Once an organization has developed a comprehensive performance management system, each manager tasked with assessing employee performance needs the abilities to build constructive dialogue.
By addressing eight key areas for inquiry in the performance management conversation, you can demystify the process and have meaningful interactions. The underlying assumption is that long-term and post-acute care providers understand the relationship between enhanced performance and healthy retention.
Before beginning the conversation, a manager must ensure that all employees have a clear path to developmental opportunities. Moving them into this realm requires a focus on current and potential performance. It also requires managers to resist the temptation to pigeonhole employees. For example, a recreation aide may actually want to move into social services or a dietary supervisor may be bored and want to explore marketing. Ask enough questions to surface employee’s interests so that you can co-create developmental opportunities that meet their needs. Having regularly scheduled conversations, ensures alignment between you and employees regarding performance goals and expectations. These conversations should address strengths, opportunities, interests, and unexplored potential. The conversation should be a dialogue, not a one-way, manager-led lecture.
The eight areas of inquiry that can, if utilized well, lead to rich, meaningful discussions that spark higher levels of performance are:
- Ability and Aptitude: This element of the conversation tracks back to the employee’s job description. The manager has the opportunity to share observations about the level of ability and aptitude that the employee is demonstrating. The questions should elicit information from the employee about the education, training, and supports that he or she needs to build greater competence.
- Productivity: Each employee is responsible for delivering an acceptable level of productivity. During this stage of the conversation, the manager and employee focus their attention on specific outputs. This is the time to discuss the ways in which the employee is meeting acceptable productivity standards for the position. It is also an excellent time for the manager to delve into whether the employee is experiencing any obstacles or impediments that are negatively impacting productivity.
- Outcome Quality: As the conversation is progressing, it must eventually address quality. The goal of performance management is to create excellence–truly high levels of performance throughout the organization. At this juncture, the conversation moves to whether the productivity is yielding excellence in terms of outcomes. Whatever standards have been established regarding quality, this is the time to discuss the ways in which the employee is demonstrating the quality the organization is seeking. It is another opportunity for the employee to surface obstacles or impediments. Inquiries also give the employee a chance to identify additional quality measures that may move the organization to a higher level. Perhaps your quality measures are not sufficiently comprehensive. Employees have insights because they are so close to the day-to-day work.
- Interest: Exploring the employee’s interests—related not only to their job but also to broader arenas of their lives—opens the door for building a deeper understanding of them as individual human beings. This area of inquiry also allows the manager to discover the employee’s interests in the organization beyond their specific job. This can lead to cross-training, committee/team assignments, and other developmental activities that enrich the employee’s career while fostering creativity in the organization.
- Relationships: Assuming that collaboration and teamwork are desired in the organization, this phase of the performance conversation addresses that employee’s ability to function as a team member or team leader. The manager enquires about the employee’s level of satisfaction with the relationships in the organization. It is also a time for the manager to share observations about what he or she has observed in relation to the employee’s interactions with co-workers.
- Aspirations: Moving to the exploration of the future, the manager uses this area of inquiry to ascertain what the employee envisions. It is also an excellent time to find out what the employee wants for the organization or even the larger long-term care profession. Managers should listen intently and not impose their own aspirations onto the employees. It is tempting to create plans for high performers and operate with the assumption that the manager’s plans are the employee’s plans. Listen and learn about what these individuals want for themselves.
- Engagement: Have conversation with each employee about his or her level of engagement. This means asking about how engaged the person wants to be, what exactly engagement means to him or her, and what additional avenues each individual would consider pursuing to be more engaged in various aspects of the work and the organization. Do not enter this line of inquiry assuming that you have shared understandings of what engagement means. Pay close attention to learn not only what it means to employees but ways in which you can pave the way to make it happen.
- Satisfaction: The final element of the performance conversation revolves around employee satisfaction. This is the time to assess how satisfied the employee is with their assignments, the department they are assigned to, and the organization overall. Like all of the areas of inquiry, this allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the employee’s experience. It allows for discussion of life from their unique perspective.
Most, if not all, post-acute and long-term care providers want to create healthy retention. That requires paying thoughtful attention to the employee experience. The eight areas of inquiry for the performance conversation provide a structured way to get beyond the surface and cultivate a deeper understanding of life in the organization from the employee’s vantage point.
Using the eight areas of inquiry to shape regularly scheduled performance conversations will strengthen your performance management system. It will provide managers with a framework for building the dialogue that is foundational in creating a culture characterized by engagement, commitment, and an intentional focus on delivering high quality outcomes in long-term care.