4 powerful new findings in the science of performance management

We all know how useful the latest theories and findings from the world of academia can be. But who’s got time to keep track of them all?

Worry not. I’ve collected four particularly interesting papers on performance management. They’re all from the last three years, so you’ve got plenty of new research to get you thinking about better performance management.

Let’s jump into the research.

Science in performance management


Performance management effectiveness: practices or context

Authors: VY Haines III, S St-Onge 

Publication: The International Journal of Human Resource Management

Citations: 16

Year: 2012

What they did:

This study looks at the effect of practices and context on performance management outcomes. Using a sample of 312 private and public sector organisations with 200 or more employees, the study looked at:

Three practices:

  • Training for managers around performance management
  • Multisource (360-degree) feedback
  • Employee recognition

Three contexts:

  • Organisational culture
  • Employee relations climate
  • Strategic integration of human resource management

What they found:

The study found that both practices and context support effective performance management. Certain practices and cultures, however, had a higher positive effect than others:

Practices and cultural characteristics leading to outperformance:

  • Performance management training for managers
  • An emphasis on employee recognition
  • Valuing employee engagement
  • Communication of the relevance and significance of performance management to strategic goals
  • Human resources management integrated with the business plans of the organisation

Key takeaways:

To help your performance management system work at its full potential:

  • Give your managers training around feedback
  • Recognise high-performing employees
  • Truly value employee engagement
  • Suggest that your HRD sits on the executive committee


Using performance management to win the talent war

Authors: H Aguinis, RK Gottfredson, H Joo

Publication: Business Horizons

Citations: 19

Year: 2012

What they did:

The research explores the idea that there aren’t enough top performers to go around. It goes on to discuss how implementing a performance management system can help you retain those coveted top performers.

What they found:

The paper offers four research-based recommendations to retain top talent using performance management:

  1. Create and maintain individualised developmental plans
  2. Ensure that work is challenging, interesting, and meaningful
  3. Provide clear advancement opportunities
  4. Implement contingent rewards

Key takeaway:

Great performance management will help you retain your top performers. Consider creating individualised development plans, keep work challenging, offer advancement opportunities and build a reward framework.


From talent management to talent optimisation

Author: WA Schiemann

Publication: Journal of World Business

Citations: 5

Year: 2014 

What they did:

In this research Schiemann sets out with the theory that performance management is generally used to create alignment. However unless certain practices are followed, this can be to the detriment of engagement. He states: “Providing feedback is both a skill and an art. When it is not done well, employees may leave reviews with diminished engagement.”

Schiemann uses two studies to find ways of increasing engagement and of developing staff:

Study 1: A review of 150 departments from a Metrus Institute global database.

Study 2: A study of 11 companies that included 5000 employees.

What they found:

  • Managers who provide constructive feedback have higher capability and engagement ratings from their employees
  • When employees strongly agreed that their managers provided ongoing coaching and feedback, 93% reported a willingness to put in additional effort when needed, compared to only 33% of those who reported poor coaching and feedback

Key takeaway:

Performance management systems can increase employee engagement. You just need to make sure your managers are delivering regular, ongoing coaching and constructive feedback.


The lifecycle approach of performance management: implications for public management and evaluation

Authors: GJ van Helden, Å Johnsen, J Vakkuri

Publication: Evaluation – The International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice

Citations: 7

Year: 2012 

What they did:

This is a really interesting paper that tackles how performance management systems are approached by both organisations and academics. The paper argues for a simple 4-step ‘lifecycle’ framework to design and evaluate performance management systems:

Step 1: Design

Step 2: Implementation

Step 3: Use

Step 4: Assessment

The authors argue that the lifecycle approach is important, because it recognises:

  • The interdependencies of performance management throughout the business
  • The specific people that should be involved at each stage
  • The far-reaching impact of performance management

What they found:

Businesses that adopt a lifecycle approach would be more likely to:

  • Customise their performance management system around business objectives.
  • Ensure that employees welcome the performance management system – with effective change management.
  • Measure the long-term effectiveness of their performance management system.

Key takeaway:

Managing your performance management system using the lifecycle approach could impact the attention (and budget) it gets from across the business.

In conclusion…

If you’re a regular visitor to my blog you’ll know that I’ve got strong opinions on the power of great performance management. It’s always good to see brand-new research that backs up this thinking!

Have you read an interesting paper recently? Or would you like me to deep-dive into any of these papers in an upcoming blog? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @Cognology.

2 replies
  1. Maria Teresa Fernandez de Castro
    Maria Teresa Fernandez de Castro says:

    Great discussion of the articles. It would be great if Public Service could find ways to achieve innovation which implies some level of risk taking which government managers are uncomfortable with to begin with and if you add the “performance” pressure then the obstacle to succeed at innovation become greater. Have you other article suggestions?

Comments are closed.