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Performance Management and Employee Engagement: A winning combination

Why one of the most impactful employee engagement drivers is performance management

Engagement drives Performance

Performance management and employee engagement are extricably linked. High-performing employees are a product of effective engagement practices. And engaged employees are a product of effective management.

 

If you look at engagement and performance individually, this becomes even more clear. Engaged workers can be defined as people who are enthusiastic about their work and their company. This enthusiasm translates into employees who are high performing, productive workers who are eager to stay at the company.

In fact, a recent report from Harvard Business Review found that one of the most impactful employee engagement drivers is performance management - engagement drivers include:

- recognition

- communication

- training and development

- business goals

- team goals

- employee goals

- performance assessment.

Performance management leads to more engaged employees, while more engaged employees have higher performance - which also makes them more engaged, which makes them happier to connect with performance management activities such as check-ins, feedback, and so on.

It’s an infinite loop.

How can companies get this right?

Successfully combining Performance and Engagement can be difficult. It’s hard for companies to get this right. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace last year, 85% of employees around the world are not engaged, or actively disengaged at work. Sometimes, you get situations like these:

  • Employees feel indifferent to the company because it seems like the company is indifferent to them
  • Managers are not making time or effort for employees, meaning even if they have check-ins or give feedback, employees feel left in the dark
  • Managers and employees alike are not getting enough feedback to improve their performance
  • Goals are too low - so the employee feels bored; or they’re too high - so the employee feels like they’re drowning
  • Employees don’t understand how their work is related to the company’s growth and revenue

An indifferent employee has lower performance, while not enough feedback means engagement will weaken.There’s just so many ways that the loop can make or break a company culture. While the loop can be strong and beneficial to the company, it needs constant care to avoid situations like the above.

Qualitative vs Quantitative

There are two types of data: qualitative data (stories), and quantitative data (numbers). You need both to get the clearest sense of how engaged your employees are. Understanding engagement is all about analysing an individual employees’ journey - their stories as told during 1:1s, the feedback they get from their managers and coworkers and their marked changes at every performance review.    This qualitative data captures the narrative that an employee is following over the course of their time at the company - whether they’re growing into stronger and stronger performers, or getting set back by little things, or slowly improving at their own pace. Gathered together in a performance management system, their performance management data has a very specific story to tell around an employee’s level of engagement.

On its own, performance management systems provide a lot of information for managers, employees, and leaders to read and follow, but certain stories around one individual can unfairly define the narrative for the whole company. One employee might be a high performer, but their team doesn’t benefit or a team might be working really well together, but that isn’t reflected in their individual performance evaluations.

That’s where an engagement survey comes in - it can tell you definitively how employees are feeling, across dozens of categories, such as tenure, department, manager, gender, and more. But without individual data as well, it’s very easy to make sweeping conclusions even if you know correlation doesn’t mean causation.

With just performance data, you’ll have a lot of content, but you’ll only see the patterns of individuals, not of whole teams or companies, which you can with engagement surveys. And with just engagement surveys, you won’t have enough context for each data point you get. With both, you get exactly the kind of data to know how to keep top performers engaged, and find out how to get low performers to improve.

For example, we’ve all seen countless cases that reaffirm the dictum, “Employees don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” Based on that, it might be good to look at how engaged employees are by manager, by the numbers:

As you can see here, Mary Meeker’s team’s engagement levels are low. They’re not all at danger levels, but it’s definitely pretty stark in comparison to Martin’s team’s numbers.

At first, it seems clear: Mary is just a bad manager. But you also know those numbers aren’t the whole story. It might also be time to reassess how you’re measuring the performance of that whole department. Maybe the unfair pressure is getting to Mary and her team is suffering as well. That’s why you need the qualitative data of performance management. You need to look at their last performance review (both to and from employees). Check out the notes from their 1:1s.

Finally, look at what kind of feedback they’re giving to, and getting from, employees. Talk to Mary, and talk to her team.

Connecting Performance and Engagement Data

By measuring engagement across performance levels, you’re able to get a multidimensional look at how your employees are feeling. You’ll be able to spot any problems - both present and future - immediately. Such a chart also helps you prioritise where you need to put your attention. It’s all good to focus on managing your low performers better, but what about your top performers - could they be disengaged?

By combining performance and engagement results, you will see if top performers are feeling very disengaged. With this data it will become evident if they might be planning to jump ship. Any employee leaving can cost your company, but a top performer leaving is much worse. Seeing a top performer leave can tip the scales of commitment, purpose, and trust your employees have in the company.

All these situations have one thing in common: they’re easy to miss, but simple to fix.

With performance and engagement together, you’re able to spot problems before they really even become problems. Instead, you’re able to take a proactive stance on your company’s culture, for the good of your employees, your company, and your company’s overall productivity.

How can Frankli help?

Please send us an email and we will set up a call to demo our platform - hello@frankli.io

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