Continous Performance: Brace For Impact

Enrico A. Palumbo

During SuccessConnect in London, Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, announced the implementation of the SuccessFactors continuous performance management (CPM) functionality on mobile devices. This was employed in order to facilitate ongoing feedback and performance coaching for its employees.

Similarly, last year SAP also embarked on a journey to transform its internal performance management approach, and the results of the pilot phase are striking. It won’t take long until CPM becomes mainstream. To make CPM a real success, however, we need to address not only the good, but also the bad and the ugly.

The bad

If all managers were natural-born leaders—knowing the tools and techniques, gifted with coach-like communication styles, keen to talk with people not only about their growth but also to confront brutal facts of underperformance—we would neither require a CPM process nor a software solution to support it.

However, in my experience the reality is different. I encounter leaders who are passionate about developing talented people and exemplary in addressing low performance. But I also see performance issues that are addressed indirectly and based on rushed judgement, and too often employee motivation is seen as the only real issue.

The ugly

It may be shocking for some, but it is true: Managers can make a real difference before it is too late. For a start, it’s always good to look in the mirror rather than out the window.

I like to illustrate this concept with the picture of a bus journey, shown above. You may have already wondered: What has the bus to do with performance?

Performance issues can have several causes:

  • Direction is unclear: Have we explained where we are heading and what the journey will look like?
  • Gears set up wrong: Have we defined processes and provided tools and resources that allow people to work in an effective and efficient manner?]
  • Lack of safety belts: Do we support people in conflicts that arise after we’ve pushed them to take risks and be bold, disruptive, etc.?
  • Unclear instructions: Have the rules of the game and the role and responsibility of the individual been explained well, or are we just assuming that everybody knows them?
  • Wrong seat in the bus: Do we take time to understand if somebody is in a role that does not fit? That individual could be a great asset (and happy employee) in a role that’s better matched with their skills and competency profile.
  • Feels bored: Do we assign tasks and support activities that go beyond routine work but bring stretch assignments and job enrichment?
  • Needs a break: Sometimes life can bring challenges that hinder us from being fully focused. What do we do to recognize this and support employees in difficult times?
  • Wrong bus: Sometimes people are simply on the wrong bus and it’s best for everybody if they get off.

Ticket inspection

As formal performance ratings decline, vigorous debates on standards for performance and the right away to address deviation will become more relevant. Performance improvement plans (PIP) have scored silent wins over decades, but their best time is yet to come. Put in place early enough, evidence-based, and with smart objectives, a PIP is a great gift to the individual and the entire organization.

Disclaimer: Please note that all statements are my personal views and opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of my current employer.

For more on this topic, see Imagining The Future Of Performance Management.

Enrico A. Palumbo

About Enrico A. Palumbo

Enrico A. Palumbo is HR Director and Member of the Management Board of SAP Switzerland. Over the last 15 years, Enrico worked in different HR roles and functions including HR business partner, center of expertise, and shared services in leadership roles, as a project manager, and as a business consultant in different industries and geographies. Since 2014, he has been the global HR business partner for selected lines of business in the board area Products and Innovation at SAP. Enrico Palumbo is an active member of the SAP internal coaching pool.