Developing employee competence and confidence is one of the most critical aspects of high-performance management. And while technology and trends constantly come and go, the core principles of exceptional people management really don’t change all that much. What was true for great management a hundred or a thousand years ago is still pretty much true today. It is a careful balancing act of many elements, from communication skills and critical thinking to a deep understanding of the product and how to reach business objectives. Whether you’re a newbie at management or looking to take your abilities to the next level, all managers can benefit from this refresher on the most important human resource management tasks and the skills that they involve.
What Is High-Performance Management?
It’s been known now for over a century that there is a vital connection between people, management, and effectiveness; essentially, good management practices have a huge impact on productivity. The concept of performance management has changed over time, for example, with the work of Peter Drucker and his idea of management by objectives.
A key activity for performance management is the evaluation process, where employee productivity is assessed and reviewed with stakeholders as a way to encourage improvement. In many organizations, standard performance reviews occur every six months. What does high-performance management do differently? According to Michael Armstrong in “Armstrong’s Handbook of Performance Management”, high performance occurs when there is a constant cycle of activity, evaluation, and improvement. Through continuous review and enhancement, organizations can empower the effectiveness of employees.
Getting to that point is a matter of best practices. There are a set of functions that managers should undertake on a constant basis to stay engaged with employees and their experiences, which in turn ensure that employees remain aware of how they can be more effective.
Our Top 10 High-Performance Management Tips
Each manager has their own natural leadership style, and a conscientious manager will improve their leadership skills by tweaking their methods until they achieve just the right balance. However, all managers should try to master the 10 absolutely essential tasks and related skills for high performance, which we’ve explained below:
Run 1:1 Meetings
There are many reasons for managers to host a 1:1 meeting. It’s considered a best practice to have them regularly with immediate subordinates, just to keep your finger on the pulse of their development, and to listen to their viewpoints on how things are going. One-on-one meetings are also a good opportunity to discuss current challenges in a way that gives a single employee your undivided attention. This discussion format is also the greatly preferred method of delivering feedback and having difficult conversations (see below).
The hallmark of any productive 1:1 meeting is soft skills. During the meeting, managers should employ soft skills such as active listening and open-mindedness. It’s also vital to prepare for the meeting by looking at performance reviews as a way to discuss areas of improvement.
Hold Frequent Team Meetings
Are you an email lover, or a meeting lover? Everyone has their own people management skills, yet all managers should hold frequent team meetings.
One reason is to brainstorm. It’s been said that great entrepreneurs are actually just very effective at getting the most out of their teams. Putting all the talent together in one room (or Zoom) allows for the productive ping-pong of ideas.
Ensuring that everyone is on the same page is also a crucial management function. Holding a project kickoff meeting, or discussing progress related to a certain milestone, is a practical way to explain, troubleshoot, and refine initiatives.
If there’s one skill that makes for running efficient team meetings, its productivity. Organization and planning, time management, decision-making, and problem-solving all come into play. Setting a clear agenda, finding the right location, and following up is also important for seeing maximum benefits.
Assess and Evaluate Your Employees
Every organization should have an official employee assessment and evaluation program, and managers must play a vital role in it. They have direct knowledge of employee performance on an individual level; are responsible for reporting their results to HR; and are the ones discussing their analysis with the worker in question. For high performance goals, assessments should occur constantly.
Yet it’s a challenge for managers to assess employees on a consistent and fair basis. HR can step in here to teach managers about the essential elements of good evaluation techniques, which include:
- Targets that can be numerically measured
- Avoiding bias, perhaps through gathering opinions of various stakeholders
- Detailed evaluation processes and documentation
- Consistently using the same criteria for each employee and over time
- Concrete and actionable recommendations
Maintain a Routine of Feedback Meetings and Tough Conversations
This is one of the most difficult skills for a manager to master. Employees hate receiving – and managers hate giving – negative feedback. Making the assessment and evaluation process into something constructive is a challenge, but that’s where managerial skills come in.
According to a Gallup analysis of high-performing teams, effective assessment and evaluation methods should focus on:
- Achievements – putting a positive spin on an employee’s efforts can be promoted through training in empathy skills
- Fairness and accuracy – DEIB courses are an ideal means to increase a manager’s awareness of unconscious biases
- Access to developmental resources – organizations that engage in continuous development are ideally set up to handle L&D requests on a regular basis
L&D is particularly valuable when it comes to having difficult conversations. To avoid these even before they are needed, managers should consider regular feedback sessions, along with developmental recommendations for the employee. If such steps don’t help to improve performance, a manager can honestly document all the previous attempts to support the worker and cite those during the conversation.
In addition, making the best out of a tough situation is more likely when the meeting has a goal; the two sides brainstorm to create a solution, and the manager uses their listening skills extensively. When it looks like there will be a negative outcome, managers should still exercise empathy and try to convince the employee to participate in an exit interview, which the manager should attend.
Make Goal Setting a Team Effort
It’s one thing to decide on objectives for yourself, and entirely something else to do so for others. For this reason, frequently setting goals in cooperation with the people on your team helps to avoid:
- Scheduling conflicts
- Overlap with tasks from other managers
On the positive side, people appreciate it when they are consulted before being committed. This feeling will be even more apparent when goals are linked to rewards.
To make the goal-setting process as successful as possible, managers can turn to models like SMART, which provide a guide for assessing the practicality of goals. Plus, don’t forget to align goals with company objectives, and review/change them as the project continues.
Whether it’s figuring out ROI or being part of an employee evaluation initiative, measurement is one of the most common responsibilities of managers. The goal of any measurement process is to give an idea of value, which is not always just a matter of numbers.
For example, an employee may not have hit their production target for the month, but perhaps that’s because they were busy teaching some new hires about best practices.
So any measurement process should include both qualitative and quantitative metrics. HR should get involved to explain each. Numerical measures can be complicated, so these methods need a careful breakdown. On the other hand, subjective assessments can be biased, and it’s up to HR to educate employees on areas of weakness that might be particular to the individual manager.
Focus on Outcomes, Not Inputs
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is important for all organizations to pursue. Managers are, in many ways, on the front line when it comes to reporting the success of CSR initiatives. But doing this properly is complex.
Managers should focus on outcomes, not inputs. For example, it’s more important to report on the number of meals served instead of employee hours spent. For inspiration, managers can look to what’s going on at other companies with great CSR projects, such as UPS and Timberland. And finally, getting feedback from all stakeholders is vital to make sure that a maximum number of interests are served.
Hire the Right Talent the Right Way
HR often takes the lead here, but the main stakeholder in any hiring decision is usually the manager. Note that hiring is not a constant process in most companies. However, to set up an organization to achieve high performance, managers must do their part to recruit the best possible “raw material”. To make an optimal decision, managers should remember the following:
- See hiring as an opportunity – look for someone who can probably do better than the person they are replacing
- Look for fans – the candidate should know about your organization, but also be able to explain why they specifically want to work there
- Sell your company – don’t forget that candidates also need to make a choice, and highlighting why you love your job might be an important factor for them
- Develop personality insight – not every charming person makes a great employee, and not every shy candidate stays that way; look for hints as to how they will actually contribute
Delegate to the Best Person
Speaking of personality insight, proper delegation depends on finding the right person for the task. Thanks to other skills like assessment and measurement, a manager should have a good idea of the talents of his or her team, and choose the employee whose past accomplishments suggest that they can do this job as well.
To help them out, it’s a good idea for managers to list the goals and parameters of the task. Whenever necessary, the employee must be given the necessary resources. Finally, make sure to let the ‘delegate’ know of the rewards that their responsibility will bring. During the process, managers should frequently check the performance of the delegates and advise them when necessary.
Manage Resources and Tasks Wisely
These two managerial skills go hand in hand. To lead any task, you need resources.
Coordinating everything, finishing on time, and not going over budget are serious challenges. Luckily, there are various kinds of software to support managers in handling tasks and resources. But the most critical element of any project is the skills that employees contribute. There are four skill considerations that any manager needs to continuously review for resource and task management:
- Availability – what skills does your team have that are relevant? Is outside help or upskilling necessary?
- Utilization – what are your team’s other commitments, and are they being handled properly?
- Capacity – can your team do the job, within realistic limits?
- Prioritization – who does what when?
Build High-Performance Skills with GrowthSpace
Nobody said that being a manager is easy. But what should be easy is enabling the L&D programs that lead to greater achievements. Especially for large companies, that can be a tough job. Even here, we’ve listed ten core tasks and skills for managers to enhance–and that’s a lot of learning.
With GrowthSpace, organizations of any size can scale up L&D initiatives that provide precisely the skills that managers need in order for them, and their companies, to reach essential goals. Learn why GrowthSpace is one of the top talent development solutions for successful organizations today.