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10 Key Tools and Techniques for Performance Management

How to leverage performance management tools and techniques to achieve the best outcomes for your business

All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.

Dr. Orison Swett Marden, founder SUCCESS magazine

Using performance management tools allows businesses to overcome a range of workforce challenges. Such tools grant their users the ability to hone in on progress towards short- and long-term objectives while also driving engagement, motivation and the bottom line.

A report from Gartner indicates that 95% of managers are dissatisfied with their organization’s current performance management practices. Taking the time to review processes and how you use performance management tools can place your business firmly ahead of the competition.

1. Establish and track clear Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for optimal performance

Understanding what goals are desirable then establishing the resources and time frame to achieve them lies at the heart of performance management. Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are perhaps the most common mechanism used for managing this process effectively.

Performance management tools allow managers to break down OKRs in a variety of ways. Objectives can be viewed at the personal, departmental, or company-wide level. Each objective is clearly marked with an objective title, the type of goal (for instance SMART), and the rate of progress towards completion.

Tips for setting effective OKRs:

  • Setting ambitious OKRs. If you include an element of stretch goals you’ll drive more ambitious outcomes.
  • Start with the riskiest ones first. Through tackling the more challenging goals a stronger sense of learning is created.
  • Make sure they are concise. If it isn’t easy to understand the purpose of the OKR it’s easy to slide off point.
  • Keep your OKRs transparent. Everyone involved should be on the same page and know when progress is being made.
  • Tailor OKRs to organizational strategy. Don’t be tempted to mimic what other companies are doing with their objectives and key results. Ensure they matter for you.

2. Provide strategic direction with development objectives

As with objectives and key results, development objectives can be established at the individual, team, and company-wide levels. Development objectives are more ambitious than traditional performance goals and are often accomplished over a longer period of time or as part of an ongoing strategy.

These objectives can relate to:

DomainDevelopment objective
ManagementGain experience with budget management
Professional certificationComplete a professional qualification by the end of the year
LeadershipImprove influence and motivation of individuals and teams
CreativityDeliver effective visual presentations
PlanningLearn how to plan a project

3. Understand immediate tasks with a Today Screen feature

One of the biggest obstacles to effective performance is poor time management. Employees often have busy – and tight – schedules, which can lead to tasks being overlooked and causing delays down the line. 

A Today Screen feature as part of a performance management software suite gives managers and employees an instant birds’ eye view of the day’s expectations. The customizable nature of the Today Screen feature means that leaders and administrators are able to tailor the information to give an overview of a specific team or department.

At a glance, users can:

  • View everyone on a given team and access an individual’s profile
  • Read the most recent feedback in a live feed
  • Check on current objectives which need to be addressed
  • View a review and appraisals schedule
  • Add alerts, articles, surveys to the live feed to distribute to the relevant employees
  • Add new objectives and tasks required of teams and individuals
  • Create new roles and groups and update their skills

Since the Today Screen feature is integrated into an e performance management app, the information provided can be viewed by anyone in the company, regardless of where they are working.

4. Use customizable appraisal and review templates to ensure regular feedback

In order for feedback to be effective, it needs to be consistent and ongoing. If HR leaders and managers allow regular feedback sessions to slide, progress made could be lost and employees will begin to feel disengaged.

This can be particularly problematic for managers who are dealing with poor performing employees, where the need for regular guidance is greater. The ability to customize appraisals allows managers to save valuable time planning and scheduling feedback sessions. 

Performance review templates can be created to cater for the full range of possible review and appraisal sessions, including:

  • One2one check-ins and weekly catch-ups
  • Monthly reviews
  • Quarterly reviews
  • Annual performance reviews
  • 360 degree feedback
  • Peer feedback
  • Probation reviews
  • Poor performance reviews

Since review and appraisals templates can be easily adjusted, managers can tweak these to include questions and categories which may only be relevant to a specific subset of employees.

5. Gauge the sentiment of the workforce with pulse surveys

An optimal workforce is one that feels engaged with the company’s core values and mission. They have confidence that the work they are doing is meaningfully contributing to the vision set out by the leadership and are motivated to perform above and beyond expectations.

But gauging the sentiment of the workforce can be difficult, especially when employees are distributed across different geographical locations. Working remotely can further dislocate individuals from teams and the company at large. A web-based performance management system becomes increasingly necessary to understand the challenges they are facing.

Employee net promoter score (eNPS) surveys offer an easy to schedule method for gauging the sentiment of the workforce. They also provide consistent data which managers and leaders can track to understand how sentiment is evolving over time.

Questions you can consider including in an employee survey include:

  • How much confidence do you have in the leaders of this organization?
  • How effectively do you consider your role to contribute to the success of the organization?
  • How free do feel to make decisions within your role?
  • How satisfied are you with your personal development in the company?
  • Are you happy with the work-life balance you currently experience?

These answers to these questions can be rated on a 1-10 scale, and can be broken down into the following categories:

Score 0 – 6: detractors

Score 7 – 10: passives

Score 9 – 10: promoters

6. Collate data via reporting and analytics to optimize the flow of information

Deloitte’s article, Redesigning performance management: Playing a winning hand, sums up the role data gathering is now playing when managing performance.

“Important decisions about whom to promote, how much of a raise to give, and whom to move into a new role are getting easier and better through data. Ninety-one percent of companies that have adopted continuous performance management say that they now have better data for people decisions, making major progress in removing bias and discretion in promotion and advancement.”

Performance management software offers businesses a powerful tool for gathering useful data. But collating and presenting this data can be a time-consuming process. Through the use of powerful algorithms, this data can be delivered in its most condensed and useful form.

After setting clear targets and defining the key performance indicators (KPIs) required to achieve them, data reporting and analytics can be used to focus on the metrics for success. The flexible nature of data analytics features of performance management tools means they can be used for more than just measuring objectives. 

Tracking the results of pulse surveys, measuring how clearly articles are read and understood by the workforce and various other metrics can be filtered through the system to give valuable insights.

7. Use dashboards to prioritize work 

Most “impossible” goals can be met simply by breaking them down into bite size chunks, writing them down, believing them, and then going full speed ahead as if they were routine.

Don Lancaster, inventor

While the Today Screen offers a concise overview of a broad range of aspects of the working day, dashboards can be customized to track the progress, performance and development of employees. 

Performance management dashboards can be used to visualize your OKR framework and tap into shorter cycles in real-time. Since they are frequently updated, managers and their team members can be sure to be on the same page. Any edits made by users are updated in real-time, while reporting means that this data can be exported for a closer inspection of objectives, reviews and skills.

8. Set up a people database to better understand how skills are distributed

Talent is often distributed unevenly throughout teams and departments. At the same time, skill sets are always changing, as employees continue to undergo additional training, coaching and mentoring as their career develops. 

HR leaders can register and track these skills in a people database to give them valuable oversight of how knowledge is distributed throughout the organization. 

This information can then be used to help set up:

Mentoring and coaching

Through identification of employees with qualifications and experience in particular fields, HR leaders and managers can set them up as a coach or mentor with individuals who need to be brought up to speed in a relevant domain.

MS Teams channels connecting individuals

Employees with complementary skills are often spread throughout the organization. A people database can be used to help bring those individuals together from across different teams and departments, communicating in dedicated Microsoft Teams channels.

Online courses and digital tutoring

HR leaders and managers can use performance management for employees to facilitate online courses and other training suitable for expanding their talent stacks. A people database allows them to easily track who has had what training, who might benefit, and any additional courses which could be of use.

9. Marshall employee analytics and reports for key insights into performance

Dashboards and analytics allow HR leaders and managers to dig into an individual’s and team’s ability to meet their objectives. But they are limited in providing a deeper understanding of why performance might be lacking. 

Key insights can be found through employee analytics and reports which break down the conditions which might be creating performance issues. Historical patterns of absence and sickness can be analysed, giving managers the information necessary to discuss any problems in an employee’s personal or professional life they might be struggling with.

On a broader scale, employee reporting can help HR administrators dive into data concerning payroll and salaries, as well as contracts that need updating and employees who are moving to another department or leaving the company.

10. Send critical alerts via a multi-channel communications platform to address high priority concerns

Using an online performance management system not only allows managers to coordinate the roles and duties of individuals and teams. It is also a vital tool for alerting staff who might be spread throughout different offices, off-site locations or remotely working of high priority incidents. 

Multi-channel communications ensure that workers across all regions will receive critical alerts instantaneously. These alerts are delivered via SMS text messages, email, and directly to the performance management app through mobile, desktop and laptop devices.

Critical alerts can be used for:

  • Health and safety guidelines. The complexities of health and safety guidelines and implementation have changed significantly in light of the coronavirus pandemic. As the situation continues to evolve and requirements are updated, critical alerts can be invaluable for ensuring everyone is up to date. 
  • Updates to regulations. Industry-related regulations which might impact processes related to manufacturing methods are subject to change. Communicating these clearly to workforces located away from company offices in production centres is vital.
  • New workforce initiatives. If your company is introducing new initiatives to the workforce, communicating these to remote workers as well as those on-site is essential. The ability to sign off on these communications lets leaders know the information has been read and understood.
  • Upcoming reviews and appraisals. Managers and employees with upcoming scheduled reviews can receive critical alerts on the day. This helps to make sure important one2one and other meetings aren’t overlooked.
  • General emergencies. Emergencies in the workforce or even the wider world need to be communicated clearly and effectively without delay. Should your business face a black swan-style event, critical alerts can be employed to disseminate news instantly.