Recognize excellence and improve performance with these practices

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UAB employees identified three key areas for improvement in the 2017 Campus Engagement Survey: communication, career development/leadership and performance management. New programs and initiatives have been launched to address these elements from an administrative standpoint, and everyone can play a part in building a better UAB. During the past few weeks, the UAB Reporter has explored free resources, training opportunities and expert advice to help you hone your skills. Read the first two stories in this series, "7 tips for communicating in a changing world" and "3 habits of effective leaders, and 5 practices for career advancement."

rep perf management five stars 492Performance management can be a sensitive subject: The process is often awkward for both parties and standards may seem subjective. The topic is clearly important to many at UAB, however. On the 2017 Campus Engagement Survey, staff and faculty responses to the statement “issues of low performance are addressed in my department” flagged this as an area needing attention.

New minimum standards

In response, new Performance Management Minimum Standards have been implemented across the institution. “All leaders have agreed to minimum standard of performance guidelines, as well as the use of consistent forms and timelines,” says Chief Human Resources Officer Alesia Jones. These include a merit matrix to align salary increases with evaluation scores and Performance Improvement Plans to support decisions related to low performers. A new Performance Management web page includes resources for those giving and receiving performance reviews, including conversation guides, examples and checklists.

The new standards stress that managers are expected to “proficiently apply the necessary skills” throughout the process. If you are a new manager or need to brush up, UAB Organizational Learning & Development has created a series of three workshops covering those very skills: Motivating through Performance Management, Giving and Receiving Feedback and Developing Others through Coaching. Participants who finish all three receive a certificate of completion.

Performance management: eight tips for managers

First, consider these three questions to establish guidelines for yourself and the members of your team:

  • What does excellent performance look like?
  • What performance is below standards?
  • What is the unifying, overarching goal that your team can achieve together?

Supervisors and department chairs at UAB are responsible for regular performance conversations with each employee, at least once per year. Performance management is more than a one-time event, however. These tips can help you and those you supervise stay at the top of your game.

  • Put time on your calendar for one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. Agree on a regular schedule, including time for discussing personal development at least once a quarter.
  • Ask for feedback — and ask what your employees want. How are you doing as a manager? Do your employees understand their roles? What excites them about their jobs? What recognition or rewards motivate them? The Stay Interview Guide from Learning and Development offers 14 crucial questions to ask.
  • Ensure that these meetings are most effective by asking your direct reports to prepare the one-on-one agenda and close with next steps. A good meeting that happens monthly is better than three meetings that aren’t well thought out.

More in this series

  • Pay attention to special skills sets on your team. For instance, do you have the opportunity to cross-train an employee to back up a colleague?
  • Consider stretch assignments for your employees that can enhance their career mobility. Discover 14 different ways you can develop your employees — including coaching, planned exposure and understudy training — with this Learning and Development guide.
  • Focus on “growing your bench” — consider which of your tasks you can delegate.
  • Quantify goals wherever possible and ensure they are SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (use this worksheet to help you meet each point).

Learn How: Watch this Lynda/LinkedIn Learning course on Giving and Receiving Feedback and this course playlist on Performance Management.

Try It: Have your team take the 30-day feedback challenge developed by talent management firm Saba, which aims to make positive feedback and recognition a daily habit.

Read Up: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High,” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler, offers a framework for taking on difficult topics and hurt feelings through productive discussions.

Performance management: nine tips for employees

An annual review isn’t simply a time for your supervisor to tell you “how you have done.” It is your chance to highlight your successes from the past year and your interests for the future and work with your manager to address challenges you have experienced. Prepare for the conversation with these pointers and conversation starters from Learning and Development.

Here are some tips you can apply to get the most from your performance review:

  • Ask your manager for regular time to discuss changes in needs and your performance toward annual goals or targets.
  • Understand what your manager’s priorities are; if you aren’t sure, ask.
  • Don’t wait for your annual review to discuss issues; take the initiative to make things better.
  • If you don’t feel qualified to take on a task, discuss it with your manager. Perhaps you need training.
  • Build your own personal development plan and make it your mission to learn something new every day.
  • Keep up with books and articles on your specialty and participate in continuing education.
  • Take advantage of UAB’s Educational Assistance Program to enroll in undergraduate or graduate courses, in person or online.
  • Read the UAB Reporter and other UAB news and information to keep up with the institution’s goals and initiatives and understand how your job fits in.
  • Find a mentor to help you take advantage of workplace opportunities and address challenges. And consider being a mentor to others.