Performance management in a downturn – Your questions answered

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min read
February 2, 2023
January 18, 2024
Performance management webinar Q&A
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Our latest webinar: Performance management in a downturn: How to get it right in 2023 saw some interesting interaction in the Q&A. We invited viewers to submit questions. Here’s what they asked, along with our answers.

Note: If you did not atend our webinar, you can access the recording via this link. We've also written a blog post with key insights shared during this session, if you wish to read through these you can access the blog post via this link.

“If you are part of an organisation that is not yet in the habit of consistent performance conversations, what would be a minimum standard to start with?”

Managers and employees naturally have performance conversations, even if there is no formalised process. These will be specific to the individuals involved and are likely to vary wildly across the business if there are no set rules. While some employees will be lucky enough to have a good manager who is concerned with their own development, others may not be so lucky and this will lead to huge inconsistencies.

This is why it's important to have a clear performance management process in place so that employees know what to expect, especially when they join an organisation. They want to know how their performance will be assessed and how they can build a career.

As every organisation is different, with its own culture and challenges, it’s difficult to recommend an exact approach; there is no ‘one size fits all’. In my view, the approach we recommend to our customers is to focus on a combination of regular check-ins to provide continuous support and focus, regular reviews to set goals and monitor progress plus some kind of annual reflection to look at the bigger picture and long-term career aims. It’s good to keep it simple at the start and to build confidence and competence amongst your managers to get these basics right.

If you don’t have check-ins already, we have this handy template to help you introduce them, suggesting what questions you should ask to have a well-rounded conversation.

“Should performance ratings be used? If so, how regularly?”

It depends on your organisation to some extent, but I think some kind of indication on how employees are doing has a place. There is a fundamental need for people to know they are doing alright and that they are on track. For that reason, I think something is needed, but the traditional approach many companies take to ratings can be problematic.

Often ratings are designed to paint ‘shades of grey’ between the majority of employees who, on the whole, are doing a solid job. There’s little advantage to demarcating and labelling small differences between most employees who are performing well, especially considering how long managers tend to agonise over their decisions, which tend to be highly subjective. The key is to let these solid performers know how valuable they are, the difference they are making, and to sincerely thank them for a job well done.

Where I believe companies should invest their time and energy is to lineate and rate those relatively few employees at the extremes. Companies need to acknowledge and celebrate their very top performers because of the disproportionate value they add, and because they are hungry to hear they are valued. Your best performers are the very people most sought after in the job market; you cannot afford to lose them.

Companies also need to identify and rate the lowest performers who are problematic for the whole team. Underperformers sap the whole team’s performance and motivation. Helping managers to identify and rate poor performance, and then tackle it with positive intent goes a long way.

Whatever the mechanism that companies use to rate their employees, it is essential they place close attention to the Equity & Inclusion (EDI) agenda. Companies need to closely track and monitor their data to ensure there are no concerning patterns showing unconscious bias or discrimination.

“Organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to set objectives as we seem to be in a constant state of flux – Brexit, Covid, inflation etc – are any organisations adopting an adaptability measure of individual or team performance?”

This is a tricky one and there’s no golden bullet. We do believe that the onus is on leaders to give as much clarity as they can in the face of fluctuations and uncertainty; whilst they may not have all the answers they will certainly know more than their employees do! This is when authentic leadership comes to the fore – most employees will forgive their leaders saying they don’t have all the answers as long as they are clearly making every effort to find a workable solution. This is also why objectives can’t be rigid. Objectives for a short-term horizon are more likely to stay meaningful and motivating. And there needs to be a mechanism to adapt them if necessary.

Managers can make a huge difference by helping employees to recognise that circumstances are fluid and that changes will happen. It’s about recognising that change is normal and accepting that. Change management skills are becoming increasingly important, so building these skills in managers and employees is vital for the modern workplace.


These questions were answerd by Amira Kohler, Director of Performance and Change at Appraisd.

Amira is a true performance management and change management expert with a fresh voice and informed views.

Amira has worked for 30 years to help companies optimise organisational and employee performance. She has experienced the subject from every possible angle, from designing and delivering performance solutions to the programme management of global software implementations.

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Webinar: "Performance management in a downturn: How to get it right in 2023"

Effective performance management, which feels meaningful and value-adding has never mattered more. It’s time to finally get it right in 2023.

Performance management in a downturn
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