The Manager’s Role in Performance

 -  11/2/11

Regular one-on-one conversations are opportunities for managers to ensure there are no obstacles in an employee’s way.

When managers consistently build one-on-one dialogues with employees, there are often measurable improvements in productivity, quality and personnel dynamics. Yet most leaders, managers and supervisors fail to regularly provide the guidance and direction necessary to support a real performance management process. They don’t clarify performance expectations or offer candid feedback on an ongoing basis. As a result, these managers fail to consistently assist project and resource planning, track performance, correct failure and reward success.

To strengthen the day-to-day working relationships between managers and their direct reports, the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine (HJF) conducted extensive training. The centerpiece of the approach was to get managers at all levels into the habit of conducting one-on-one conversations with their direct reports every day, every week or every other week to spell out performance expectations and review previously set performance expectations, building regular one-on-one performance dialogues into the corporate culture.

“In many cases, the level of regular engagement between managers and their direct reports increased dramatically, and the impact on performance was evident,” said Debbie-Jo Zarnick, HJF’s director of human resources. “In those cases, we could see error rates decreasing and productivity increasing as a direct result of the regular one-on-one performance dialogues.”

Accounting firm Clifton Gunderson LLP (CG) introduced regular one-on-one performance dialogues between partners and senior managers and the associates they manage. At CG, the approach was dubbed HOT — hands-on and transactional — but the approach was similar to that used at HJF. Through training and internal communications strategies, talent managers promoted building more highly engaged supervisory relationships using consistent, structured, one-on-one performance dialogues.

Lauren Malensek, CG’s chief human resource officer, has written extensively about the program’s success and its impact on profitability and retention. Malensek said the firm’s partners became increasingly committed to the approach “because they have seen what it can do for their business results.”

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