Performance boosted by prioritising development
Performance management researchers are heralding the rise of ‘coaching’ styles of management performance, as studies suggest that a focus on individual employees’ development and progression is key to boosting overall workplace performance and productivity.
Surveys suggest that managers who focus on getting to know and understand workers’ individual strengths and maintaining individual employee engagement are likely to see the biggest improvements in performance, as modern workers seemingly respond better to a mentoring style of leadership than a more fixed, traditional approach.
Employees list ongoing feedback, opportunities to learn and grow and accountability among their top needs from managers.
Despite this however, the majority of organisations appear to be lacking an emphasis on employees’ personal and professional development in their performance management strategies.
More than 8 in 10 employees report that they do not properly discuss their career progression with their manager, with 70% feeling that they are not adequately involved in setting their own objectives.
Without proper emphasis on personal objectives and career progression, workers are more likely to lose motivation, feel unable to achieve their performance aims and ultimately leave their role.
Currently, research indicates that 79% of workers feel that their performance is not managed in a way that motivates them
Schools urged to heed career progression needs
In education specifically, there is a clear need to develop more supportive managerial practices, with campaigners, the government and industry leaders all underlining the lack of career progression support available to teachers.
Despite education ministers noting a “growing culture” of professional development within teaching, figures show that annual school spending on CPD dropped by nearly 9% (£23.2m) in 2016-17, ending an upwards trend in professional development spending since 2011.
The Teacher Development Trust found that 4.5% of primary schools and 10.5% of secondary schools spent nothing at all on CPD in the 2016-17 school year.
The government has acted to boost mentorship by extending the induction period for new teachers to two years, in a move which policy makers hope will “strengthen” support for QTS and further career progression.
In a consultation report published last year, the Department for Education emphasised the need for schools to offer more career progression support to staff, noting that “career development pathways outside of traditional leadership and management routes are not always visible or readily available to all teachers.”
The report expressed concern for the “very little formal provision” of support for teachers between the stages of QTS and NPQ levels, as well as for longterm, expert teachers.
In particular however, the DfE urged schools to place more focus on the “needs of teachers in their third year of teaching and the few years after this,” stating:
“This group often make up the majority of a school’s workforce, but it is also the stage at which a growing number of teachers leave the profession, which suggests that there is more that can be done to respond to the needs of these teachers.”
By focusing on performance development and individual career progression, schools may therefore have a better chance of seeing a return on their overall investment in performance management and CPD — retaining more of the teachers hey have trained and harnessing the full potential of those in the workforce who are ready to expand their subject knowledge and take on more responsibilities within the school.
Creating a coaching relationship between managers and teachers
In order to provide an effective, development-focused, ‘coaching’ style of performance management, it is important that managers understand teachers’ individual strengths and challenges, so as to be aware of what is needed to both boost performance and ensure job satisfaction.
Performance discussions between managers and employees should be held frequently in order to both develop this insight and strengthen overall relations and teamwork between managers and teachers.
These meetings should be used both for feedback and to discuss the concrete steps to be taken towards teachers’ individual development and progression, with specific goals agreed collaboratively to ensure clear performance expectations.
By instating a routine of regular check-ins, in which small, specific goals are met and replaced by new, small goals on the path to broader, annual objectives, managers can better identify and resolve issues, boost performance and even improve employee job satisfaction.
Only one in five employees report strongly agreeing that they have talked to their manager in the past six months about steps to reach their goals, according to a recent survey.
More frequent input can have a significant impact on performance focus however, with those who have discussed their goal plan with their manager in the past six months 3.5 times more likely to be engaged.
Researchers suggest that this is because focusing on short term goals creates tangible, achievable aims for workers — making progress smaller and more easy to accomplish, boosting motivation and providing a fuller sense of what is needed to work towards more abstract, long-term goals.
As well as ensuring frequency, it is also of course important for the content of the meetings to be helpful — with clear feedback from managers leading to a 2.9 times more engaged workforce in one study.
Only 1 in 2 employees report feeling confident in knowing what is expected of them in terms of working towards their performance objectives on a daily basis, underlining the failure of many management strategies to communicate directly and effectively with workers on their aims.
To this end, the check-ins must also give the teacher the sense of being held genuinely accountable for their performance objectives.
Research shows that 60% of workers do not feel that their manager holds them accountable for their performance goals, despite accountability being linked to a 2.5x improvement in employee engagement.
In order to ensure that employees feel able to be held personally accountable for their performance goals, the objectives and feedback given must be realistic and understanding of the individual worker’s specific circumstances.
Only one in five workers strongly feel that their performance is measured by factors which are within their control — with this disjunct between objectives and ability linked to loss of motivation, low job satisfaction and poor performance gains.
In brief, managers should aim to provide effective feedback which is clear, points to achievable next steps, and ideally invites engagement and input from employees themselves.
By shifting from reliance on annual performance reviews towards a more regular, progress-oriented approach, managers can benefit not only individual employee performance and satisfaction, but also the overall performance of the organisation, with strengthened communication channels and a more motivated and focused work-force.