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You can never talk about communications 'too much' because it is done so badly nearly everywhere. One piece of information from the CEOs we spoke to about communications was focused on the 'performance feedback'. Many CEOs believed performance management in their organizations had lost communications value and had become a 'forms design exercise'. By this they believed HR constantly reworked the 'tool' used to support performance communications trying to figure out how many 'levels' of performance should be on the form and what each 'level' should be 'called'.

Because of this many CEOs believed the communications about pay and performance was constantly 'under study' and managers were constantly trying to 'de-code' the forms design process. Not that this is the "Holy Grail" of what is going on but it did cause Pat and I to spend little time designing forms and more time coaching people responsible for giving and getting performance feedback and translating it into whatever rewards were tied to the process.

Decades ago when I was working for Rand Corporation/System Development Corporation, we had some contracts to explore performance management in the Air Force. After a year we surrendered the funding because 'time in grade' was such a powerful culture-dominating factor that performance was seldom a factor in rewards or promotion.

Communications certainly does matter but only when you have something useful to communicate.

Thanks, Margaret for re-validating eternal truths here. The newest research out right now focuses on the integral role constructive feedback plays in the most successful "innovative" performance management techniques. While it is hardly a new idea, frequent feedback is far more effective than education or "training." Most workers are perfectly capable of doing their jobs properly. Performance deficiencies always occur for reasons unrelated to competency.

As Margaret and Jay note, most managers lack the will to exercise whatever effective supervisory skills they possess. Many/most would rather completely avoid the discomfort of leveling with their direct reports. How do we inspire managers to grow spines so they can lead as supervisors?

Gosh, Jim. Is that the role of HR folks to 'inspire' people to give accurate and constructive feedback? One of the reasons we often see a 'bad rap' on HR folks is they don't do a good job of giving and getting 'feedback' in their own 'can of worms'. Perhaps starting with setting a good example?

Does anyone who is a practitioner have the answer to Jim's 'right on' question? Does anybody have a case history of how you got managers to do things they don't want to do? That would be very valuable.

I spent 23 years in the Air Force as a personnel officer, and my experience is that performance was the key variable in determining officer promotions, assignments, and retention in most instances. I probably served after Jay had his experience.

Regarding the spine problem Jim refers to. If you tell someone to do something, set expectations, in no uncertain terms, they generally comply. They might need some pointers or training, but they want to do their jobs and please their bosses to keep their jobs, progress, and get pay increases.

If people can't give honest performance reviews, perhaps they should not be supervisors.

One thing that hasn't changed in the Air Force since Jay was a consultant to them, is that regular base pay increases do not depend on officer performance, but on time in service (every 2 years). The AF does not have a merit pay system.

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