Managing high-performance in companies – are we missing the plot?

Managing performance in teams has always been a “hot topic”. Many companies strive to build a high-performance culture, but not everyone is getting it right.

Have you recently evaluated your performance management process? Does it empower teams OR does it break down the culture in your business?

Performance management is changing across the world. Leading organisations such as Microsoft, Deloitte, Accenture and General Electric are streamlining their annual performance reviews, and some even scrapping them.

This trend comes from a growing perception that we need to relook at how we are managing performance; the “once off” annual performance reviews might not be the best way to manage and improve performance which also has an effect on culture, motivation and workplace satisfaction.

It isn’t about ditching performance reviews, but rather how we can do them better.



Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals commissioned academic research reviewing studies into employee engagement over the past 30 years to find out what drives performance. It discovered that employees see feedback as a “threat”. This is alarming and we should do everything in our power to change this perception.

The bottom-line: effective performance management should not be a dreary exercise in complying with policy or as a tick box exercise – we must think about how we as leaders can drive a culture of continuous feedback. Every interaction can build commitment, engagement and productivity.



Many companies that do away with performance reviews see productivity decline; what’s more, employees tend to rate their conversations with their bosses lower in the absence of a formal performance rating.

The irony makes you think… doesn’t it?

Structure is needed

This shows that some of us resent structure when it’s there, but crave it when it is absent.

Sure, scrapping performance reviews frees everyone from a process that can be viewed as a tick box exercise, but it also means that the business lacks a formalised programme for linking people’s goals and performance with the strategy of the business. It’s hard to be fair and consistent without a formal process.

Taking a step back, performance management is about helping employees set goals, correcting any performance issues, and ensuring they have the tools they need to do their work. Even with the best intentions, much-needed performance interventions may fall by the wayside if they are not documented and actioned.

The ultimate goal: Creating a feedback culture

One answer that keeps coming up to the question of better performance management is that it should not simply be an annual process, but that it should allow for more frequent feedback. A PwC study reveals that 60% of survey respondents (and 72% of those under age 30) wanted feedback every day or every week. To create a feedback culture requires a huge time investment and ongoing commitment.



This makes enormous sense – employees should be learning all the time, their managers should be constantly providing feedback on performance and encouraging positive behaviours. This will ensure the employees’ performance and goals are in alignment with its strategic goal. Annual performance reviews are only a piece of the puzzle.

Trust is where it all starts

As a leader, have you built up a relationship and a level of trust with your team? The greatest contributor to high performance does not lie in the formal aspects, policies, systems or procedures, but rather in the quality of the relationship between you and your team.

Johan Maxwell reminds us “as leaders we need to care about our teams and believe in their ability to grow”. Having said that, he also mentions that ultimately everyone should take responsibility for their own performance.

CEB sums it up beautifully in this video: The New High Performer:

#HighPerformanceCulture #Leadership #HealthyCultures

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