Over the past year our performance management team has been fine tuning its approach to developing effective career plans for our employees, especially those who are at a critical career transition. In this post I'll outline how we think about performance management. I'll follow up with a post that goes into detail about the steps in the process.

Our performance management approach

At Habanero we believe performance management and career coaching is one of our most effective levers in creating engaged, high functioning teams. Some elements of our approach:

  • We keep the ratio of performance managers to managees as low as possible — usually no more than one to five. This gives each pairing enough time and attention while still allowing each of our performance managers enough time to be effective in his or her other roles at the company.
  • Performance managers check in monthly (or more) with the folks they work with so there's a constant flow of support (and challenge) and so that there aren't any surprises in the year-end reviews.
  • We work really hard to meet regularly as performance managers to share knowledge and experiences, struggles, and successes.
  • We require potential performance managers to "interview" for the role — as if they were being hired for a new job. Our peer performance management model means that tenure doesn't drive working relationships — interest and passion does. And we are clear that becoming a performance manager isn't the only path to leadership within the company.
  • We allocate time (for both managers and managees) in our resource planning for performance management to make sure that it's not squeezed in as an afterthought.
  • We work on the strength-based model of aligning an individual's areas of passion and strength with Habanero's business values and direction. (See Jim Clifton/Gallop strength based books: Now Discover Your Strengths, Strengths Finder, and Strength Based Leadership http://www.strengthsfinder.com/home.aspx)
  • We schedule our performance management week in mid-January every year, and with few exceptions all reviews happen that week.
  • Year-end reviews are as much "reviews" as "go forwards". The importance of the review portion of the two hour session is to set up the most effective and engaging plan for the coming year.

When is someone ready for a career transition?

Often an outcome of our performance management process is that it becomes obvious that an individual is ready for a transition between one role and another or one level of responsibility and the next. It's important to identify when a person is ready for a role or career transition shift ... but it's not easy necessarily easy to make it happen. Why?

  • Habanero is a relatively flat organization without a lot of the traditional org-chart style advancement opportunities. As a result, career planning takes some creativity and effort on the part of the individual and their performance manager.
  • It's difficult to find that perfect moment to start the process: when an individual is itching for challenge or change and they're still extremely effective in their current role but before it's been too long period of "churn" and the person starts to get frustrated and disengaged.
  • The career transition process covers lots of unknowns and possibly highly challenging conversations and not everyone is comfortable in this territory.

Principles of career planning

The good thing about our approach to career planning is that it's a natural extension of our strength based thinking at Habanero. We focus on what people are passionate about and how they can best align those passions with our company's values and direction. Some key principles of our career development work with our employees:

  • Ownership is with the individual: for the process to succeed, it requires self-awareness and a willingness to participate in an exploration of all the possibilities.
  • The career planning process doesn't have to be conducted by the person's performance manager — in fact, sometimes it's helpful to have a third party facilitate.
  • The process emphasizes facilitation and support — helping people articulate and identify their happy place.
  • It's based in reality — if the happy place doesn't exist at Habanero, the process can expose a fit challenge and allows us to support a transition to other opportunities.

Please carry on reading the second part of this post: Career transitions: a step by step process.