How Continuous Performance Management Drives Learning 

Performance management is no longer only focused on annual reviews. As times have changed, it is now a continuous process with regular check-ins between managers and individual employees all year long. Businesses are now implementing increasingly sophisticated continuous performance management solutions, enabling them to become much more responsive to changing business priorities.

HR analyst Josh Bersin comments in his latest report, “Continuous performance management is disruptive to the HR technology market because the process is not hierarchical or linear like most systems were designed to automate. It is a continuous, looping process that might take place in teams, departments, or across divisions.”

True, continuous performance management solutions may intersect with learning provision by delivering ongoing skills assessment and learning support. But in large businesses where there may be a number of different performance management, HR and learning and development systems, the challenge is to select and integrate solutions that deliver effective learning that is aligned with performance management goals.

performance management and language training

Incremental learning to boost soft skills

Business success is increasingly associated with effective relationships, so soft skills are essential for any business looking to enter new territories and win new customers. As a result, businesses are increasingly looking to improve employee performance by boosting soft skills, such as language and communication, negotiation and leadership skills. Building these skills calls for learning delivery that is incremental and ongoing – a very different approach compared with delivering discrete vocational or compliance training modules.

As performance management solutions evolve, learning professionals can tap into the intersection between learning and performance management for maximum impact. Let’s take a look at three starting points for effectively aligning learning with performance management to meet business goals.

Set your L&D strategy

It is essential for HR and L&D professionals to sit down with line managers and agree on exactly what everyone is hoping to achieve with new performance management systems. To achieve the best outcome, these conversations should take place before the performance management solution is selected. Different solutions tend to focus on different aspects of performance management – some are more focused on skills assessment, while others are more geared towards achieving specific goals or employee-manager interaction. It’s important to get line management on board with the need for regular check-ins with individuals on their team, as this is a key element of continuous performance management. It may also be necessary to formalize the role of managers as coaches and mentors within blended learning delivery.

Use the data

To get the best from a performance management solution it is essential to visualize and act on the data it produces. Combined with data from the learning and development system, performance data provides crucial insights, from identifying skills gaps through to spotting employees who may be a retention risk. Let’s consider how performance management data can align with business goals. For example, if the business is focused on expansion into new territories, is a workforce with improved language and communication skills enabling measurable progress towards that goal?

Allow for regular feedback

Historically, performance management has been largely top-down, with managers handing down goals for performance and learning. As businesses seek to foster a culture of autonomy and self-directed learning, it is important to allow individual employees to have input into the process. HR analyst Josh Bersin says, “One company I know did a feedback analysis and found that employees with more frequent check-ins were statistically more likely to be higher performers.” Increasing engagement with performance and learning management processes is also highly likely to align with increased retention rates, as employees feel more in control of their career growth.

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performance management and language training

Continuous performance management supports learning

The latest continuous performance management solutions have the potential to contribute a lot of value to learning delivery. They can also help HR gain a holistic view of activity across the entire system. Some managers may be giving more or different feedback than others, or some project teams may be less active on the systems than others. HR and L&D professionals can act on this data and offer support where needed. Providing the opportunity for a positive feedback loop would also allow for two-way feedback between manager and employee, plus social and peer feedback would enable individuals to recognize their colleagues for gaining new skills or for examples of good performance.

The process of setting individual goals that are closely aligned to emerging business goals – and regular check-ins to assess progress – mirrors effective practice for soft skills acquisition, particularly for language and communication skills. Addressing the ‘forgetting curve’ in language acquisition, whereby learners will forget 90% of what they have learnt within a month, requires regular repetition, practice and social feedback. Continuous performance management can support L&D in improving individual skills and performance while focusing clearly on achieving business goals.