As leaves turn color in northeast Pennsylvania,

my mind and the minds of my colleagues turn to the dreaded

[queue shark attack soundtrack here - followed by bloodcurdling screams...]

Annual performance review process.


Last year, I wrote about getting rid of that nine-square grid. Some companies have had the guts to take that on. Others are still trying to figure out how to define compensation for employees without boxing people in. And then there's the whole succession planning process and the input required to that. If we look at performance end-to-end --- the goal setting, the coaching, the evaluation, the development plans, the ranking, the identification of top talent -- it can be an overwhelming canvas on which to paint change.


But consider this:


Every employee simply needs to know if they are doing the right thing.


Simplify talent management


In our intellectual search for comprehending organization design and development, we can get way too caught up in creating the perfect environment for growth. At it's net sum, every single organization out there today started with one person's great idea and their own inspiration to drive themselves and others towards that goal. Somehow, the more successful we, as organizations, grow, the less connected we are to the goal. We know the reasons for that: lack of a clearly defined purpose, difficulty cascading the objectives, lack of communication, inadequate listening skills, selfish motives, lack of teamwork, inability to track and control progress.... but do we know what to do to fix it?


Personally, I am a highly self-motivated individual (most of the time). Yet, I have struggled in many positions with the basic question: "Am I doing the right thing?" At other times, I have believed that I clearly understood the corporate priority, but felt alone in my quest to meet it. All of which would lead me to wonder: if I'm confused, if others have a different perspective from me on the goals, how am I being evaluated personally?


Understand that employees just want to perform well


For the most part, the majority of employees really just want to do a good job. They want to feel good about themselves and about the team with whom they work, the organization of which they are a part. If we assume that we've hired people that really care about doing a good job, then, how would you approach the dreaded performance evaluation process?


I'm afraid there's no avoiding the need to ...... T A L K.


One clear objective: Why are we in business?


I like to "dumb it down" when I think about objectives. What is the top priority for the company; how does my organization support that; how do I support that. Tell me, Mr. Employer: why are we in business? And how do I contribute to that? Many companies will frame that in a beautiful vision - or a mission statement. If that's your preference, then that needs to be forefront to all your employees and tie to your corporate objectives. Keep it simple.


Obviously, your organization has other objectives: reducing costs; growing certain lines of business, creating new opportunities. Those critical objectives should be part of goal setting too. And then everyone from top down should know those are the objectives. But bottom line - what motivates your staff will need to be a non-grandiose and clear statement of no more than three to five key motivators, like "Reduce company expenses by x%; Create new business opportunities for growth; Increase customer satisfaction and retention by x%." You get the idea.


Measure the the quantitative and qualitative results


Traditionally, many companies have followed a process of measuring the "relative what and how" of performance. The problem is that we make the process of doing that so complex that the connection between meeting those simple corporate objectives gets disconnected from the way employees attempt to contribute to those objectives.


Evaluating your own and someone else's performance needs to be a discussion - maybe even a healthy debate. If employees clearly understand the one clear objective and are working towards that one clear objective, then it is imperative that we understand how they got there or who or what prevented them from achieving the goal.


Technology can help. But it's not all about the Technology.


SAP SuccessFactors Performance and Goals Management and Continuous Performance Management are designed with customer input and with the objective of making the entire process less dreadful. But we have to be willing to change our deeply ingrained beliefs, habits, processes that may be holding us back from actually applying a more meaningful process.


If you have ever whined about making it easier, longed for more meaningful conversations, wondered how to truly motivate yourself and others thru this HR season, then let's begin to change.


Let's get started on change.


Learn, collaborate, think it through ..... change. Performance management can be meaningful and simple. Let's get the conversation started.