Performance Management Frameworks

There is no doubt that the traditional performance review has, in many organisations, become a largely unsatisfactory process for all involved.  Does that mean the concept itself is flawed or is it more that the execution, like many other commonly adopted business processes, has simply been diluted over many years of application – where the benefits and principles of the original concept have been lost and replaced by custom and practice handed down and often diluted over the years since inception?

Our feeling, having worked with dozens of organisations on overhauling their old, unsatisfactory and, in some cases quite toxic, processes is that employers must first revisit the reasons for having a ‘performance management process in the first place.

Individual Delivery Planning

Historically speaking, performance appraisals were used to justify salary decisions.  We’ve come a long way since the thinking that underpinned the idea; that pay was the main driver of performance and motivation.  In many cases however our client’s understanding may have moved on but their internal processes haven’t kept up.

Our 4-Dimensions model demonstrates how clarity of purpose, providing ongoing, meaningful feedback on progress towards one’s objectives and the opportunity for personal and professional development have a critical impact on performance and engagement more generally – as of course does feeling fairly rewarded for one’s contribution.

That said then, is there a need for formal performance management and appraisal?  In the same way that your organisation wouldn’t consider operating without a clearly established business plan, we believe the same should be true for each employee.

For a greater insight into the drivers of employee engagement click below for further reading.

4-Dimensions of Employee Engagement

We refer to it as ‘Individual Delivery Planning’ where the aim is to address both the business needs and ensure relevance and value at a personal level.  Our approach is based on building a flexible performance management framework incorporating a set of value-adding conversations summarised below.

Focus Point

Focus Point

A key objective must be ensuring clarity in expectations and focus on today’s priorities; what really matters and why?  At this stage, you should also set out any core and individual responsibilities for each employee in order to ensure they understand their contribution to organisational success

Check Point

Check Point

People do need to feel that our efforts are making a difference.  Regular, informal progress-related discussions provide this feedback along with an opportunity to address barriers to success.  Priorities can change at any time and so the check-point conversations can also lead to a refocus on new activities or priorities in real-time.



A structured approach to establishing personal development plans ensures that individuals can satisfy their own desire for advancement whilst aligning to the capability needs of the organisation.



Taking time to step back from the day-to-day now and again provides a valuable opportunity for everyone to learn from experience, whether the outcomes have been positive or not quite what was expected. What should we stop doing, start doing or change in the way we’re approaching our work?

Supported by the Right Tools

Whilst the focus of our proposed approach is on driving interaction and discussion between leaders and their teams, technology and tools can certainly help provide structure and efficiency to the process.

Rather than ditching formality altogether, templates can be used to capture the critical inputs & outputs of the discussions – no more and no less.  Without capturing the key aspects for future reference we’d likely lose continuity and risk discussions that go around in circles – diluting form the underlying objective of driving successful outcomes against business priorities, in other words “the reason we employ people in the first place”.

For us, the role of technology should be to support workflow and provide prompts for those involved – lightweight, cloud-based solutions are all that’s required.

Software that attempts to eliminate the human input (like writing your KPIs for you and removing in person interaction) only dilutes the impact of what we’re trying to achieve – connecting colleagues and helping progress towards achieving our goals.

The selected tools will also need to accommodate any performance rating scale that you might have developed.  Of course, determining whether or not to include performance ratings and what they might mean is a whole art in and of itself!

Embracing Subjectivity

One of the most common complaints in performance management is the perception that a line manager has or will apply their own subjective analysis when completing the performance review process.

Objective measures are great when they are relevant and can be accurately measured.  They can also be destructive – driving a focus on how to outperform against a specific measure at the expense of long-term customer satisfaction and/or sustainable growth.

How though would you attempt to accurately and objectively measure whether someone has ‘done the right thing’?

We hired/appointed the best candidate to the manager role – shouldn’t their opinion count for something?  For example, think of soccer players – the coach is tasked with picking the best team and also developing the capability of every player in the squad.  Whilst absolute performance should be the ultimate test, a great coach will be able to see beyond that and consider the potential of the player to grow into a first-teamer in the future.

Similarly, if the employee’s performance is okay – yet the leaders assess behavioural issues below the surface – wouldn’t we want them to call this out?  If the leaders themselves fit the cultural mould, wouldn’t that reinforce even further the value of their opinion?

We believe the trick is to ensure that the leaders are themselves, genuine role models – if not, their subjective analysis is likely to prioritise behaviours that are disconnected from the desired culture of the organisation.

A key consideration on all this is to define the utility of the review in the first place.  If the outcome of the review influences variable pay decisions then clarity must be built-in in order to maximise the chances of the plan to act as an incentive for the employee (as opposed to being discounted given the vagary of what’s required to achieve the payout).

Ultimately, we need to make sure we don’t let subjectivity masquerade as objectivity OR to allow subjective discretion to arbitrarily overrule objective performance analysis.   Therein lies the path to dissatisfaction.

Focus on Adding Value

In summary then, our advice is to focus on practices that add-value to the working relationship between managers and their teams rather than those more likely to be divisive.  Some of the key things to consider when reviewing your current performance management are highlighted here.

  • Focus on team working “between the layers” – remember that the traditional ‘reviewer’ and ‘reviewee’ are on the same team and the process should not dilute this relationship; rather it should support them in working together to achieve their goals.
  • Ensure the HOW of performance is discussed and positive behaviour reinforced – in our time of fast-paced, ongoing change the way we approach our work is arguably more important than specific priorities we might have at any given time.
  • Reinvest some of the time in leadership development – having saved leaders from endless hours of paperwork, invest in their development.  The work experience for everyone in their spheres of influence can be improved, as can the quality and value of the performance-related conversations they have with their team members.

Knowing where to start with performance management is challenging – we’re here to help.

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