Transition Management Consulting, Inc.

Current State: Assn. Performance Mgt. (2 of 5)

by Jackie Eder-Van Hook, PhD

Current State of Performance Management in Associations

TMC posed the question, “What are the cutting edge approaches to performance management in associations?” to a number of human resources professionals who have worked or consulted to associations. (A list of individuals who participated is included at the end of this document.)

The HR professionals who agreed to be interviewed agreed that traditional performance reviews are too time consuming, infrequent, impersonal, burdensome, excessively subjective, and stressful.

One HR consultant stated that many associations do not use a performance management system or if they have a system, they are not doing performance management well. One simple explanation is that the majority of associations are small, with staff size of less than 10 employees. While small associations might contract for some level of outsourced HR, they are unlikely to have a professional HR person on staff and managers are likely to be generalists with heavy and diverse workloads. A senior HR director stated that when associations do performance evaluations, they tend to use a very traditional approach.

Some associations are considering small tweaks to their processes to reduce the amount of time its takes to conduct the reviews, reduce stress, and, most importantly, retain their best employees. A few of the larger associations are moving away from ratings and encouraging a coaching and mentoring approach similar to where Deloitte (a global consulting firm), Adobe (a software vendor), and other global corporations are headed. However, the systems these large firms are using are untested, and many are still in the initial or pilot phase.

Deloitte, for example, has eliminated all of their general evaluation questions that assessed an employee’s skills or competencies and replaced it with four basic questions asked at defined intervals (monthly, quarterly, or project conclusion). The questions are: is the person worthy of a salary increase or bonus; is this someone you’d want on your team; is the person promotable; and is the person’s performance at-risk. The answers to these questions help management determine an employee’s value to the firm, but does nothing to develop the employee.

It is difficult to see how an Deloitte’s approach would translate to associations, which are much smaller in size. In associations, positions are filled with only one person as opposed to global organizations with hundreds, if not thousands of people filling a single job type. Because they are smaller, associations face the reality of the costly, time consuming, and disruptive nature of recruiting and training staff where there is limited ability to redistribute workloads.

One HR director suggested a path forward. Associations can start by asking employees and managers

  • What is going well? What is not going well?
  • What are the barriers to success?
  • What do you need in order to succeed?
  • What do we need as an organization to do differently?
  • How can we be a more effective organization?

She recommended that concerns be addressed as soon as they arise; make course corrections, as needed; require the right amount of documentation in the form of journaling or briefly documenting the meeting; have more frequent and regular conversations that are of a broader nature and future-focused; and stay focused on future performance and not on rehashing the past.

The reality is that everyone wants to succeed. They want to feel valued, respected, and aligned with the organization’s mission. They want to know that their work counts and they make a difference.

Links to the other parts of this series.


Cutting Edge Approaches in Performance Management (1 of 5)

Current State of Performance Management in Associations (2 of 5)

Changes in Performance Management (3 of 5)

Decoupling Compensation from Performance Ratings (4 of 5)

Performance Management Systems – A Conclusion (5 of 5)

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