Would your first inclination be to think of the large aims that you set out for yourself in your last review meeting with your manager? Or does a list of pressing project deadlines over the next few days or weeks come to mind first?
It can be hard to keep sight of the longer-range professional and career aspirations we have, as more immediate needs land on already overflowing plates. The dynamic has led to the recent popularity of “productivity hacks” or “life hacks,” but has its origins in the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution when we began to equate success with time spent at work rather than away from it.
This is one of the big reasons I find the transformation of performance management so exciting. The changes present an opportunity to stop “hacking” around the edges of efficiency, and instead focus in on our productivity as humans. Short-term performance, with the right tools and philosophy, can be aligned to the ongoing achievement of our larger goals, making us more effective along the way.
I touched upon the idea briefly in my last post, but there are two critical components to the success of these systems. The first is lightweight but long-range goal setting. These goals serve as a yardstick, providing direction and motivation while still being flexible enough to adapt to changes in strategy or the environment.
Instead of the annual set-and-forget mentality and lengthy cascading processes, lightweight goals continuously evolve alongside the business, which brings me to the second component. Continuous conversations provide the linchpin to keep those goals in focus.
Whether those conversations take the form of feedback, coaching, or check-ins, they offer the opportunity to pause and take stock of how current work is contributing to larger goals. Rather than a disconnected evaluative process that occurs infrequently, conversations allow those evaluations and any necessary adjustments to made in real-time.
Within the space of these conversations, there is considerable opportunity for creativity and innovation about how the work could better meet a set of goals, what work to focus on in the future, and how both contribute to the business and one’s own professional development.
Feedback is crucial for sustaining these positive spirals of goal setting and achievement, sustaining motivation towards the ideal state of productivity. A powerful method of feedback, in addition to what is provided in conversations, is social recognition.
Unlike other methods of variable compensation which are as infrequent as the traditional performance review, recognition occurs in real-time. Social recognition is also unique in its ability to increase the collaboration and connection between individuals, amplifying the effects of performance through shared goals and teamwork.
Taken together, these practices might help us give a better answer to that big question. So, what goals are you working towards?
As Globoforce’s Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. He is the co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and his articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.