While reading Howard Risher’s insightful article, Why We Need To Hold Managers Responsible For Employee Performance, I realized that many of us treat HR like the “single serving friends,” Tyler Durden calls people he meets on planes and uses only one time…

Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They’re single-serving friends. (from Fight Club).

All too often, management seeks HR’s help after things go bad or the decision is made. HR may be in charge of performance management, but do we involve them throughout the year, or just when we have to complete that annual paperwork? Mr. Risher, who seems imbued with old-fashioned common sense sums up the situation in many businesses:

I think it’s time for HR to take off the hair shirt. We have no reason for penance. For decades HR has been admonished for the problems with performance management (PM) when in reality HR has virtually no direct involvement in the day-to-day management of performance. It’s a system or tool that is used by managers and supervisors. The problems are largely the ineffectiveness of managers in their role as supervisors. HR’s role in performance management is limited; it keeps the personnel records, provides training, keeps track of scheduled reviews, and when problems arise, looks at the pattern of ratings and the documentation. It’s similar to the role of budget director – but a difference is that when PM problems surface it’s the system and HR, far more than the managers, that are somehow responsible. CONTINUE READING AT TLNT.

Risher later points out the core problems:

We know what the core problems are – inadequate feedback and inflated ratings. My experience tells me it’s a vicious cycle; manager’s know there is a problem, are uncomfortable with what’s expected of them, and opt to spend their time on tasks/roles they find more satisfying. The pattern starts. But, this is part of a broader problem. Too many managers and supervisors were promoted to supervisory roles because of their technical skills or seniority. Their training is inadequate and they have not developed the people skills to be effective as supervisors. It’s exacerbated when managers at higher levels – presumably the role models – fail to demonstrate effective supervisory behaviors. Furthermore, reward systems rarely reinforce the behaviors known to be important.

As in safety programs, the key factor to improve performance management is for leadership to get serious about the importance of this process, and not devalue performance management to a “once a year annoyance.”..

The solution starts with leaders who make human capital management a priority. Research has confirmed focusing on human capital management is a competitive advantage. The stories of the ‘best places to work’ also highlight its importance. Training is of course important but the behaviors have to be reinforced, and that makes the reward system a core consideration. The best managers need to be recognized and rewarded. The least effective need to be moved to non-supervisory roles. That sends a powerful message.

Risher has posted many fine discussions on performance management at TLNT, which contain practical observations and suggestions. (Howard Risher)

So quit treating the HR folks like “single serving friends,” and elevate the role of performance management to a year round aspect of your management.

Thanks to Howard Risher for this timely reminder.

Howard (Mavity)

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
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