Editor’s Note: Suzette Frith is COO at TSE, Inc., and a member of the ANCOR Foundation’s Leadership Academy, which seeks to support emerging leaders who are building their careers in services and supports for people with disabilities. Learn more about the Academy here.
Almost 21 years ago, I stepped into TSE, Inc. while in the process of developing a new performance appraisal system. This was a traditional annual review process that involved a long and cumbersome form that took supervisors a lot of time to complete, and which employees generally disliked. Because we couldn’t tie performance to pay increases, it became frustrating for staff. I envisioned a more hands on approach to performance, a more interactive approach to keep staff engaged. I started paying attention to what other companies were doing, and after researching and reading up on the latest and greatest, a plan was put into action.
Just over a year ago, we were working on our strategic plan, and at the same, started developed a new performance system tied to our strategic plan. We call it “Real Time Performance”. This is a system of more frequent, less formal interactions that keep supervisors more closely involved with ongoing employee performance, while at the same time giving employees greater sense of control and direction over the work they do, and the ways that they engage with the workplace. This also allowed us to deal with performance issues when they occur, and be able to move on without having to drag employees through that again at their “annual” performance.
Our new process involves two interrelated components. First, we created Performance Profiles for each position in our organization. Unlike a standard job description, the Performance Profile ties all aspects of an employee’s job to our Vision and Mission statements. It does so by helping employees understand how their role helps us accomplish our mission, the character attributes necessary to fulfill their role and how to use those attributes in performing their role, and tasks they will regularly be performing.
The second component is a designed performance conversation that supervisors schedule at least once each quarter. During these informal meetings, supervisors ask employees targeted questions about how they feel regarding their performance in critical aspects of their jobs. This conversation ends by determining what each employee will be held accountable for and how it will be measured, and also what assistance they may need from their supervisor in order to reach those quarterly goals.
Following these meetings, supervisors fill out a quick assessment sheet to summarize the meeting, record that quarter’s goals and objectives. Supervisors review these assessments over the course of the year to chart employee progress, note declines and advances, and make sure that employees continue to be passionate about, and engaged by, the work they do. Real Time Performance promotes conversation and engagement, is less stressful for employees to partake in, and offers greater opportunities for collaboration and role development.
Last fall, our CARF accreditation team reviewed our new performance system during our accreditation, and they had high praises for how innovative, creative, and interactive Real Time Performance is.
Suzette Frith can be contacted at [email protected].