Fairness in Performance Management

By Jacob Williams

6 August 2018

Performance Management presents a headache for many firms. Companies are desperate to ensure the success of their process, but still fall into its many traps.

When assessing the effectiveness of performance management, one detail of critical importance is fairness.

Fairness, in this context, broadly refers to “procedural fairness”, that is, whether employees perceive that central elements of performance management are designed well and function fairly.

The nature of performance management is that while employees often see it as a tick-the-box exercise, open to manipulation and often unfair, the reality is that getting rid of it does little in the way of improving employee well-being. As such, employers should take measures that enhance and improve the performance management system in ways that increase fairness and enhance efficiency.

Provide Time and Space

Performance management is about improving the ability of your employee through adapting their behaviour and approach. Sometimes, this behaviour has been ingrained through years of practice. Therefore, they will require time and guidance to achieve the aims and goals you set them.

Increase Dialogue

It is important to be receptive and to pay careful attention when speaking to employees. A compassionate approach to understanding what is going on in their lives can allow you to understand how external factors affect performance, and generate solutions that are sympathetic to these.

Document the Process

Detailed record-keeping ensures procedural fairness and makes it easier to track goals when reviewing the employee’s success and failures. This will help reduce any perception of bias or subjectivity in review by providing a more data-based process that is harder to dispute.

Be Consistent

Employees will want to know what they will be expecting and what is required of them. Constantly changing and tweaking the process undermines faith in both the concept and management. The method’s success depends much more on managers’ ability to deliver it, rather than revisions that only serve to frustrate all involved.

Ensure Managers Are Accountable

Ultimately, it is as much up to managers to ensure suitable conditions and support for developing employees. This could be achieved through measures such as providing managers with skills training in performance management (for example in goal setting and coaching), or by ensuring correct and proper evidence is being provided during any review to support the process.

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Jacob Williams