Managing Smart: Performance Management, a Process for Success

Thursday, September 17, 2020

By Liz Suarez, Senior Director, Organizational Development and Human Resources

As leaders of people, we are probably aware of some definitions for performance management, such as a process of continuous communication or a process to create a work environment in which people are enabled to perform at their best. Furthermore, we may know that such goes beyond the annual Check-In meeting or faculty observations. This process begins upon hiring and only ends when an employee exits the institution.

Whether you are a new leader or an experienced leader, the current circumstances are challenging you to create and foster productivity in a virtual setting while leading people through the pandemic crisis. Certainly, maintaining critical human values of kindness and empathy at the forefront of the work needed to be performed, while also recognizing work performance that aligns with our institutional values are critical areas of focus for staff and faculty success in their roles.

To simplify the performance process definitions, let’s say that this process is ongoing and includes three key steps: setting expectations, coaching and reviewing performance. Sounds simple, right? In fact, we have done it before! Hence, a question that may be burning in our minds as people leaders is: How do we practice performance management now?

During the recent Supervisor Summer Series-Performance Management session, the facilitators asked the attendees the following question: How do you know if an employee is meeting your performance expectations?

Supervisors stated they knew employees were meeting performance expectations by:

  • Seeing that their work was being done correctly and on time;
  • Conducting regular check-ins and engaging in conversations to see how employees were doing, both personally and professionally;
  • Verifying that SMART goals were created and followed; and
  • Gathering satisfactory feedback from students and/or colleagues on performance and behaviors.

However, what does a leader do when performance or behavioral expectations are not being met? Could it be a matter of misaligned perspectives?

Differences in communication styles can impact how one perceives performance. As an example of such, an employee may only communicate with the supervisor when he or she is having trouble or needs something from them. However, the supervisor may prefer to be kept informed about progress or hear about what is going well. This is a misaligned perspective that could create a performance issue. If we refer back to the three steps noted above, this can be easily addressed by resetting the expectation of communication.

This sounds very simple so far, and yet, our current virtual environment and challenging times ask of us as people leaders to do things differently. That means providing opportunities for inquiry and understanding by following the coaching step of the process.

This coaching step begins with emphatic listening. Also called active listening or reflective listening, this approach is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding and trust. The Grow model is a simple model that can be used to assist with coaching

To watch an example of this step, check out this Listen as a Coach video from LinkedIn Learning.

Supervisors who attended the Performance Management Summer Series provided the following helpful tips that can be used through the coaching process:

  • Being on video and making eye contact;
  • Nodding the head in acknowledgement;
  • Welcoming body language, such as “leaning in”; and
  • Repeating things they have heard to the employee.

Furthermore, supervisors who have encountered work performance and/or behavioral concerns offered the following tips to remedy such gaps:

  • Have frequent discussions that involve feedback and development plans;
  • Address concerns as these arise; and
  • Hold regular one-on-one informal coaching or formal disciplinary conversations.

Note: The formal step of performance management includes the review of the events, documentation as written counseling, Individual Action Plan or Performance Improvement Plan and written reprimand. For more information on the formal process, please connect and partner with Valencia’s Organizational Development and Human Resources team.

Certainly, as leaders of people, it is imperative to recognize work that meets and exceeds performance and behavioral expectations in all aspects of the employer/employee relationship. Although, not a “step” noted above, recognition used as positive reinforcement and a proactive approach may reduce the gaps in desired work performance and create trust and loyalty while minimizing the effects of stressors already created by circumstances out of our control during the pandemic and movement to a virtual work environment.

Some ideas about concrete ways to recognize employees shared during the July Supervisor Summit included the following:

  • Timely e-mails of appreciation;
  • One-on-one calls;
  • Valencia EDGE badges;
  • Recognition in team meetings;
  • Thank you notes with specifics of accomplishments; and
  • Sharing successes with next level of supervision.

Please take a look at the list of resources below providing additional insight to you as leaders managing work performance:

If you notice that an employee has stressors beyond the scope of your purview of responsibility during any of these steps, remind them of the Employee Assistance Program available for full-time employees or for part-time employees. You may also connect them with your local ODHR representative for additional support.

For your convenience, included is a link to the recording of the Summer Series- Performance Management session.

As always, members of the Organizational Development and Human Resources Team (ODHR) in your ODHR Regional Solution Centers are here to assist you as you work and lead the way in engaging in the performance management process. If you have questions, contact us at or call the HR4U helpline at 407-299-5000, extension HR4U (4748).

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