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Top 10 resources for performance management thinking

There are many different approaches and philosophies when it comes to managing performance. Books, blogs, TED Talks, podcasts. There's so much content online it can be hard to know where to begin. That's why we've put together a list of the 10 most useful performance management resources to improve your understanding.

Let's take a look at the performance management resources all managers should be checking out.

What is performance management?

Performance management is exactly what it says on the tin. It is, after all, where managers get their job title from. A manager's main responsibility is to drive and guide employee efforts. It's their job to keep the wheels turning, so to speak.

A manager makes sure their team is doing its job in a consistent and correct manner to support business goals. Having the right tools for performance management is one thing. But they're meaningless if you don't have the knowledge to use them in an effective way. So, engaging with educational performance management resources is key.

We hope that doesn't sound too simple. Because it isn't. Managing employee performance is about much more than showing up and telling people to work harder. It's about creating an environment where employees can thrive. Knowing when to offer feedback, and when to step back and let your people work autonomously.

Why managing performance is (obviously) essential

A business only performs as well as the employees running things behind the scenes. That's the simplest reason why it's vital to manage how your people fare in their roles. The less productive people are, the less money the business makes. Left unchecked, poor performance sinks companies and throws everyone's livelihoods into peril.

But it's more complicated than productivity alone. And employees don't need to end up jobless to lose out to bad management styles. Bad performance management practices can:

  • Lower employee engagement, which further harms performance.
  • Raise employee stress.
  • Create excessive demands, such as constant overtime.
  • Increase rates of turnover.
  • Harm employee career development.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is, unfortunately, a common attitude. And so, many poor management habits are baked into toxic workplace cultures. But it can be hard for employees to push back against this sort of thing alone. Which is why it falls to management and HR to educate themselves.

10 performance management resources to get you started

Sifting through the sheer volume of performance management and work culture content out there is a huge task. Fortunately, we've done the legwork for you. Here are some of the best performance management resources in 2023:

1: CIPD's performance management factsheet

CIPD (the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) is a UK-based research body. They specialise in human resources and organisational development. Over the years, they've studied areas like work culture, wellbeing, and employee engagement. As such, you shouldn't ignore their performance management resources.

CIPD's performance management factsheet is a great place to start. It includes a few basic (but important) definitions, as well as links to some of their research. There's also a video by CIPD's Senior Adviser for Organisational behaviour, Jonny Gifford. In it, he explains how performance management is changing in the modern day.

2: HBR has a wealth of performance management content

As their name suggests, Harvard Business Review covers a wide variety of topics in the professional sphere. It was originally founded in 1922 as a magazine for Harvard Business School. Since then, it's gone on to become one of the longest-running business publications around. So they've built up quite a catalogue of performance management resources. HBR has columns, articles and editorials by all kinds of authors from a huge variety of professional backgrounds.

The one caveat is that Harvard Business Review is a pay-walled site. But, if you're not sure about a subscription, they do allow you to read a few free articles every month.

3: Get the psychologist's view with Dan Ariely: What makes us feel good about our work?

Dan Ariely is a highly prolific behavioural economist. He has a lot to say, having published books, delivered many TED talks, and taken part in numerous podcasts. If you have an interest in behavioural economics, and how nudges and choice architecture impact what we do at work, we can't recommend his work enough.

What we'd like to draw your attention to today, is a TED Talk he gave. His talk, What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work? is roughly ten years old at the time of writing. But the concepts Ariely discusses are still relevant today. Especially in a world where tech-based solutions and streamlined interactions are becoming the norm.

In his talk, Ariely discusses the nature of motivation. People don't just want easy work. And they aren't only motivated by pay. Performance management is about valuing employee contributions, recognising their efforts and showing people their impact.

'The good news is that if we added all of those components and thought about them -- how do we create our own meaning, pride, motivation, and how do we do it in our workplace, and for the employees -- I think we could get people to be both more productive and happier.'

4: The Happier at Work podcast

Employee happiness might not be the sole word in performance management. But it's certainly a factor. Happiness, morale and employee wellbeing play important roles in any smooth-running organisation. Improving those factors is the guiding ethos behind Happiness at Work, the company founded by Aofe O'Brien.

The Happier at Work podcast is available through Apple, Google, Spotify and other services. There are new episodes every week, and they're also available on their main website.

They generally focus on issues around leadership equity, engagement, performance and the future of work. While many feature guest interviews, others are solo episodes. There are 164 episodes total, and some recent ones include:

  • Mastering Time Management and Maximising Productivity
  • Creating a Great Place to Work with Fania Stoney
  • Work-Time Reduction – Streamlining Productivity for Better Work-Life Balance with Joe O’Connor

5: The NYT bestseller's view with Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation

For the fifth spot on our list of performance management resources, we're dusting off another old TED Talk. Dan Pink's '09 talk for TEDGlobal. The Puzzle of Motivation. In it, he addresses the paradoxical nature of... you guessed it, motivation. How, in some circumstances, people will do worse work for more money.

'There's a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.'

He explores the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and how reward can narrow our focus. He even discusses the role of autonomy in the modern workplace. Something we're seeing a greater emphasis on today.'Traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance. But if you want engagement, self-direction works better.'

6: Ben Whitter's book, Employee Experience

Employee Experience by Ben Whitter is a great performance management resource. Even if the subtitle is a bit of a mouthful. It addresses the shortcomings of traditional, top-down approach to HR and performance management. Whitter even goes into practical advice on how to "achieve exceptional individual organization and performance."

Employee Experience has earned Whitter heaps of distinguished praise. Even from people like Josh Bersin, and organisations like CIPD, who also feature on this list. So, all in all, it's definitely worth checking out.

7: Kim Scott's Radical Candor: the book and the podcast!

Originally a book by Kim Scott, Radical Candor is now a podcast well into its fifth season. Episodes are featured on their website, and on Apple Podcasts. The tone is a bit more relaxed than other performance management resources. As you can probably guess by the tagline, 'A show about how to kick ass at work without losing your humanity.'

The series is hosted by Amy Sandler, and features Kim alongside Jason Rosof. Brandi Neal is the series producer. Together they address various performance management topics. Some of their recent discussions include:

  • When to call out frequent sick days.
  • The difference between feedback and nitpicking.
  • What modern employees want from their leaders.
  • The dangers of attribution bias at work

For a quick overview of Kim's thoughts and approaches, make sure to check out her popular TED talk.

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8: Margaret Heffernan: Forget the pecking order at work

Back to TED for another Talk, this time from Margaret Heffernan. Forget the Pecking Order at Work is a bit more recent, taking place during TEDWomen 2015. The inspiration for the talk's name comes from an experiment by William Muir. He bred chickens for six generations, to create a "super-flock" composed of the most productive.

But, at the end, while the control flock thrived, all but three "super-chickens" were dead due to in-fighting. The most productive had only prospered by suppressing the productivity of the others.

'All my life I've been told that the way we have to get ahead is to compete: get into the right school, get into the right job, get to the top, and I've really never found it very inspiring.'

Heffernan goes on to illustrate how the teams achieving the best results are the most empathetic and mutually supportive. Not those with the highest intelligence, as one might expect. It's a really interesting talk, so we won't spoil any more. 

9: Josh Bersin's book, Irresistible

Josh Bersin's book, Irresistible: The Seven Secrets of the World's Most Enduring, Employee-Focused Organizations, is definitely worth a read. It's a valuable performance management resource for the modern day. It explores how tech and innovation in the workplace are rendering old approaches to management obsolete. In Josh's own words:

'But now, as you know, the world has changed. More than 70% of all jobs are in the services sector and almost every company has turned into a digital, service-centric, innovation-focused organization. So managers, as smart as they may be, cannot simply tell people what to do.'

Irresistible uses company studies and Glassdoor data to detail the seven principles of successful businesses. Principles that lead to greater employee happiness, profitability and innovation.

10: The Transform Your Workplace podcast

Transform Your Workplace is a podcast hosted by Brandon Laws, and produced by Xenium HR. Each episode sees Brandon interview a different industry or HR expert to get their take on key issues. It's hosted on Apple Podcasts.

With well-over 400 episodes, and new ones every few days, there's plenty of content to dig into. Which is just what you want from your performance management resources.

Episode times can vary, however. From 15 to around half an hour, with one recent episode running 41 minutes. So, bear that in mind if you plan on following the series. Some of their recent episodes include:

  • 3 Keys to Keeping Top Talent with Joe Mull.
  • BONUS EPISODE: Exploring a Culture of Radical Candor with Lacey Partipilo and Annie Oxenfeld.
  • 9 Forces That Will Reshape the Workplace with Phil Simon.

So, there you have it. Our list of 10 valuable performance management resources. If you're still in a reading mood, be sure to find more of our content here at Weekly10. And, of course, don't forget that our employee check-in is the ultimate performance management tool!

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