Everything you need to know about performance management

There’s a lot of buzz in the HR space around the term performance management. But what is it, and how can companies use it to gain a competitive advantage?


Performance management is actually a segment of the broader HR discipline, talent management. While talent management encompasses everything from recruiting and onboarding to compensation and succession planning, performance management is focused on optimizing the workforce you already have by:  


  • Delivering continuous feedback
  • Setting and tracking goals
  • Recognizing employees for their efforts
  • Providing ongoing development opportunities


At its core, performance management is about improving employee engagement and productivity. And feedback plays a major role in making it happen.


Continuous feedback: performance management’s cornerstone


The annual review is quickly headed for extinction, thanks to the speed at which technology, work, and life as we know now move. Instead of waiting 12 months to address an issue, tweak goals or even recognize achievement, managers should give feedback on an ongoing basis.


Not only because it makes sense from a timing perspective. But also because the soon-to-be-dominant players of the modern workforce — millennials — need constant feedback from managers. Weekly feedback is the desired cadence for these digital natives who are used to the instant gratification of online gaming and the internet.


However, if weekly meetings with each team member are out of the question, monthly employee check-ins, or 1:1s can also deliver:  



Whether monthly or weekly, these 1:1s should do more than cover the tasks at hand. To maximize effectiveness, include these topics:


  • Goals
  • Recognition
  • Current work
  • Future roles
  • Feedback
  • Tasks


But feedback from the manager alone only gives employees half of the story.


Extra points (and motivation) for comprehensive feedback


Some performance tools empower managers to collect team feedback on individual players through peer assessments. And in a study by employee motivation firm, Make Their Day, 76 percent of employees found that positive feedback from their peers was very motivating.


The results of these peer assessments can also be used to determine areas of improvement for the team as a whole — helping identify any skills gaps that can be addressed with additional training, or even new hires.


No matter how glowing peer feedback may be, employees will still need concrete goals to help them do their best work for your organization.


Where to start? Performance goals for managers


While performance goals will need to be tailored to each individual team member and role, there are ways to easily set, track, and review performance goals.


  • Start with the overall company goals - to truly be effective, you must first know where the company wants to go. Then drill down on how your team fits into the big picture. From there, define goals for your team as a whole.


  • Assess where you are now - before setting individual goals, it’s best to see where your team currently stands in competencies, skills and output. Use peer assessments and quizzes to test worker knowledge, and historical data to gather output metrics for individual players. This information can help ensure that when setting goals for each employee, you are delivering on the “realistic” and “attainable” components of S.M.A.R.T. (specific, meaningful realistic, attainable, timely) goals. Your performance management software should make it easy to set these goals in ways that are easy to track.


  • Communicate these goals clearly (and often) - setting these goals isn’t enough. You’ll also need to communicate them regularly during employee 1:1s. Your performance software should provide constant visibility into what their S.M.A.R.T. goals are and how they are progressing.  


  • Track progress weekly or monthly - employee check-ins are the perfect platform for assessing progress and making any necessary adjustments. Your performance management software should also be used to:


  • Adjust goals based on the circumstances - being realistic about goals can only get your team closer to attaining them. Use performance management tools to increase or decrease the goal as needed.
  • Recognizing and reward progress - 69 percent of workers said they would work harder if they felt recognized. Recognition doesn’t have to be a big ordeal, a simple “great job!” during a 1:1 can go a long way.  
  • Providing additional support as needed - whether it’s a tweak to the sales process, reinforcement of company goals or even additional training, give employees what they need to reach the finish line.


  • Keep your eyes on the big picture - having the ability to look ahead as well as backward into performance history can be very telling on the team and individual levels. These insights into the entire team’s employee timeline can inform a range of business decisions, including staffing moves, promotions or even future goal-setting.



Tools of the trade: Performance management software


Countless performance management tools are available with various bells and whistles. But what does your organization really need? That all depends on your goals and HR processes. However, the key functions of any performance software solution should be to increase employee engagement and productivity.


When evaluating multiple performance software providers (which you should), be sure you’re comparing apples to apples by focusing on these key features and benefits.


  • User-friendliness / ease of use - no matter how much the software is capable of doing, if it’s too complicated, it will not be used. Look for options that have simple interfaces for all users — from HR leaders to managers and employees.


  • Robust reporting - when done properly, analyzing performance data can lead to improved business decisions across the board. Make sure your solution supports easy reporting on the metrics that really matter to your organization.


  • Integration with other needs / platforms - while not every app or component needs to integrate, having the capability to sync goals to Salesforce and other sources is key, as well as having the ability to link learning and development to individual goals and 1:1 meetings.


  • Superior support - of course, questions will come up from time to time. How responsive will the customer service team be to your specific needs? Some providers offer a dedicated account manager in addition to tech support to offer strategic support as well as tech-specific situations.


  • Continuous innovation - search for a performance management software partner that will evolve along with your organization’s needs, without charging you for costly upgrades to receive the latest product features and innovations.


Whichever performance software partner you choose, make sure it’s more of an ally than adversary in helping you track, measure, report, and engage your workforce.


There’s definitely an art and science to effective performance management. Fortunately, performance management software can do much of the heavy lifting for company leaders, providing the structure, accountability, visibility, record keeping and consistency required for effective feedback conversations. This allows managers to remain focused on what they can most effectively bring to the table — planning, feedback, recognition, adaptation, and most importantly, trust.

Custom E-Learning Development: Win at Online Training with Tailored Content

Online learning is changing the game for companies, enabling a smarter, more productive workforce. It all begins with the right training program.


But, with so many learning management systems and training content providers out there, how can HR and L&D teams maximize their corporate training efforts?


There are many popular topics where reinventing the wheel may not make sense. However, custom e-learning content has some perks that L&D leaders should weigh before determining the right ratio of custom to third-party training.


Custom e-learning courses have built-in benefits


In addition to the cost savings and scalability of using an online learning platform vs. in-person training, creating custom content can also:


  • Enhance relevance - when the content and examples included directly apply to the learners’ jobs, content can be retained in a more emotional way than generic content would.
  • Reinforce company brand and culture - branded courses can build on the company look and personality, especially when key company players are featured in some of the materials.
  • Provide greater control - owning the content means you can make updates on the fly, then deploy them company-wide — no “red tape” required.


Now that you know why customization is key for corporate training, here’s the how:


How to create custom e-learning courses


Creating custom courses in your LMS shouldn’t take long — but only if you do your homework first. Follow these best practices to put your best content forward:


Identify your audience(s)


Think about the subject at hand, and who needs to know this information. Is it something more general that most employees should understand, or is it more targeted to a specific department or job role? List out all of the potential audiences who will view your content.


What you may find is that you can break up larger topics into introductory, intermediate, and expert levels, then create multiple useful courses centered around one main topic. You can then use your LMS to assign the appropriate course to employees by job title or other factors.


Sketch or storyboard out the course


Create a loose outline of the key points you’d like to include in the course. Then brainstorm the types of content that will help convey your messages in ways that are relevant and engaging.

The beauty of creating custom content from scratch is being able to recruit subject-matter experts to feature in your courses — whether in photos or video.


Be sure to keep course length in mind, as modern learners have short attention spans. If your material takes longer than 10 minutes to cover, break it into smaller courses that are easier to digest.   


Find a way to work in video


Video is the versatile medium  your custom courses shouldn’t live without. From step-by-step demonstrations to role-playing scenarios, a few minutes of footage can leave a lasting impression in your workers’ minds (especially when you enable in-video comments to help trainees learn from their peers). These clips don’t need to include over-the-top production value, but should be more compelling than a talking head.


When they view comments and questions in real time, real social learning occurs.  


Keep their attention


Make sure learners are doing more than passively clicking through screens or watching a video — build in quiz questions to keep workers engaged and to gauge how well they are grasping the information. If they miss several quiz questions, send them back to the beginning to retake the course and try again.


Your LMS should have the functionality to switch up the types of questions on the next go round, so they can’t just memorize the answers and “cheat” on the next attempt.





Ask for feedback


This step is often overlooked, but a few key critiques from early course takers can help optimize the content for future learners. Analyze the feedback you receive from in-course quizzes, and send out an online survey to collect learner input.



Think outside of HR and L&D


Fortunately, customizing online courses doesn’t always mean you have to DIY from start to finish. Beef up your e-learning library with these tactics:  



Customize third-party content


Some LMSs come pre-loaded with several courses many companies would need to share with their employees. Think of them as a head start on creating your e-learning content, but with the added benefit of customization. Make third-party and preloaded courses your own by:


  • Removing unnecessary content
  • Incorporating corporate branding
  • Adding in videos or slides that include relevant examples
  • Embedding quizzes to help with retention



Flip the script on employees


Having to teach a subject requires that the instructor actually understands it. To add to your custom e-learning library with real-world and relevant examples, ask top performers to create a course or video tutorial on a specific topic.


These employee-generated courses can perform double duty as a performance goal for the instructor and a development goal for his or her peers.


Ask your LMS provider to do the heavy lifting


Once you’ve identified your training and development platform, ask if the provider has any resources available to help you build out your custom content library. Who better to act as an extra set of L&D hands than those who are already well-versed in online training best practices?



With a little planning and the right LMS, you can build out a robust library of custom e-learning content and reap all the rewards of more relevant online training for your employees.



Why Career Training is More Important than Ever (and Where to Start)

In years past, career training could have been reserved for getting new hires up to speed as quickly as possible. But today, companies must go above and beyond onboarding to create a true culture of learning.

But, what’s a culture of learning? It’s an organization where ongoing training and development are a priority. And companies with learning cultures are rewarded with nearly 100 percent loyalty and engagement from their employees, according to a recent study by Instructure.

There are many reasons why developing a culture of learning is crucial for the modern workforce, including:

  • Younger talent with different priorities - in a recent study,  millennials ranked training and development 300 percent higher than cash bonuses.
  • Mass exodus of baby boomers - as older workers retire, more millennials will need to be groomed (aka trained) for management positions.
  • Shorter tenures, more job hopping - young workers are staying at jobs for less than three years on average, meaning having an expert in one field today doesn’t mean he or she will be there tomorrow.
  • Skills gaps in the workplace - from technology advancing quickly to recent grads not being fully prepared for the real world, there are many skills that companies have a hard time hiring for.

Fortunately, technology is also empowering companies to provide development opportunities through e-learning.

Ongoing e-learning: Companies should make it a priority

While HR may (rightfully) feel that it already has its hands full with onboarding, performance reviews and recruiting, career training should never fall by the wayside.

The most effective way to offer the ongoing learning and development workers crave is through an online learning platform, sometimes called a learning management software, or learning management system (LMS). By developing and deploying all employee training in a cloud-based application, training can be performed just about anywhere, on laptops, desktops, tablets, or smartphones.

Corporate e-learning doesn’t have to be complicated

Implementing an e-learning program for employees doesn’t have to be daunting. And fortunately, not every course will need to be created from scratch. Here’s why:

  • Many LMSs come pre-loaded with courses on popular topics that can easily be modified to suit your needs.
  • Lynda.com and OpenSesame have thousands of courses that can easily be added to your learning management system for an instantly robust online library.
  • E-learning platforms are designed to be easy enough for users to create a course in a matter of minutes.

Ironically, soft skills are the hardest to train for. How do you go about training for problem-solving, collaboration, and even empathy? While teaching soft skills a classroom setting could be awkward at best, assigning career training on these topics via e-learning allows you to combine the personal, one-on-one feel of an in-person session with the added benefits of scalability and reporting.

A word about analytics

Workers aren’t the only ones who will learn from e-learning, however. With robust reporting features, learning and engagement platforms can inform which courses are working, where employees are getting stuck, and other high-value intel that will inform even more effective training in the future.

Online career training can encourage social learning  

While some informal learning may happen around the watercooler, there is much HR and L&D professionals can do to help facilitate social learning in their corporate training. Why not monitor and guide social conversations to ensure misinformation is not being spread around like funny memes?

Look for a corporate training software solution that enables peer-to-peer learning through comments and feedback on courses and videos. When learners can see what others are asking at a certain point in the video, they are more apt to pay attention and may even reply with some brilliant insight that drives the key message home for other learners.

Built-in retention tools help new knowledge stick  

We’ve all got a million things swimming around in our brains at any given moment. So, it’s impossible to expect that learners will remember 100 percent of the materials lost. In fact, most learners will forget 75 percent of what was trained six days after taking the course.

To help improve retention for the career training you provide to employees, you can:

  • Make sure training is timed appropriately - don’t assign courses too far in advance of when the information will be used.
  • Leverage retention tools - use embedded quizzes and follow-up quizzes to keep the information top of mind. Ninety percent of knowledge is retained from the immediate application.
  • Turn the student into the teacher - enlist the help of employees in creating training courses and videos to help their peers achieve maximum knowledge.

Career development can happen organically with e-learning

Online training resources provide workers with anytime access to a library of career development content. When employees have the freedom and flexibility to learn on their terms, some of the results you may find are quite telling.

  • Who went above and beyond the courses assigned to them?
  • Who is spending the most time (on their personal time) investing in their own development? (Hint: you could be looking at management material!)

In addition to wanting more career training, the modern workforce also requires ongoing feedback. Fortunately, training and feedback go hand-in-hand.

Assign training and improve work performance

To further streamline management operations for managers and HR leaders, some LMSs integrate with performance management software, making it easier than ever to assess potential skills gaps and assign relevant training in a matter of minutes.

Whether managers assign additional training monthly, quarterly, or during every 1:1 check-in, integration between performance management and e-learning systems can help managers and HR leaders seamlessly develop and engage workers — and fast.

Transforming your company into one that provides the career training workers require won’t happen overnight. But, it will be well worth the effort when it comes to engagement and productivity.

Look for an e-learning software solution that provides the flexibility, scalability and ease of use your team needs to provide ongoing development that leads to enhanced company outcomes.