events, whereas a future-focus can assure a productive reflection of past events. It may therefore be beneficial for performance management to shift to have a greater balance between past and future focus.


Balanced Feedback

Everyone will have strengths and development areas. If feedback only focuses on strengths, the employee may neglect their potential development areas, or worse, may become complacent, in turn stalling development. On the other hand, neglecting strengths may demoralise employees and may impact on well-being levels. It’s unsurprising therefore that 79% of respondents felt strongly that their feedback should be better balanced. Although this may seem to be common sense, only 34% of respondents reported that they currently receive balanced feedback, suggesting this may be another key area where performance management may need to focus in the future.


Overall, it’s clear that performance management should adapt to the needs of employees, with certain areas requiring greater changes than others. By changing the way it is carried out, organisation’s will undoubtedly reap the benefits of a more engaged and satisfied workplace.


So next time you’re conducting performance management in your organisation, make sure you think about three key considerations:

  1. Is it providing clear objectives?
  2. Is there a mix of future and past focus?
  3. Are people receiving balanced feedback?


1Barry, L., Garr, S. & Liakopoulos, A. (2014). Performance Management is Broken. Global Human Capital Trends 2014: Engaging the 21st Century Workforce. Harvard Business Review.

2Schiemann, W. (2006). People Equity: A New Paradigm for Measuring and Managing Human Capital. Human Resource Planning, 29(1).

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