Why calling “performance management” by some other name wouldn’t mean anything

It’s the most ridiculous things I’ve heard this year — organizations trying redesign ‘performance management.’ The hope is to go beyond processes and models (or shiny tools) and focus on a new mindset with a new purpose. By all means, it’s a great thought. We ought to think about performance management from a new perspective since most organizations have clearly missed the point.

Interestingly, organizations are keen to rebrand ‘performance management’ in an effort to “drive a mindset shift towards a new and refreshed purpose focused on development and growth.” I can’t believe we’ll now spend an inordinate amount of time to come up with the right name for this process! As if that’s going to do anything. Would it? I don’t think so. Because the whole reason people are indifferent towards performance management is due to the company culture. At the end of the day, it’s a people-centered process!

The Changing Names of PM Solutions
According to a recent Performance Management Solution Provider study, 46 percent of providers no longer use the term “performance management” in the title of their solution offerings.3 Several providers are instead calling their offerings “development,” “enablement,” “coaching,” or “empowerment.” While this certainly reflects the changing mindsets of organizations, it can make it confusing for potential buyers of technology solutions to identify who actually provides performance management solutions.

Performance Management: Will Changing the Name Change the Game?

I can’t help but think of an Aesop fable — the Ass in Lion’s skin.

An Ass once found a Lion’s skin which the hunters had left out in the sun to dry. He put it on and went towards his native village. All fled at his approach, both men and animals, and he was a proud Ass that day. In his delight, he lifted up his voice and brayed, but then every one knew him, and his owner came up and gave him a sound cudgeling for the fright he had caused. And shortly afterward a Fox came up to him and said: “Ah, I knew you by your voice.”

The Ass in The Lion’s Skin

Moral of the story? It’s this — a fool may deceive by his dress and appearance, but his words will soon show what he really is.

With great love and respect, not calling anyone a fool but the analogy makes sense. At least to me. We can’t dress up performance management to look and feel like something else. Enabling performance is all about putting people in the center. And that calls for a mindset shift at the top followed by actions that back up our intentions.

I wish driving meaningful outcomes were as easy as changing the nomenclature. It’s not. Particularly when people are the core part of the process. Enabling workforce sounds like a great idea but the approach can be as simple as asking the right questions that address the core challenges and inputs from the employees themselves. That’s great feedback for the HR to work with based on which they can devise a great performance management program that actually works. With or without the change in nomenclature.

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