Guest Post: Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of performance appraisal software. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen blog.
Employee performance management includes the set of HR driven processes and practices used to provide employees with direction and goals for their work, feedback and coaching on their performance, and development plans to expand their knowledge/skills/abilities or to address skill/performance gaps. In most organization, it takes the form of an annual performance appraisal or performance review process.
While performance appraisals are often viewed as an HR driven, administrative task that has little to do with Lean principles and practices, they can in fact both benefit from and contribute to a Lean culture. Here’s how.
How Can Lean Improve Your Performance Management Practices?
Over the years, I’ve seen many companies who have unnecessarily complex, inefficient or ineffective forms and processes. I think we all start out with good intentions, but somewhere along the road, we forget that employee performance management is fundamentally about effectively managing employees and fostering high performance. We create forms that are long and confusing to use. We don’t give managers and employees the information, tools and support they need to:
- effectively review employee performance; provide feedback and coaching
- establish new goals that are aligned with the organization’s
- assign development plans that develop skills, address gaps, career aspirations
If we apply our Lean principles to our employee performance management processes, we will undoubtedly find ways to improve them so they are more customer focused (with HR, managers and employees all being “customers” of the processes), and help to better align our workforce.
In some organization, that means removing unnecessary steps from the processes. In others it means reducing the complexity or number of forms. But it could also mean things like:
- standardizing the rating scales used
- standardizing the list and definitions of competencies
- providing comment helper text to make feedback on performance more consistent and descriptive
- enabling and supporting the alignment of individual employee goals with higher level organizational goals
- ensuring that development activities are assigned to address skill gaps
- linking development activities to the competencies they’re designed to develop
- ensuring competencies and goals align with employee’s job descriptions
As we know, Lean principles donâ€™t just help improve manufacturing processes, they can be used to improve almost any process.
How Can Your Employee Performance Management Practices Help Strengthen Your Lean Culture?
Cultivate Lean competencies
One of the central things you need to do to build a Lean culture is cultivate Lean competencies in all your employees. Your performance management process can help you do this by enabling you to identify the specific Lean competencies that are important to your organization as well as to each role. Managers can then evaluate each employee’s demonstration of these Lean competencies. By assigning Lean competencies to employees (via their performance appraisal form) you communicate the values you want upheld and the way in which you want work to be done. When performance gaps are identified, managers can assign their employees development plans to help address them.
Align Your Workforce with Lean Goals
Another way your performance management process can help strengthen your Lean culture is by helping you build organizational commitment to Lean principles through goal alignment. The organization can set a high level goal to adopt Lean practices in all areas, or in a particular area of the business. Employees can then be challenged to link their personal goals to this higher level organizational goal, and in this way, contribute to its achievement. Organizational goal alignment is one effective way to make everyone accountable for adopting Lean practices.
Foster a Culture of Learning
Fundamental to Lean principles is the concept of continual learning. Your employee performance management process can help you create a culture of learning by making employee development a central part of all performance discussions. For every competency and goal assigned to an employee, the manager and employee can be prompted to, if needed, create a development plan to help the employee address a skill gap or further expand and develop required knowledge, skills or experience. Linking learning to performance in this way, gives employees an all important context for their learning. But more powerfully, it allows you to then follow up and ensure that training has had a positive impact on performance ratings down the road.
Building a Lean organizational culture is an ongoing pursuit that requires the focus and efforts of everyone in the organization. By making use of your employee performance management processes, and leveraging Lean principles to improve these, you can help build a high performing workforce that is committed to a Lean culture.