Updated: Apr 23, 2019
We want to move from a paternalistic culture toward a more performance-oriented one. Over the years we have laid the groundwork for forced ranking in our performance management system. How do we now launch it successfully?
--Stymied human resources director, finance, Ratmalana, Sri Lanka
Changing a paternalistic culture to one that values and rewards performance can be challenging, but you can do it if you put the basics in place. Focus on expectations, feedback and rewards.
Expectations Business goals and performance objectives should be clearly established and communicated so that employees know what is expected and how they are to perform. Setting expectations can be challenging for companies undergoing a change from paternalism to performance. Human resources can support the effort by coaching managers and employees on goal-setting as well as training them in how to write goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
Feedback Increase the amount of feedback given to employees at all levels. Put the emphasis on positive feedback -- delivering at least twice the amount of positive feedback as corrective feedback will help employees feel good about giving their best effort. Importantly, though, if performance is not up to par, corrective feedback is the key to raising standards. Paternalistic managers are reluctant to give feedback. Human resources can help by coaching managers on how to deliver useful feedback. Here’s a format you can follow: Positive FeedbackFormat. WHAT you did and WHY it is important (the impact it has on customers, co-workers, sales, productivity, etc.)Example. “Chris, I noticed you reorganized the inventory in the stockroom. This is great, because now the whole team will be able to find products more quickly. Thanks!”Negative FeedbackFormat. WHAT you did, WHAT we prefer, and WHY the preferred approach is importantExample. “Chris, I noticed you left on Friday without putting away the merchandise that was used during the week. What I prefer is that you make a habit of closing up the stockroom at the end of the week in ready-to-start condition, with all the merchandise back on the shelves. That way, when the team arrives on Monday, they can get to work right away and be more productive.” Rewards Use your salary budget to reward your best performers. Make sure there is a significant difference between what you pay average performers and what you pay top performers. Don’t reward poor performance.
Again, human resources plays a key role in helping managers use the salary budget strategically. Use pay to support the culture change. Even if your salary budget is limited, use it to support performance, and change the bad habit of giving everyone “a little something.”
Keep in mind, however, that top management plays the most important role in achieving culture change. A positive “tone at the top” is critical to the success of any major change effort. Senior management must clearly and consistently communicate the message that high performance is expected; that employees will get feedback along the way about their performance; and that the best performers will be rewarded accordingly.