‘Accentuate positive’ in performance reviews, says CIPD

Line managers who focus conversations on building team strengths, rather than fixing weaknesses, see greater performance improvements according to new research published by the CIPD.

Two happy colleagues in a meeting
The report from the professional body for HR and people development, Strengths-based performance conversations, relates the experiences of three public sector bodies where managers moved from a deficit-oriented performance review approach – one focused on identifying and fixing team members’ weaknesses – to one that focused on building on strengths.

Employee approval high for positive performance management

Feedback from employees suggests a “marked improvement” in how useful performance conversations were when they focused on strengths-based conversations.The CIPD reports that these interventions led to a 9.7% increase in employees agreeing with the statement: “My meetings with my line manager help me learn and develop as a professional.”There was also a 7.4% increase in those agreeing with the statement: ‘My meetings with my line manager help to improve my performance.”The supporting field study relates how the impact of strength-based performance conversations results can be enhanced by a more extensive intervention, including wider communication and changes to HR policy, as well as manager training. 
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Public sector on frontline of the research

The CIPD research centred on workplace interventions in three government organisations: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the National Offender Management Service (NOMS, now called Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, or HMPPS) and the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), as well as work with the Civil Service Employee Policy team.The field study involved before-and-after measures, comparing control groups who were not given any training or support with treatment groups who attended a training workshop on leading strengths-based performance conversations.

'Big shift in mindset'

Jonny Gifford, senior research adviser for organisational behaviour at the CIPD, said: “The strengths-based approach marks a big shift in mindset for many, if not most of us. Our default mode when looking for improvements tends to be deficit-oriented – we hone in on what’s gone wrong and consider how we can avoid that in the future.“There will always be cases where it’s imperative to do this, but our research shows the benefit of making the norm in performance conversations to reflect instead on what worked well, why, and how it can be replicated. “The research demonstrated that by focusing on the positives and building on what works, we can actually boost employee performance and help with the learning and development of our teams.”Andrew Kean, deputy director of Civil Service Employee Policy, said: “In the Civil Service, we know that the quality of the performance conversation between the manager and their employee is fundamental to any good performance management approach."So we are delighted that this research, which has centred on the nature and quality of performance conversations, has provided such clear results. In particular, that a simple training intervention focused on building strengths instead of fixing weaknesses positively influences the performance conversations that take place between managers and their staff.” Read more coverage in the Winter Issue of Relocate Magazine. For related news and features, visit our HR section. Look out for the launch of 2018's Relocate Awards, entries open in January. Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory