Too many companies fail to address poor performance among their IT staffs and rely too heavily on formal performance evaluations instead of in-the-moment feedback that could help IT pros improve, according to a survey from staffing firm TEKsystems.
It polled 2,000 IT professionals and 1,500 IT leaders in September on their organizations’ effectiveness in managing performance. Among the findings:
“Performance management isn’t just about coming down and correcting and coaching the performers who need help, but recognizing, motivating, encouraging and praising the great performers in your organization as well,” said Rachel Russell, TEKsystems director of marketing in an interview.
It seems there’s a real disconnect between what IT bosses say they’re doing and what IT pros perceive. One big area:
The top way managers thought they should be giving feedback to employees was written.
“While I get the inclination to make things very clear, people want to be given feedback face to face. They want to have a conversation about how they’re doing — not some written-up document that’s submitted to the HR department then emailed to them. Having face-to-face dialogue is a huge opportunity for organizations,” said Russell, who also emphasized the importance of being prompt in giving feedback and being direct.
Russell pointed to these areas in need of improvement:
Managers can feel uncomfortable giving feedback, especially if it’s critical, but failing to address performance hurts not only the employee, but also the company, Russell said.
“Organizations have to embrace the idea that there’s no such thing as unkind kindness. You don’t want to say, ‘I don’t want to be the bad-guy manager and tell Brandon he could have done something better.’ As Brandon’s manager, I see my honorable responsibility to make sure Brandon is getting the feedback he needs — positive and negative.”
Informal feedback can take many forms — just a pat on the back or an invitation to go for coffee.
Poor performance can likewise take many forms — including a worker just having a bad day. Russell recommended acknowledging even that in a caring way.
“It’s not something you want to publicly flog someone for, but it’s not something you want to ignore either,” she said. “Having a bad day is not an excuse to deviate from what the organization needs you to do. While we want to be understanding and human toward each other, the most human thing to do is to pull them aside privately and say, ‘Hey, I notice you’re not yourself today. What’s going on? How can I help?’
“Bosses tend to think of addressing poor performance as being very negative and we want to help IT organizations change that. If they only see it in that way, they will shy away from it and employees will not get the coaching and guidance that they need, and the organization will not achieve the level of performance it seeks.”