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Goal based performance and progress tracking

Jul 5th, 2020

In general, employee performance cycles are considered a painful experience for most participants. There are many reasons for this -

All these (and more) add up to employees getting surprised during reviews, and builds frustration overall even in organisations that take pride in how they treat their employees. A lot of work has gone into this field, and yet, there’s consensus on only one actionable measure - that reactive performance and progress measurement is not a healthy option. There are various methods that would allow you to get better on this front, I would share one such approach below.

Goal based performance and progress tracking

(It may work for you only if you put in the effort to customise it to your work environment)

Clear Expectation Setting

Without clear and crisp expectations and goals, performance reviews become a political dance, and do more harm than help.

Start with the most important aspect of performance management - setting expectations. Most organisations have job ladders and high level role definitions; its important that these definitions provide the outlines during the goal setting process. The most important part, oft missed is, personalising the goals for the employee. Role definitions, Job descriptions are deliberately left at a high level and ambiguous by organisations so as to encourage people to not be limited by them, they cannot serve the purpose as goal documents.

Measurable goals

KPIs and Personal OKRs are both very good ways to set goals; goals should be SMART (mnemonic) -

A template

Here’s a template you can use to help someone set goals for themselves, then work with them to review and close their timebound goals. There are 2 parts to the template -

If the goals are vague, help them refine.

Suggested mix

I suggest that goals for a person should be a mix of personal and team goals, so at least -

Examples -

Objective Example key results to watch
Implementing at least one feature that helps our customers win Increase in active users, order volumes per active user that could be attributed to the feature
Improve quality of product Decreased bugs per release
I want to be consistent in writing code. No. of modular commits to production, No. of days with at least 5 modular commits
I want to contribute to the community No. of technical blogs ,No. of open source contributions,No. of time spoke at conferences
I want to read regularly No. of books read

Once the objectives and metrics to watch are decided, the next step is to define achievable targets. Goal setting may have the drawback of inhibiting implicit learning: goal setting may encourage simple focus on an outcome without openness to exploration, understanding, or growth. A solution to this limitation is to set learning goals as well as performance goals, so that learning is expected as part of the process of reaching goals.

Sign-offs

Employees should work with their managers to sign-off on the goals. In addition, it does help if goals for every employee are internally available to everyone who is part of the organisation.

Frequent Reviews

1-1 meetings

Divergence from expectations increases with time, so avoid long review cycles. If it hurts, do it more often. Shortening review cycles helps to quickly -

Monthly reports

To retrospect on how your staff is doing overall on this front, its important to get an aggregate view and measure progress. Its advisable that all the managers present a health check monthly. This exercise helps with 2 things -

At the end of this review exercise, there may be need to dig deeper into some hotspots and then publish the learnings back to the team.

Final Reviews

At the end of the review cycle, if you have iterated and course corrected well, you should not really need anything special -

Retrospective

This is also a good time to retrospect as a group about how the process went, and build a report card for each team, which hopefully looks like below, for the problems that we started with.

Expectation Solved/Handled ?
Proper expectation setting
Generic and Specific expectation setting
Well discussed and agreed upon shifting in expectations, if any
Clear accountability of evaluators
Documented progress through the cycle
Individual assessments and no end of cycle rush

At this time, you will start seeing different problems; the good part is, by iterating frequently, you should be able to identify, course correct and observe changes faster and reduce the pain.

Iterative Improvement

Rinse, Repeat.