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7 Risks of Poorly Implemented Performance Management Programs

Performance management programs can provide considerable benefits to government organizations; help them align and track measurable goals, create ongoing feedback loops for coaching, and boost engagement through recognition. However, poorly implemented performance management programs can lead to detrimental organizational outcomes. Read on to explore seven high-impact dangers of poorly implemented performance management programs.

Lack of Employee Engagement

Poor performance management programs can quickly erode employee engagement. For instance, when a performance plan is unclear, employees are unsure how their everyday work contributes to the agency’s mission. There’s no sense of growth or progress—essential ingredients for developing engaged and high-performing employees. Also, if employees see the program as unfair, they are likely to feel uninspired about their future at the agency, experience lower motivation, perform at lower levels, or leave the job altogether. When you have talented employees, it’s up to the managers to find areas in which they can improve. Options for development include expanding their gifted personnel’s skill set and providing training and support. Talented employees want feedback and it’s the manager’s job to deliver. If they don’t, the agency’s best people will grow complacent and disengaged.

Biased Performance Ratings

Varying and unfair performance standards and ratings can arise under a fragmented performance management system. While most biases present in performance management are unintentional, managers are more disposed to give biased reviews in the absence of objective performance data and assessment metrics. The introduction of human biases, such as personal values, ideas or relationships could also lead to unfair treatment. Unfortunately, the employee and manager might not recognize actual performance problems in this situation, leaving issues undiscussed as they continue to affect the organization.

>>> Download the Best Practices in Performance Management eBook to help guide your federal HR strategy.

Low Employee Self-Esteem

Performance management systems that lack structure are more reactive than proactive, meaning that employees will typically only hear from managers when they’ve done something wrong—a common practice that takes a toll on staff confidence. Also, if an employee feels that they are evaluated unfairly, they may lose self-esteem, which is a crucial element to success. Low self-esteem could create resentment towards management and even the organization as a whole. Showing appreciation, approval and attention to employees with a healthy mix of constructive and positive feedback will make them feel confident in their job and motivate them to perform at even higher levels.

Wasted Time and Money

A poorly implemented performance management program puts a strain on managers. The average manager spends 210 hours a year on performance review activities, usually during an annual feedback cycle. The large amount of time and energy spent on performance management is magnified if the performance management program is not providing the benefits that come from a well-implemented program. Unless managers check in with employees regularly, a single conversation at the end of the year may prove useless. Ongoing performance management is time- and cost-efficient, and it produces optimal results.

Damaged Relationships

Manager-employee relationships are also at risk under weak performance management systems. Employees subject to ineffective systems and performance review practices are likely to feel upset, demoralized, and demotivated. This can lead to personal relationships that are damaged, sometimes permanently.

Increased Legal Risks

Giving negative evaluations with no data or proof to back them up can increase litigation risks. If an employee feels as though they’ve been evaluated unfairly they could seek costly legal action against the agency.

Unclear Reward Systems

Due to poor communication, employees may not understand the link between their behaviors and results, and how those translate into performance ratings. Likewise, employees may not comprehend how their ratings translate turn into rewards. The absence of clear links makes it unlikely employees will be motivated to perform at a high level. A poorly-implemented performance management program could cost your agency in many ways. It will not only fail to build progress toward the agency mission, but it could actually have a detrimental effect on the employees’ motivation, relationships, time and energy! Don’t miss out on the rewards of an effective federal HR management system. A well-implemented program improves the performance of individuals, teams and the agency as a whole.

This article was originally published as part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program.