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Avoiding Performance Management Potholes

Is performance management the last stop on the road between federal agencies and satisfying the citizens they serve?

Performance management is all the rage in business administration. Unfortunately, the public sector trails the private sector on the topic. It’s a collection of strategies for meeting goals effectively and efficiently. This transformative practice can apply to individuals, departments and organizations.

Regrettably, the federal government’s road to pleasing citizens boasts many potholes. Many agencies are slow and struggle with providing a strong customer experience (CX). These organizations are also grappling with recruiting and retaining talent in an increasingly competitive job market.

“Despite good intentions, the federal government has become overly bureaucratic and complex for meeting citizens’ needs in the 21st century,” Steve Dobberowsky said during a GovLoop online training. Dobberowsky is the Principal Consultant for Talent Management Thought Leadership at Cornerstone OnDemand. Cornerstone OnDemand is a cloud-based learning and talent management software provider.

Dobberowsky said that the federal government has lots to learn from private businesses who use continuous, robust performance management.

“The public sector doesn’t treat its workers as its biggest asset,” he said. “That’s a big differentiator between the public and private sectors.”

Dr. Tom Tonkin, Cornerstone OnDemand’s Principal, Thought Leadership & Advisory Service, said that bad professional development alienates both public and private sector employees. Performance management, he continued, helps businesses and governments alike keep their workers content.

“The fact that people leave the organization that they leave – regardless of the flavor of the organization – is that they’re not being developed,” Tonkin said. “That’s No. 1, top of the charts.”

Dobberowsky said that despite performance management’s value, five factors are preventing federal agencies from using the technique:

  • Tension between the private and public sectors
  • Lack of visibility into employee growth
  • Employee goals that are misaligned with organizational goals
  • Misalignment between compensation and performance management to optimal behavior
  • Inability to identify high performers

So how can agencies overcome these obstacles? Dobberowsky recommended imitating private-sector performance management plans.

“The idea of serving your country isn’t enough to make you stay in the public sector,” he said. “The mission is a great recruitment tool, but the job also has to be agile, innovative and adaptive to keep top performers.”

Dobberowsky next suggested that agencies take a futuristic view of their purposes by analyzing where individuals could move to benefit their careers. According to Dobberowsky, this would help agencies use talent where it’s needed most.

Tonkin and Dobberowsky agreed that continuously refining how organizations appraise themselves and their employees is another ingredient for success.

“If I look at someone in their 20s, I’m going to develop them differently than when they’re in their 40s,” Tonkin said. “It’s not one-size-fits all.”

Tonkin next noted agencies should encourage altruistic behaviors in addition to compliant ones. Compliant behaviors are basic responsibilities and requirements of a job, such as punctuality. Altruistic behaviors, meanwhile, go above and beyond job descriptions to help other coworkers.

Dobberowsky noted that agencies could additionally readjust their metrics to better track and predict high-performing employees.

“Don’t treat people like you want to be treated,” he said. “Treat them like they want to be treated.”

Finally, agencies that aren’t certain about performance management should remember it impacts other areas too.

“Whatever innovation you’re considering, you really need to consider the culture,” Dobberowsky said. “What do you want to do when you want to impart a new change? You want to remove the barriers to entry so there’s less friction.”

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