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Performance Management Should Begin Before We Hire Someone

When most of us hear the term “performance management,” we think of performance appraisals, mentoring, employee learning and development—all of the things that happen well after we hire people into our organizations.

But savvy employers know that truly effective performance management starts before we hire someone. It starts with finding and recruiting the right people.

Who are the right people? Danny Gutknecht, co-founder and CEO of Pathways, offers this insightful definition: “individuals whose attitudes, behaviors, mindsets and goals are closely aligned with those of your organization.” Gutknecht also advises employers aiming to raise the bar on their performance management to get a clear picture of what makes their best people a great fit for the organization, then hire others like them.

The upshot of Gutknecht’s counsel is clear: hire individuals who are closely attuned to your organization and your best people, and their performance will be in sync with your needs, goals and mission. As a result, your performance management won’t require a lot of heavy lifting—i.e., you won’t need to do extensive behavioral and performance modification or costly replacement of these individuals. The performance management you provide will be largely positive and developmental rather than punitive and correctional.

So how do you go about finding people who are closely aligned to your organization and who match up to your best people? For many employers, talent assessment tools are the answer.

There are a multitude of assessment tools available to today’s employers. Gutknecht’s company, for example, conducts Essence MiningTM to uncover the intrinsic nature and key characteristics of an organization and its people. Harrison Assessments and Shadowmatch USA, among others, focus on behavioral tendencies and competencies to predict performance. Still other tools are personality-based.

Finding the right assessment solution for your organization is, of course, a matter of fit. It has to meet your needs and goals but it also has to suit your company culture.

A recent article on the SHRM website, “Testing for Talent: An HR Case Study,” presents an interesting case study of the Barnum Financial Group and its use of an assessment tool to guide its coaching, communications and teamwork initiatives. The article also offers four helpful tips (which we’ve paraphrased below) to anyone searching for the right assessment tool for their organization:

1.     Be precise about what you want to accomplish.

2.     Forge a rough consensus among management about the tool that best fits the culture of your organization.

3.     Complete the assessment yourself to gauge its accuracy.

4.     Keep budget in mind, as you’ll need to make both an initial investment and an ongoing one.

Without question, performance management encompasses all of the activities we engage in after hiring an individual—conducting performance reviews, providing coaching, delivering developmental opportunities, and all the rest. But if we’re wise, we’ll remember that the most effective performance management actually begins before any of these activities take place. It begins with making the right recruiting and hiring decisions.


To read more about our thoughts on performance management, click here to download our whitepaper, “From Dread to Moving Ahead — Take the Pain Out of Performance Management.