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Read time5 mins

Understanding the challenges of performance development

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A man in business casual attire pulls on a rope that forms a tangled mess against a plain, concrete background, symbolizing the challenges of performance.

Is performance development completely broken?

Are your performance development efforts falling short of expectations?

When speaking to many people across a wide range of industries, the common experience seems to be that performance development just doesn’t work.

But why is that?

There are four main reasons why the current approaches to performance development are failing, including complexity, abstraction and proximity.

By understanding the causes of performance development failures, you’ll be better placed to create an effective, user-friendly system that drives results.

Decoding the failures of performance development

Watch the video to understand the reasons why most performance development processes fail to produce results, and the psychological reasons behind these challenges.

Step 3 - Key characteristics of an effective performance development system

Step 1 - Key benefits of performance development in the workplace

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Why does most performance development fall short?

Hi, Andrew from SACS and welcome to video number two in our seven video series on performance development, including 360 degree feedback.

In this one, we’ll be dealing with a question of why most performance development doesn’t work.

That might sound a little bit of a radical statement, but most people don’t seem to think that their performance development process is optimum.

In subsequent videos after this, we’ll be talking about how to create an optimum performance development process.

How proximal is your process?

The first thing I want to talk about in this respect is the proximal-distal effect.

In psychology, proximal is things that are close to me.

Distal is things that are far away from me.

So my trusted colleague who sits next to me, that person, she is proximal. She’s close to me.

The person who is the chief executive of the organisation, by definition, to most people, that person is distal because they’re at a different level of seniority.

They may be in a different geographical location.

Proximal versus distal.

Many performance development schemes are of their very nature distal.

They’ve got ratings which were devised by somebody at some point of time. They’ve got assessments.

Well, what’s this got to do with my job? It looks foreign to me.

So distal works way less effectively than proximal does.

Simple vs complex systems

Secondly, is it simple or is it complex?

Now, good performance development schemes are very simple.

They should be set up to improve performance and nothing else, and to make them as freeform, clear and easy as possible should be the objective of everybody designing a performance development system.

Are you being too abstract?

The next is the question of concrete versus abstract.

So many performance development systems are abstract.

They say, we want you to live our values.

Well, what are values?

Values for most people are vague concepts.

Of course, people like to talk about values ’cause it sort of sounds nice and it’s reassuring to say that we have integrity.

But you know what?

Integrity is very different in a big bank from integrity in a fish and chip shop.

Let’s argue that they’re both important, but what really gives clarity is the behaviours.

So evaluation of behaviours.

“”I will turn up to my meetings on time.””

Making it clear and verifiable like that makes it far more likely to work.

But what do we do?

We default to abstractions like I want you to work in a collegiate fashion.

I want you to act with integrity. I want you to be kind to your colleagues.

Well, what exactly does that mean in behaviours?

If you can make it observable, it’s far more likely that it’s going to happen.

The SCARF model of performance development

Then we look at the work of David Rock.

David Rock is a neuroscientist, and he has suggested that most people should simply dump the formal performance development processes.

Now, I don’t quite agree with Rock because I think he goes too far.

What he’s saying is that the very act of evaluating people turns on their amygdala.

And one of the things any neuroscientist will tell you is that when the amygdala is turned on, you’re really not in a very receptive learning frame of mind.

So that is true and what we have to do is to run performance development in such a way that it doesn’t turn on the amygdala.

So Rock is right, but I think that there’s a way of developing formal performance systems to make them work without turning on the amygdala.

He uses the definition of wellbeing from a neurological point of view as the thing called SCARF model.

And SCARF is all about status.

So any less than optimal performance management rating signifies lower status certainty.

Lack of transparency about the process creates uncertainty.

Autonomy, so when you have ratings where people are evaluated top-down, then that leads to a situation where people’s autonomy is compromised.

Relatedness, this is what I was talking about earlier in the proximal-distal question, and it certainly leads to a situation where there can be competition between employees rather than collaboration.

And finally, fairness.

If you are being rated by a boss and that boss says, “”Well, yes, you are doing great”” or “”You’re doing badly”” or whatever, how fair is that?

People need fairness in order not to turn on their amygdala.

So I think that Rock is right, but I think he does go too far.

The next video we’ll be talking about what does work in performance development.

We’ll be talking about the formal performance development process in comparison with the informal performance development process.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that the informal in fact, is more important, but the formal can contribute to the informal.

Click on the link near this video to join us for the rest of the videos where we’ll show you exactly how to develop the best possible performance development system.

Time to optimise your performance development process?

Step 3 - Key characteristics of an effective performance development system

Step 1 - Key benefits of performance development in the workplace

If you’d like some help with refining your performance development processes, contact us about our 360 Degree Feedback tool.

Boost performance with 360 degree feedback

360 degree feedback is a powerful tool that can be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Individual performance management
  • Group or organisational performance assessment
  • Leadership behaviours and development

Gathering multiple perspectives allows you to strengthen the performance of individual team members as well as teams, departments, and your entire organisation.

Discover how our 360 Degree Feedback tool can help maximise your organisation’s effectiveness.

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