Tell Me, Tell Me, Tell Me.

The Future of….Performance Management
– by Nicholas Creswell, VP Performance & Talent Management, Thomson Reuters

What caused Labour’s lamentable performance in the 2015 election?

Theories abound, but I believe the most plausible explanations come from two commentators on Quora.com.

One posits: “Labour lost because they retreated to their core support and abandoned the fight for the centre ground”.  Another suggestion, brilliantly succinct: “too much base, not enough swing?”

If you believe these hypotheses – and some will strongly disagree – it makes Labour’s current leadership battle all the more fascinating.  What is Labour’s response to electoral feedback that they focused too much on their core?  They thrust forward Jeremy Corbyn, the ultimate representative of Labour’s deepest inner core.  He seems to be the person the core wants: but is he the leader that the centrist electorate wants?

But what do Labour’s travails have to do with the future of performance management?

If you believe the theories above, then the party isn’t listening to voters’ feedback.  It’s fixing what it wants to fix – not what the electorate needs it to fix.

And stripping all else aside, the biggest single driver of performance is feedback.

Feedback fuels performance: research from the Corporate Leadership Council shows fair, accurate and informal feedback can increase performance by 39%. More formal feedback, focused on people’s strengths and potential, can account for a 37% jump in performance.

Feedback builds relationships: providing feedback on a frequent basis, in small doses, fosters an environment where feedback is expected, sought, acted on and appreciated. This, in turn, builds trust in the relationship and in the feedback process.Feedback unlocks potential: giving, seeking and accepting feedback helps us uncover opportunities and provides areas of focus to help us continue to develop and grow.

Feedback rocks.

The business media is awash with articles advocating the destruction of performance management systems and processes: removing ratings, destroying distribution, abolishing appraisals and ending the annual cycle.

In some cases these changes make sense, in other cases I struggle with them.

And I’m most convinced when the reason for change is to focus on feedback.  What, specifically, does the individual do well, or need to improve?  What impact does this action have?  How can it be improved, or turned around?  How can managers give this feedback in a useful manner?  How can employees be open to the feedback, and act on it?

When feedback is everywhere, that’s when performance goes through the roof.

Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted the feedback from the electorate.  Perhaps the electorate really do want more of Labour’s core values.  Perhaps they value conviction and authenticity above all else.

But if that’s not the case, then for its own long term success, let’s hope Labour learns to love feedback.

– with thanks to the author, Nicholas Creswell, VP Performance & Talent Management at Thomson Reuters. Please note that whilst the author’s views on feedback reflect Thomson Reuters’ approach to performance management, his comments on politics are written in a personal capacity and do not reflect Thomson Reuters views.