Leadership | UK Performance Management Report 2019: The conundrum of the manager-coach

UK Performance Management Report 2019: The conundrum of the manager-coach

Our UK Performance Management Reports 2019 is now live. We asked HR leaders, people managers and employees a series of questions so we could understand how performance management works in the UK.

One of the questions we didn’t ask outright (but wanted to understand nonetheless) was this: who is responsible for performance management?

It sounds like a rhetorical question. The answer depends, to a large extent, on the purpose of performance management in your organisation. If it’s based on pay, or ranking, or succession planning, it’s a process that serves HR. If it’s developing performance (as was the case with only 39% of the HR leaders we surveyed) then it becomes a more democratic institution.

If performance management is to become performance development, it needs to be a process that serves everyone. It needs to start with the employee prompting their manager to have check-ins and to receive feedback. It needs to continue with the manager aware of their employee’s concerns, challenges, strengths and needs. HR gets the data they need. Senior management can see their people growing, developing and being rewarded for their efforts with greater responsibility, autonomy… you name it.

The astute among you will have noticed that a lot of responsibility falls on the manager in this scenario. They need to act as the hub both for the process of performance management - meetings and feedback - and the catalyst for development. Either they develop the employee directly or they marshall other resources to make that training happen. A manager needs the capability and desire - and capacity - to coach their team. Without this fulcrum, the system fails.

This is where the data in our report really starts to bring the story to life. On the one hand, almost every HR leader (more than 83%, in fact) told us that they provide training for managers on how to have better performance conversations. Even more managers (92.2%) said they felt equipped or trained to have these conversations with their teams. And yet 40% of HR people said the reason these conversations weren’t happening was because managers don’t have the skills they need.

Something’s not quite right there.

Managers often - if not always - receive their promotions because of expertise. But many of the behaviours which marked the manager for promotion become redundant once she’s a manager. Organisations need great managers. But what they need, even more, is people with the time to be great managers. And, of course, they need to want to do it.

People may not want to manage. Employees are complicated, messy, nuanced things. They take time to understand. They need care and attention. And plenty of businesses support managers in their lack of desire to be that coach. How else to explain the annual appraisal: a single yearly meeting to set goals and calibrate performance?

Managers know their priorities. At the moment, and all too often, performance management is not one of them.

Get the first comprehensive report on the state of performance management in the UK, right here. Download it now or discuss online with #ukpmreport2019.

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