Performance Management

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Do you want increased productivity, quality, response time, and customer and employee satisfaction in your organization? How about decreased turnover time? These important goals may seem unachievable if your organization and its staff are lacking motivation and direction. Change is inevitable, but it is only successful if you use the right management techniques to make it happen.

The Southern Maryland Regional Library Association faced many of these same challenges after its region-wide restructuring in 1995. Few to no evaluations had been performed within the library for years. With motivation among its employees at an all-time low and a new, unfamiliar organizational structure in place, Southern Maryland Regional Library Association faced difficulty in reaching its goals of improved quality of service and satisfaction. Responding to these concerns, Southern Maryland Regional Library Association developed and implemented a performance management model to drive the organization toward success.

Performance management is the heartbeat of any successful organization, whether private or public. It allows organizations to set expectations, and, through constant evaluation, create consistent results. Through a methodical approach, performance management makes these formerly unascertainable goals a reality.

Performance management consists of five key components. A strategy for improving the organization must be developed. The organization must identify and analyze each employee’s job descriptions and core duties to discover its employees’ and organization’s assets. Goals must be identified so that a consistent vision can be created. Competencies must be defined so that a comprehensive evaluation system may be developed. Then the development of a performance management process may begin.

To develop these components, it helps for those developing the performance management system (whether an employee committee, leadership, HR staff or all of the above) to focus on both the What and the How of performance. This yin and yang, complementary system pairs what is being done – core job duties and responsibilities and goals with how the work is being performed. What constitutes ideal performance at your organization? What competencies must all employees, regardless of title, embody? How can the organization foster and encourage those values?

Goals can be identified following the S.M.A.R.T. technique for finding what an organization needs and how each employee can contribute to these initiatives. This acronym stands for five qualities each goal should possess: goals should be specific, measurable, achievement, time-sensitive, and relevant. It’s true that each organization will have its own set of strategic goals and individual employee goals; nevertheless, following this model will ensure those goals are wise, realistic and achievable.

It’s important to note that while employee input during goal setting is crucial, overall development of an organization’s goals should take a top-down approach, cascading from the top of the organization to promote consistency, line of sight and a singular vision for contributing to the success of the overall organization. The organization’s leadership or Board should start by setting strategic priorities, through analysis of what the organization’s ultimate mission and goals are. Then department and employee goals may be established, followed by individual employee goals, all linked to the larger, overall goals.

When setting its goals, Southern Maryland Regional Library Association opted to begin with a strategic plan to create a unique and achievable vision for its libraries. They identified S.M.A.R.T. goals, such as identifying and implementing an emerging technology and developing an iPhone and Blackberry app by specific dates, to anticipate and identify library trends. Southern Maryland Regional Library Association integrated these goals directly into their strategic plan, involving a committed Board of Directors and staff in their deployment.

To achieve these objectives, Southern Maryland Regional Library Association promoted a balanced scorecard approach to ensure that their objectives fit into the performance management model. The association measured and monitored financial, customer, growth, and business process concerns to ensure that each area received equal amounts of attention. This performance management technique, new at its time, ensured that objectives could be met in a realistic and timely manner yet not cause neglect of other key areas.

Employees are the heart of performance management. In order to keep that heart beating, Southern Maryland Regional Library Association instituted several techniques to encourage greater productivity within the library. After looking at their strategic plan and keeping its core goals in mind, Southern Maryland Regional Library Association reviewed salaries and job descriptions for all employees and positions. They created a new, market-competitive pay scale, designed to reward increased performance with higher compensation and to enable the library to recruit and retain the highest performing staff. Staff training ensured that each employee possessed the skills required to meet successfully perform the duties required of their positions.

The library followed the performance management model’s three steps of planning, feedback and coaching and evaluating. Beginning by communicating and aligning expectations between management and staff, the library then set goals and made them known to employees. Supervisory staff monitored performance through regular evaluations and solicited and gave positive and negative feedback on how performance expectations were being met. Finally, the library focused on consistently evaluating employee performance in order to measure progress toward goals as well as directly addressing areas needing improvement.

A performance management system can create a cohesive organization with foresight and ability. The most important thing to remember about developing a performance management system is to be realistic, consistent, and passionate about helping staff, management, and the organization achieve its vision.

 

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