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Manage performance positively

What is positive performance management?

Positive performance management helps employees to identify their development needs and assist them in achieving their goals. It establishes role expectation, provides goal clarity, gives purpose and meaning, and aligns employees to organisational requirements. Positive performance management must have a clear purpose and be meaningful to employees. 

1. Principles for positive performance management

As a manager, you need to ensure your team’s performance and conduct aligns with expectations. You can do this by putting processes in place to monitor and review performance, both on a formal and informal basis, make time to discuss future career aspirations, and recognise good performance.

A manager should direct, mentor and coach:

  • Provide clear direction and make fair, transparent, and consistent decisions.
  • Make everyone aware of performance expectations.
  • Treat everyone fairly, equitably, respectfully, and consistently, avoiding favouritism or bias.
  • Address inappropriate behaviour promptly to avoid escalation.
  • Recognise when an employee shows signs of a problem affecting performance, which may be health-related, and refer them appropriately.
  • Lead by example and share experiences to provide guidance.
  • Ask questions that will help employees solve their issues and develop.
  • Encourage teamwork.

2. Link your conversations to the performance framework

  • Provide a thorough induction process and actively manage probation.
  • Make sure your employees are aware of the code of conduct, policies, procedures, and the standards and values they are expected to observe.
  • Ensure your employees know the required capabilities, responsibilities, and duties as outlined in the role description.
  • Engage in regular conversations with your employees about their performance and objectives.
  • Address unsatisfactory performance or conduct promptly.

3. Consider and plan your conversations

  • Refer to your agency’s strategic and business plans; ensure that you can explain how they relate to each other and to expected performance.
  • Plan and prepare. Role-play with a peer or your manager if required.
  • Encourage your employees to become actively involved in preparing for the meeting.
  • Schedule plenty of time. Never rush the process.
  • Encourage open communication and be aware of your body language.
  • Ask open-ended, reflective and directive questions, engage in active listening, and use assertive (not defensive) language.
  • Consider and respond appropriately to cultural differences.

4. Set clear performance expectations

  • Use specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timed (SMART) goals. These will develop fair, clear and specific performance expectations that you can measure against work objectives.
  • Work with your employee to ensure performance and behavioural objectives are agreed and encourage two-way feedback.
  • Focus on workplace behaviours and performance, not personality.

5. Provide specific feedback 

  • Assess your employees fairly and give specific, objective comments and examples of work and behaviour, and rate performance for what it is.
  • Encourage employee self-assessment.
  • Focus on performance strengths and positive (meaningful) feedback as well as areas for improvement and development.
  • Provide recognition for high performance and behaviour, and let employees know how much their work is valued and appreciated.
  • Support negative feedback with specific examples and suggestions on how to perform the role or task better in the future.
  • Avoid comparing your employee’s performance with that of another employee—unless there is a positive opportunity to learn or coach.
  • Avoid using subjective, vague or overly broad descriptions such as ‘poor attitude’ or ‘no initiative’.

6. Monitor and evaluate performance

  • Reach a shared understanding of what performance means at each of the stated levels and/or for each rating category (or alternative assessment system). Apply ratings (assessment) consistently across individuals.
  • Discuss and agree on appropriate monitoring methods.
  • Regularly review progress against expectations.
  • Document, document, document.

7. Be future focused and flexible

  • Discuss the employee’s long-term career aspirations.
  • Identify areas for development (that relate to required capabilities), and support with a development plan.
  • Resolve underperformance by jointly devising solutions and corrective action.
  • Set realistic timeframes for improvement and, if no improvement is seen, consult HR and consider formal processes.
  • Be flexible and adapt agreements in response to changing situations, environment, and priorities.
  • Recognise and reward high performance.
  • End sessions positively.

8. More information