Performance Management (PM) Strategies for IT Employees: Optimizing the Workforce

Performance Management (PM) Strategies for IT Employees: Optimizing the Workforce
What is Performance Management in IT, and how can your organization benefit from and implement it successfully?
Get a comprehensive overview of Performance Management and discover its benefits
Understand how to design its processes
Learn how to implement, promote, and maintain the Performance Management plan

Performance Management (PM) Introduction

More than ever, performance management in the IT industry requires managing a multitude of items such as "teamwork" and "task completion." Merely managing the technological performance expectations understood by IT managers is insufficient. Companies that implement comprehensive performance management tools in their IT organizations can expect greater unity in achieving corporate goals, more effective hiring, and more complete insights into the performance of the IT organization.

What is Performance Management in IT?

Performance Management (PM) in IT requires understanding a number of factors and metrics to increase customer satisfaction and improve the return on investment of the IT department. Currently, many organizations rely exclusively on the IT department's manager to conduct performance management, which typically results in only technical aspects, such as packet usage, network node management, and fault detection, being managed.
However, managing the non-technical aspects of an IT organization's performance is similarly important, and it requires entirely different performance based management systems. These systems become more holistic by also employing the metrics seen in non-IT organizations, where items such as time usage and team contributions are measured. Quantifiable metrics assessing an individual's value to a company and an effective monitoring system are critically important to a successful performance management system. Performance management can produce valuable results by identifying and addressing performance gaps on individual, team, and departmental levels.
Still, many companies focus exclusively on the service and support delivery of individuals, and are reluctant to introduce performance management systems that are broader in scale. The culture of a business is often the source of this hesitation — many businesses pride themselves on the trust they put in employees and teams to manage their own performance as they see fit.
Performance management strategies do not necessarily need to infringe on corporate culture, however. Implemented correctly, IT performance management can preserve the desired level of independence while also increasing engagement and commitment of employees, driving results without sacrificing flexibility.

Building Performance Management Strategies to Coexist with Corporate Culture

A business's culture is not entirely rooted in its products or its workspace environment. Corporate culture reflects a strategy that has been consciously chosen by leadership in order to achieve desired goals.
It is thus unreasonable for organizations to compromise their strategically-designed corporate culture in order to better manage the workforce. Managers should ask themselves if employees will feel pressured to ask for permission more often when doing tasks or taking initiatives that were deemed acceptable before implementation.
By contrast, a firm might desire to keep detailed information about the activities of their employees within short reach. In this case, management should ensure the program does not create loopholes in which undesirable performance can be hidden. Performance management tools can also greatly assist organizations that stress homogeneity in their products and services, helping keep performance to specified standards.

How Can IT Departments Gain from Using Performance Management Systems?

While effects may not be immediate, IT departments can start seeing substantial financial gains soon after implementation, likely in a time frame related to project completion intervals. The right system will also redirect resources to projects that produce sales and cut costs. IT performance management can also identify ineffective projects that fail to achieve goals, which helps managers stay in line with corporate performance goals.
Often, senior managers might believe that IT organizations end up wasteful and inefficient because their interests are misaligned with the strategies and goals of businesses. But a well-implemented performance management system can help resolve this issue by modifying the work of an IT department as it relates to the rest of the organization. Depending on how centralized the organization is, this increased harmony between different levels of leadership can optimize the return on investment of IT organizations and tools.
A specific benefit that IT performance management software offers is the ability to automatically detect, isolate, and prevent problems before they occur. Performance management can also monitor compliance to both legislative and service-level standards, which prevents costly litigation that might result from noncompliance.

Designing the Performance Management Process

In order to create an effective management program, an organization must establish clear metrics that properly identify the strengths and weaknesses of employees. Addressing "whom" these metrics will assess, "what" metrics are necessary, and "how" they will be measured are helpful guides in designing a customized management program.

Who Performance Management Metrics Will Measure

The "who" often refers to teams, individuals, or both. If the business emphasizes the need for a team to work together and cooperate as much as possible, then it may be in its interest to ignore individual metrics altogether. Other businesses may be more focused on individual performance to determine promotions or bonuses. For most organizations, a more balanced approach will be ideal, which means that a performance management system will identify signs of strong and weak performance for both teams and individuals.
These metrics typically identify factors that influence the strength of teamwork, such as the level of communication or the number of team members it is possible to assign to a single task item. In IT, it is common for a team's task to be delayed as the team waits on a member who has the skills necessary to complete a certain aspect of the task that has not yet been finished. Other factors in this interaction may be more specific to the organization, and identifying them will involve an honest analysis of common employee practices and issues, both when working individually or as a team.

What Performance Management Metrics Are Necessary

With the dynamics of team and individual performance understood, the firm must now decide exactly "what" it is measuring, determining which aspects of performance are significant enough to measure. While widely varied, certain principles influence standards for performance metrics.
Time consumption is a good example. Resources may differ between organizations, but all have the same amount of time. For this category, examples of possible metrics include time spent logged in or time to complete a certain task. Another likely principle is the quality of the performance. How often was the need of the client or organization met or exceeded? How consistently could an employee or team be depended on to deliver results, and at what level of relative quality?
Again, determining the quality of an item of work or service depends on the organization's goals. The principles from which an organization sets its standards are its own, and these are just a few common examples.

How Performance Management Metrics Will Be Measured

Lastly, determine "how" the metrics will be measured. Certain principles can be combined or split up. For example, a firm can find "quality" relative to "time," which is often understood as "efficiency." Principles and metrics will need to be named and officially defined in order to create maximum clarity in the performance management evaluation process. Employees and teams must unambiguously understand how and why they receive the performance ratings that they do.
While a performance management system is first and foremost about measuring performance, a good system also considers performance that cannot be measured. Not every action of performance can be put into a category or quantified. Most managers can think of a time when an employee did something that was really unprecedented and went beyond standard protocol in order to satisfy the needs of the organization or a client. As we have all been clients or customers ourselves, we might be able to recall something like this being done for us. Indeed it is exceptionally good performance that is the hardest to measure.
In these situations, metrics that are too simplistic may view these actions as improper, perhaps as spending too much in the way of time or resources in order to satisfy one particular client or objective. There are several possible strategies to circumvent this problem, and one of the most commonly used is the feedback form. This can be a physical or digital survey that allows the client to give specific details of their experience that performance metrics often miss.
While these have become a standard part of the customer service experience, feedback reporting can also occur within an organization. Creating feedback forms within the organization can allow employees to assess other employees. This kind of feedback can detect otherwise unmentioned conflicts between teams as well as individual employees. Furthermore, being able to identify the dynamics between employees and employee groups facilitates easier detection of areas that need improvement, leading to changes that result in greater efficiency and timeliness. By accounting for these otherwise unmeasurable indicators of performance, the organization gains a more comprehensive system of performance measurement.

Implementing the Performance Management Steps of the Process

While the design of a performance management system is critical to its success, so is the implementation process. Improperly implemented performance management systems are likely to be rendered ineffective. Employees may not take the new system seriously, or they may see it as so overbearing that it strains the organization's ability to recruit and retain talent.
Avoiding these problems means implementing performance management in a way that is consistent with corporate culture, as previously discussed. It also means speaking in the language of the particular organization. Every organization has its own dialect, and it is necessary to ensure that the performance management system does not strike employees as being too foreign to fit in with the culture they have helped establish and maintain.
Another obstacle to the implementation process is managerial acceptance. Given a choice, managers will almost always prefer the program they have had in place over a new system imposed by upper management.
Having a standard performance management process for the whole organization prevents managers from feeling that their segment is being singled out or micromanaged by higher levels of management. Adoption can also be incentivized by making the performance management tools accessible to the manager, allowing them to use the tools to make evaluations of their subordinates. Performance monitoring tools can help them track their own progress on the goals that they have been given. By doing so, the implementation of performance management can be perceived as a resource instead of a threat.
Another popular strategy to increase the company-wide acceptance of a new system is to have different areas of the company work with the IT department to vet various performance management systems, increasing their involvement in the selection process. These strategies of implementation can make what would have been seen as an unwelcome intrusion into the established methods of management be received as an overall improvement of these methods.

Socializing and Maintaining Performance Management

After implementation is completed, the new performance management system should be an aspect of the organization that new employees are familiar with from day one, preferably a part of the hiring process. Once the hiring process is completed, new employees should be integrated into the system in a manner that facilitates their training and familiarization with the firm. This means that measures of performance should compensate for the learning curve that the organization's employees typically go through.
Further, by creating a metric that considers how quickly employees typically obtain proficiency, the performance management system can also identify how the speed at which an individual learns a task influences their performance. This prevents employees from misrepresenting their performance, as they cannot use a "warm-up" period to get around performance standards.
Moreover, by monitoring the performance management system to identify shortcomings, the firm can identify candidates who will best fill its needs, or in other words, a better understanding of the organization's shortcomings can also be used to identify possible specialized positions that meet a requirement its managers may not otherwise have known needed to be addressed.
Finally, performance management systems must be able to predict and address misrepresentations such as the one that has just been described. Ensuring that performance is represented in the most accurate way possible requires testing not only for functionality but also potential loopholes or gaps in the metrics and input methods. Checking for exploits will also need to be a part of the compliance auditing process after implementation, as many problems with a piece of software can only realistically be discovered outside of the test environment.

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