Article (July-2019)


Steering PMS in the development sector

Kalyani Rao

Designation : -   Senior Manager, Human Resources

Organization : -  Dr. Reddys Foundation, Hyderabad


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"It's not the right figure!"exclaim disgruntled staff at their annual ratings. If you are an HR person, I am sure you are familiar with this scenario soon panning out to include a host of emotions that imply anything from the exercise "not being very fair", or "not engaging" to "too demotivating" etc. etc.

But this need not be so. When key elements are carefully woven together with transparency and efforts even the most complex process turns out to be, a simple and purposeful one for all involved.

Keeping pace with needs

Effective performance management systems are at the core of driving organisational goals and culture. Unfortunately, organisations have been following for too long traditional systems that have stopped contributing to the reason they were set up and are not relevant in the new dynamic nature of organisational functioning. And this is more pronounced in the development sector, where paucity of HR staff, money and time may compel HR teams to follow established exercises rather than experiment with new practices to motivate staff, and thereby overlooking the fact that employees across all sectors are people first. Also, organisations grow with time and with changing times and changing needs, perhaps it is time to question some of the merits of the traditional system and instead learn from some of the best practices to ensure staff motivation is always at its peak.

New Manta - Employee First

The fundamental goal of this new matrix was to maximise organisational productivity by enabling employees to perform to their potential, align their goals to the organisational priorities, help employees with pointers to monitor their own results and support them in identifying and removing hurdles to performance.  So while assuring every employee, the organisation had their development in mind, the new matrix included features like more dynamic quarterly goals linked to clear expectation-setting between the reportee and manager; supported by weekly check-ins allowing more opportunities to provide and seek support. This was supplemented with the coaching of employees to achieve their maximum performance levels, periodic review of priorities, platform for providing on-going feedback for both managers and the reportee, all initiated by the employee.  The modified platform enabled and encouraged staff to use their strengths, while challenging themselves to go to the next level and thereby, powering the performance of the organisation. And so the rating exercise was a participatory and a fair measure of the deliverables agreed and committed to by all concerned, instead of limiting it as a year-end exercise. These experiences between staff and their managers have created an environment of trust and fairness in the organisation thus contributing to higher satisfaction and engagement rates among the employees. In addition, other advantages of the tool included, priorities not being vague and aspirational but real time goals, in turn, leading to discussions reflecting more real time current performance and assignments and not allowing components from the past to dilute present inputs. This helps the management to steer organisational priorities in close alignment with real performance and ensure fairness at an individual level.

Engaging staff during transformation

Several studies have shown a direct correlation between the frequencies of conversations among the manager - reportee, to constructive employee engagement. It is therefore imperative for any big transformation or small change to be rightly executed, the concerned stakeholders are engaged and know the "why, how and what" of it. To get the tempo right, discussions were held with staff and included points like their views on efficiency of the existing performance management system, or what were the gaps in the current system and what needed to be included in the new matrix. This participatory exercise eased the transition to the new matrix as it incorporated some of the feedback from the teams.

Communications is the Key

The secret to building bridges between the employee and management is transparent communications. For example, at Dr. Reddy's Foundation, different communication platforms and mediums were used to engage and inform staff about the change. In addition, the design team also put in place mechanisms that reviewed the implementation and made necessary support available to ensure all issues were addressed without delay. In conclusion, performance management system should not be limited to just performance rating, or misread as a staff "annual appraisal" or "increment system", for it is not merely about arriving at a digit to ascertain performance at the end of year; rather if designed and executed well, it can be a great contributor to fuelling performance and driving a culture of result, talent development and growth in addition to the goodwill and trust of your teams!