Positive performance management

What is positive performance management?

Positive performance management helps employees to identify their development needs and assist them in achieving their performance goals. It establishes role expectation, provides goal clarity, gives purpose and meaning, and aligns employees to organisational requirements. Positive performance management is a supportive framework that allows employees and managers to work together to develop and recognise performance achievements and opportunities.

Under section 25 of the Public Service Act 2008, there is an obligation for public service employment to be directed towards best practice human resource management, including through the application of positive performance management principles.

1. Positive performance management principles

Section 25A of the Public Service Act 2008 (PS Act) outlines the positive performance management principles to which the management of public service employees must be directed towards. They are:

  1. pro-actively managing the personal and professional development of public service employees with a view to continuously building expertise within the public service
  2. ensuring regular and constructive communication between public service managers and employees in relation to the matters stated in section 26 of the PS Act
  3. recognising the strengths, requirements and circumstances of individual employees and valuing their contributions
  4. recognising performance that meets or exceeds expectations
  5. providing opportunities and support to employees for improving performance
  6. continuously improving performance through the provision of training and development
  7. identifying at the earliest possible stage performance that does not meet expectations
  8. integrating the matters mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (g) into management practices and principles.

The directive relating to positive performance management provides information and detail about how the positive performance management principles are to be applied.

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, timely and constructive conversations with your employees about their performance and objectives.
  • Address unsatisfactory performance or conduct at the earliest opportunity.

3. Consider and plan your performance development agreement  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.
  • Consider the Performance development agreement template, which is designed to help employees and their managers have a guided and effective conversation about performance and development.
  • 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 for the team and 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 personal and professional development (that relate to required capabilities), and support with a development plan with a focus of building expertise, including through the provision of training and development.
  • 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 circumstances, environment, and priorities.
  • Recognise and reward high performance.
  • End sessions positively.

8. More information