As an organizational behavior guy, it pleases me to see a shift towards the importance of defining critical behaviors within the organization that lead to successful results.
Earlier this week, I was reading the recent report from the SHRM Foundation on “Building A High-Performance Culture: A Fresh Look at Performance Management”. In the report, they stressed the importance of first defining the behaviors that are important to performance in your organization, and then designing the entire performance system around developing and communicating expectations concerning the behaviors and implementing reinforcing mechanisms for those behaviors.
Then yesterday, I was on a webconference presented by my friend Paul Hebert on designing effective incentive programs. The money quote from Paul:
A good incentive program involes particants achieving goals focused on many behaviors rewarded quickly in small amounts over time accompanied by genuine recognition and demonstratable progress toward the goal
Again, the emphasis is on behaviors. So why is this?
Research has shown that the best performance comes from defining, emphasizing, and reinforcing the behaviors that are important to the organization. Just as with training programs, which require constant reinforcement after the training in order to be successfully implemented and applied in the organization, the same goes for performance management.
Just as we should work with our children to demonstrate particular behaviors (be polite, listen to your teacher, be respectful to others, etc.), managers and leaders, including HR, need to ensure that your performance management system revolves around behaviors, not results. A focus on results could lead to not only poor performance, but also unethical behavior.
By switching the focus on the behaviors that lead to successful results, the performance management system can be designed to constantly emphasize and reinforce the desired behaviors, thus create a strong performance based culture. It is critical to take the time to really understand what behaviors are desirable and impact organizational results, and then constantly reinforce those behaviors through constant communication and feedback. Once employees understand the behaviors that are important to both the organization and the individual being successful, and how that leads to the desired result, a stronger culture of understanding and mutually beneficial goals will develop.
What approach has your organization taken towards performance management? Is it designed to reinforce and emphasize the end results, or is it designed to reinforce and emphasize critical behaviors?