by Ray D'Cruz, CEO, SkillsScorecard
Two of the clearest messages from this year’s ALMPA Hot Issues in HR Survey seem to connect very nicely. The first is that HR is spending more time on performance management than other HR activities. The second is that performance management is one of the most important HR issue for legal firms in 2013. So, all very neat: HR is spending the most time on a critical issue.In some ways, we should leave it there. But there’s something about that neat conclusion that doesn’t sit right. We hear stories from HR practitioners about the challenge of driving compliance – in some cases a three-month saga. We also hear stories from HR about the time it takes to collate results and report development needs. So a lot of that time is being spent on administration.
Quantity vs Quality of Time
This raises the question of whether HR has time or enough time to spend on activities that can improve the quality of the performance management process – not just the quantity of them. Training and coaching skills such as decision making, goal setting and giving feedback are necessary for effective performance management but are often overlooked. Similarly, firms that have rating scales can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the process if partners and managers are not properly trained in how to apply ratings in a consistent manner.
A detailed survey conducted into law firm performance management in the US by the NALP Foundation found that 75% of firms with between 100 and 500 people do not provide training in relation to performance management while 50% of firms with more than 500 people provided no training in this area. There is no reason to believe the figures would be too different in Australia.
This may mean that the primary drivers of retention, identified by organisations like Hewitt and Gallup are not being properly addressed. Of Gallup’s 12 key measures of retention and engagement, the performance management process impacts eight, as detailed in a 2010 post on the SkillsScorecard blog. Performance management can support retention drivers such as setting time aside to discuss achievements and goals, having a manager who demonstrates care and recognition, encouraging development, setting clear expectations and so on. If firms are not spending enough time doing these things well then a major retention and engagement opportunity is being lost.
So we pose some question for readers: how are you allocating your performance management time? Is it primarily spent on administration or is it tilted toward the fundamental drivers of retention?
5 Tips to Ensure Your Time is Well Spent on Performance Management
Here are 5 practical ways in which firms can ensure your time is well spent on performance management activities:
- Save administration time by keeping the process simple. Compliance will be better if the process is simple. That will allow HR to focus on the things that matter.
- Offer annual training in the competencies of decision making, goal setting and giving feedback. There may be other needs, but this is a good start.
- Stay focused on the positive messages about why this process matters (retention and engagement). Avoid an overt compliance focus in staff communications. Organisations like Gallup have plenty of ammunition.
- Use an online system to save time on administration, with easier compliance management and faster reporting being the bedrock of most online systems.
- Ensure follow up beyond the process. Schedule learning activities based on learning needs and draw a connection back to the performance management process. Staff will be more likely to invest time if they know HR will respond to their development needs.
SkillsScorecard are the National Partner for and the ALPMA Hot Issues in HR Survey for the Legal Industry, which provides critical input for ALPMA's National HR Workshops, held in March in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. ALPMA’s National HR Workshops are a highly interactive one day forum where you will learn how to effectively address the key HR challenges facing your firm, get your “tricky” HR questions answered by experts and share experiences and best practice with your peers. You can register here.