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5 September 2023

Meet Totara Perform: Build a performance management process from scratch

Jonny McAlister

Jonny McAlister

Head of Customer Experience

Create a performance management process that supports your business goals.

If you want to maintain, improve or bring greater consistency to performance levels within your organisation, putting in place an effective performance management process will be a major step towards achieving this.

In this article, we’re going to draw on the expertise of Totara — creators of performance management system Totara Perform — to guide you on how you can build a performance management process from scratch.

What is performance management?

First of all, it’s worth clarifying what we mean by performance management. Performance management is the measures you put in place to optimise performance levels across your business.

If we consider that productivity, profitability and other elements of performance that matter to your business are variable. They vary widely between different organisations and they can even vary within an organisation. Those macro performance measures are impacted on a micro level by the actions of everyone within an organisation.

“A robust performance management system is one that supports the fulfilment of the strategic objectives of an organisation. It is the structure that makes clear how you intend to optimise performance across the business.” says Tory Kerley, our Head of People Performance & Culture. “How can you create an environment in which everyone thrives and is enabled to fulfil their potential? How can you mitigate risks that threaten to undermine performance?”

“At Synergy Learning we have a remote-first, flexible and asynchronous working environment,” explains Tory. “Against that progressive backdrop, having robust systems to support optimum performance is essential. We thrive in a structure that recognises the overall goals of the business, the goals specific to different functions in it and the performance goals of every person in our team.”

Let’s explore how to create a performance management process that works for your organisation.

What are your performance management objectives?

You can’t manage performance effectively until you fully understand what you want to achieve. So what are your objectives?

You need to think about your organisation’s overarching mission, vision and priorities. That way, you can ensure that your performance management processes have at their core your business’ main goals.

You need to determine:

  • What is the organisation’s main purpose?
  • What are the business’ core values?
  • What objectives is the business working towards in the long term?
  • Which divisions, departments or teams have the most influence over those objectives?
  • Do these divisions, departments or teams have their own existing goals that support the organisational objectives?

Align performance management objectives with your organisation

The answers to the questions above should give you a starting point for your performance management processes. The next important stage is to secure buy-in across the organisation and start to create something that motivates all team members.

To do this:

  • Talk to senior managers and other key decision-makers to determine the changes that will deliver the biggest return on investment.
  • Hold regular check-ins with all teams to get feedback on their performance management priorities.
  • Start small with individual departments or teams so that you can experiment and refine before rolling it out across the business.
  • Get feedback from employees involved in the trial to see what worked for them and what didn’t.

What makes for successful performance management?

A strong performance management process has:

  • A clear vision that’s shared and understood by all employees.
  • Goals set — and regularly reviewed — against agreed objectives.
  • Frequent check-ins and open exchange of feedback between managers and team members.
  • Technology and automation that helps to maintain effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Easy progress tracking for managers and employees.
  • A commitment to help employees succeed in their roles and progress within the business.

7 steps to build your performance management process

Now it’s time to create the performance management process that will guide your organisation towards future success. Here are the 7 steps to follow:

1. Find the right technology

A performance management system is critical to managing performance in a way that is formalised, consistent and scalable. Using technology to support you and your organisation’s managers is a no-brainer when it comes to:

  • Tracking conversations and check-ins with multiple employees.
  • Monitoring objectives.
  • Identifying skills gaps.
  • Connecting learning and development with performance-related goals.
  • Creating reports to identify high and low-performing employees. 

Totara Perform does this in a way that allows you to create tailored workflows that match the way your organisation does things and the systems you already have in place. 

2. Introduce regular check-ins

At the heart of good performance management is an ongoing dialogue between managers and team members.

You can support this by normalising and formalising frequent check-ins between all employees and their managers. Monthly or weekly check-ins might be appropriate depending on the role.

3. Outline objectives and key results for employees

To improve performance levels for each employee, there can be no doubt about your expectations of them. 

That means giving every employee personalised objectives (broad, high-level outcomes you want them to achieve) and key results (bitesize and quantifiable steps towards the objective).

This gives managers and employees a consistent way of tracking performance.

4. Give continuous feedback

Those objectives and key results shouldn’t be something that employees are left to get on with. They should get continuous feedback on what’s expected of them, how they’re performing and where they’re going wrong.

This maintains focus on goals and creates a relationship built on trust and mentoring rather than one based on dated and belated criticism given after the event.

5. Introduce 360 feedback

When the time’s right for your organisation, introduce 360 feedback so that the thoughts of peers, team members, managers, customers, suppliers and others are gathered for the feedback process.

This prevents feedback from being corrupted by bias and personality clashes, and consequently increases objectivity.

6. Use competency frameworks

Strengthen performance management processes going forward by defining core and specialist competencies for every role in your organisation. 

This will help to ensure consistency and equity in pay, and support internal career progression, all of which supports staff retention. It will also help to identify skills gaps, as well as underutilised talent.

7. Develop your people

With a fully-functioning performance management process, you can start to finesse the system to swiftly tackle organisational challenges.  The system can help you to:

  • Identify internal recruitment candidates.
  • Support external recruitment decisions.
  • Close skills gaps.
  • Tailor objectives to the changing needs of the organisation.

Ready to boost performance management?

If you’re ready to take the steps above to build a performance management process, learn more about Totara Perform or get in touch using the form below to discuss your performance management goals.

The content of this blog post was adapted from “The Ultimate Guide: Building a Performance Management Process from Scratch” by Totara Learning.



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