Very often, the discussions around government performance management (PM) programs focus on the annual performance appraisal. Discussions with senior HR leaders or agency PM SOPs usually focus on how to cascade organizational goals into performance elements, how to rate elements accurately, etc. While the annual performance appraisal is an important moment in the performance management process, federal agencies that are trying to maximize their limited resources would be well served by shifting the conversation from their annual performance review practices to how to give timely, high quality feedback in real-time.
Management in the public sector and government agencies is a different ball game compared to management in private sector. Government managers need their workforces to be highly engaged and motivated if they are to succeed. However, according to a Harvard Business Review study, motivating government staff is particularly challenging due to many factors—such as their hard-to-measure achievements. To ensure the agency and its mission are running as efficiently as possible, managers need to engage employees with regular and consistent feedback.
Continuous performance monitoring with regular, effective feedback will produce optimal outcomes. Through improved employee observation, managers can gain a full understanding of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, help them to grow and develop with the agency, and thus increase their motivation to succeed.
Feedback is critical to improving performance. Although feedback can often be mistaken as criticism, well-delivered constructive criticism can help to produce better decisions and improve performance.
Two points can maximize the value of your constructive criticism: (1) manager feedback needs to be frequent and of high quality, and (2) managers need to be confident enough to provide honest feedback, even when it’s unpleasant or challenging. Falling short on timely, honest constructive criticism will either leave employees without the knowledge that their performance must improve, or stifle their efforts to change due to the lack of specific information on what will help them meet expectations.
This kind of candid, personal feedback is important to an employee’s growth, as well as the overall success of the agency. Nevertheless, the feedback needs to be delivered in a safe environment and the employee should not be taken by surprise.
Feedback can be a two-way street, too. Not only is it important for managers to provide feedback to employees regularly, but employees should offer their managers periodic feedback as well. Doing so helps everyone improve and succeed in their job performance. This also provides managers with clues to how they are hindering or supporting their subordinates’ work and how they can remove any obstacles to their success.
Providing employees with regular feedback is essential to their professional growth, and most employees crave feedback. As such, consistent communication between employees and their managers is typically connected to higher engagement. When done right, it can motivate staff to perform better and can be a tool for building and maintaining communication with team members.
A strong performance management program, can assist in promoting and improving employee engagement, involving a continuous process in which managers and staff work together to plan, monitor and review individual contributions to the agency.
Being a manager isn’t easy, and it requires a diverse skill set which includes the ability to communicate clearly. Sizeable government organizations—NASA and the FBI, for instance—are retooling their approach to performance management and the employee review process. According to the Harvard Business Review, they’ve concluded that “accountability should be collective and that supervisors need to do a better job of coaching and developing their subordinates.”
Using an efficient government HR system facilitates accurately tracked documentation, employee development and two-way communication. An HR system will encourage HR team members to be a resource for employees and managers in progress tracking and improving skills. They also aid managers in creating individual development plans which typically include training, career goals and helping employees learn role-supportive knowledge. Training programs, in particular, will contribute to developing the employee career track and increase their loyalty with the agency and their manager.
Finally, an effective performance management system empowers managers to set expectations, provide regular informal feedback and support employee development. When done well, a performance management program along with consistent communication between employees and managers, contributes to employee growth as well as achieving the agency’s mission.
George Kettner is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.