As a people manager, a large part of your role is to rate and manage the performance of your reports. But how do you go about doing that fairly and constructively?
MadeYou have several programmes that may be of interest, from our 360 Feedback service to our Performance Calibration training, but right now we want to delve into understanding performance levels and, more importantly, how you can bring out the best in your team by managing individuals appropriately.
Understanding Different Employee Performance Levels
It can be hard to find a common language when discussing the overall output of employees. At MadeYou, we use 5 categories for defining employee performance levels:
1. Low Performers
Performing to a concerning degree.
Low Performers may well be the product of an off-kilter recruitment process with a ‘bums on seats’ approach. These are the employees you have real concerns about and can’t really imagine being brought up to scratch, due to either ability or attitude.
2. Under Performers
Performing at a level that requires support and guidance.
These are the members of your team who aren’t doing as well as you may hope but that have the potential to become Steady Eddies or better. They need some input from you and possibly their peers.
Performing at the level expected of them in their role.
Oh, how we love a Steady-Eddie. These are the consistent members of the team who show up on time, complete the work in front of them and keep the cogs turning while your attention is largely taken up by managing your underperformers or satisfying the demanding personal development needs of overperformers. With no burning desire to climb the ladder, Steady-Eddies form the core of your team and are a hub of business knowledge.
It can be easy to neglect the Steady Eddies- makes sure you make time for regular 1:1s so you can reinforce that you appreciate their good work, ask their opinion about any new starters, and show genuine interest in them as people. More on this later.
4. Top Performers
Performing at a greater level than expected of them in their role.
Your Top Performers are likely to have once been in the Steady Eddie club but are now performing above and beyond. They need encouragement and the opportunity to grow wherever possible to avoid them feeling bored or restless in their role.
Performing exceptionally in all areas of their role and ready for more.
Overperformers are extremely keen on growth and progression which can be fantastic but can also be a challenge to handle on a day-to-day basis. They need clear paths to career progression and may not always want to fit within the status quo.
Obviously, employees can and do move between categories for a multitude of reasons. It’s rare that everyone on your team will fall neatly into one box and then stay there forever- that’s why 1:1s are vital. They’ll give you an insight into individuals’ state of mind and any outside issues that may be impacting their work.
Identifying Employee Performance Levels Through Calibration
Managers are only human and will have differing approaches to categorising their reports. An employee could be named a Steady-Eddie by one manager, an Underperformer by another and even a Top Performer by another. This is where calibration comes in.
Calibration creates a common structure and language for managers to use across a business to categorise their staff. It effectively removes subjectivity from the review process and makes for fairer appraisals across the board (read more about the importance of an objective performance review process)
In our experience, the traditional appraisal process can be very combative; often with a clash between a manager’s evaluation and the individual’s own evaluation. Sometimes, they will match and all is well. The report is sent to HR and that’s that. In reality, what’s more common, is for the employee to be overly self-critical despite the manager’s glowing report and so they end up meeting in the middle. The employee’s report to HR is less flattering than it could have been.
On the other side of the coin, many employees can present an over-inflated opinion of their performance. This is where it’s critical for managers to take an unbiased view and avoid conflict. Discussions can become very heated, especially where promotions or salary increases are involved. It’s certainly best for managers to guide the overall rating as they probably have the most realistic impression. However, due to unique styles, expectations and perspectives, each manager’s approach will be completely different- not too fair for employees.
MadeYou’s calibration process is incredibly impactful. It removes subjectivity and allows others to have input into the performance rating of employees. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:
- We gather managers’ ratings based on their perspectives of their own teams.
- We gather insights from the individuals’ self-assessments and provide an objective ranking as an external entity.
- We then reach out to the manager’s peers and ask them to rate the manager’s direct reports too.
- The information is collated and discussed at a Peer Group Calibration Meeting.
At the meeting, we facilitate discussion between all managers regarding their direct reports and come to joint conclusions. By the end of the meeting, all managers across the business should have a consistent approach to benchmarking their employees, applying the same standards across the board.
This creates a simplified and fair system for everyone involved and ensures that all employees are rated objectively, no matter who they report to.
Managing a Team of Varying Performance Levels
Individual characters and their differing performance levels demand different tactics, techniques and approaches. Having a full and varied toolbox at your disposal is necessary to successfully manage a team with complex needs- MadeYou can help. We have a huge variety of training courses to help you add significant strings to your bow. A few of the most appropriate are even included in our Middle Manager Program.
The Middle Manager Program gives a fantastic overview of the skills needed to be the best manager you can be, including:
Successfully Managing Your Steady-Eddies
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Steady-Eddies are the bread and butter of your business and should not be overlooked. They may not need huge amounts of managerial input to keep them on track and they may not have a burning interest in development if they’re not looking to climb the ladder, but they still need to feel appreciated and seen. Some of our thoughts on how best to manage your mid-level performers are below:
We should never assume that Steady Eddies aren’t interested in training and development. They may not want to climb up the ladder, but they should be offered plenty of opportunities for lateral growth. By consistently offering opportunities to upskill, you will keep them engaged and up to date with modern processes while bolstering confidence and their sense of being valued.
It can be easy to let these meetings slip when you have a list of Underperformers and Overperformers taking up the majority of your time and energy, but 1:1s with Steady-Eddies are time well spent.
Not only will you keep yourself up to date with anything in their personal lives that may create issues or spur on a desire to move things up a gear, but you’ll also get great insight into the inner workings of your team. You may also hear the best ideas for process change from this group as they like things to be done correctly- if a process isn’t working in practice, they will give you an honest rundown.
It can be tempting to buddy new recruits with Overperformers, but we really don’t advise it! They may be irritated by a new starter’s impact on their output levels and, while likely very capable, they may not do things exactly as they should.
Far better to pair a new starter with a willing Steady-Eddie who will show them the ropes with pleasure and in line with your methods. Giving this kind of responsibility can show appreciation of their work ethic and boost confidence- they’re also more likely to be honest and fair when you ask for feedback on the latest addition.
Achieving fair employee evaluations, managing employee performance, and understanding what employees are doing can be quite challenging.
Let us guide you through your managerial journey. Fill in the form below to get started.