TRAINING AND PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT

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The importance of training and performance management  

 

Training and performance management are important related concepts for improving and developing employees.

 

Performance management refers to integrated processes undertaken by an organisation to improve the performance of an individual or group within the company, with the ultimate aim of maximising organisational effectiveness [1][2]. Performance management takes into account the organisational policies, practices, and design features that influence employee performance [3], and focuses on outcomes such as motivating performance, developing new skills, building a performance culture, improving business strategy, and managing high or low performing staff [4].

 

Management training can be employed as one of the methods of teaching these skills, concepts, and attitudes to on-the-job performance [5], providing a way for employees to quickly learn to manage new responsibilities and processes and improve their approach to existing challenges. These processes are therefore critical for organisations to invest in and perfect, in order to maximise organisational development and growth.

What are the characteristics of high-quality training and performance management programs? 

 

Performance management strategies fall across a range of dimensions, including setting objectives, performance appraisal and monitoring systems, reward schemes, feedback, career planning, and training or development programs [6]. In order to best understand the effects of individual performance, situational context, and their interaction, Den  Hartog and colleagues [1] developed a performance management model (Figure 1).

Figure 1. A model of the relationship between human resources management and performance from a performance management perspective.

This model focuses on various organisational aspects and proposes that:

  • Managerial behaviour will have an impact on employee perceptions and behaviours, as management is typically responsible for implementing performance management practices;

  • Employee perceptions and behaviours impact upon organisational performance, but this impact can be constrained by contextual factors;

  • Contextual factors and individual employee attributes may constrain the relationship between HR practices and organisational outcomes;

  • Although most research presumes that employee behaviours predict organisational outcomes, reverse causality is also supported i.e., that improving organisational performance can both motivate investment in employees by managers, as well as increasing employee commitment and trust.

 

Performance management is prevalent in many domains, including government and academic contexts. Little work has been conducted on evaluating the effectiveness of performance management practices in academia. However, research has found that these practices are viewed with some suspicion by employees in the sector [7] and are characterised by tensions between practices of transparency vs. autonomy, and equality vs. homogeneity [8]. More comprehensive evidence has been found to demonstrate the effect of performance management on organisational outcomes in the public sector, with a meta-analysis showing a small but positive effect of performance management on outputs, outcomes, and efficiency measures of company performance [9].

 

Training management systems teach employees to quickly manage new responsibilities and processes. The most effective TM systems include the following capabilities [10]:

Integration of employee data

Employee data should be integrated within the TM system.

1.

Creation and linking of training requirements

Organize training by type so that the relevance of the training is apparent to those undertaking it.

2.

Integration with a document control system

This is a central location where all documentation is stored. It enables you to identify who requires training when new documents are released or existing documents are revised.

3.

Automated testing

Test employees on all processes. This ensures you have objective data to determine if their training has been successful.

4.

Integration with adverse events

Training data will provide greater visibility into activities and trends in the TM system.

5.

Integration with reporting

Test employees on all processes. This ensures you have objective data to determine if their training has been successful.

6.

Training linked to change management

An adverse event can result in a need for change. Employees should be continuously updated about any changing processes that affect them.

7.

As with performance management, meta-analytic analyses have shown that managerial training is moderately effective across a range of learning and behavioural outcomes, such as increasing motivation, values, self-awareness and sensitivity [11].

Why are training and performance management critical for women’s career success?

 

Performance and training management are important workplace practices for supporting the success of women in research.  There is evidence that gender biases are rife in scientific research. Research shows that female investigators are viewed less favourably than male investigators [12], and that male scientists are 1.4 times more likely to receive funding than female scientists. Unconsciously held beliefs about women in science may be part of the reason for funding gaps between men and women, leading to potential disparities in career success.

 

Similarly, successful women – especially those in leadership roles – are engaging in roles that are inconsistent with feminine stereotypes. Societal sex roles [13] may lead to use expecting people of a specific gender to behave in particular ways. As men more often occupy senior roles in organisations, the traits we come to associate with leadership are often masculine, whereas traits associated with lower level, supporting roles are typically more feminine [13]. Women in leadership positions often overemphasize their masculine characteristics to better fit into a more masculine role [20]. As a result, women who exhibit leadership traits may be viewed as overly masculine, improving their perceived competence but resulting in them being seen as overly aggressive or unlikeable. This interaction of sex roles and women’s compensatory behaviour may contribute to a persistent perception that men as better fitted for leadership roles (see second generation forms of gender bias [19]).

 

The effect of these types of biases on women’s evaluations in the workplace can be mitigated by the judicious use of management training programs. For example, diversity education [14] aims to teach people about the experiences, customs, and cultures of different social group to improve positive attitudes towards diversity. A meta-analysis of these forms of programs [14] demonstrated that these types of programs can successfully influence participants’ diversity knowledge [15][16] and diversity attitudes [14] in academic, organizational, and laboratory contexts.

 

Similarly, unconscious bias training is another form of TM designed to illuminate and challenge our unconscious patterns of knowledge. Unconscious knowledge can undermine our decision-making processes; therefore, good unconscious bias programs will provide tools to mitigate automatic patterns of thinking with the aim of eliminating discriminatory behaviors [18].

 

The evidence shows that management training is critical for improving equity in the workplace. Training, therefore, is an essential component of workplaces to ensure that performance management is a fair process, and that women are not unfairly treated due to subjectively biased evaluations.

Recommendations for improving organizational training and performance management

 

Women-only performance management

Women and men may have different trajectories for developing leadership. A 2003 paper argues that women’s leadership development starts with acceptance of others as equal to the self and exploring intimacy, later developing more masculine attributes such as increasing autonomy and separation [21]. In contrast, men’s leadership development is reversed.

 

Given these differences, developing women-only training can enable women to clarify their leadership ambitions, recognize their leadership strengths and, in time, access leadership roles. These programs create a safe environment to explore potential, share successes/failures, and receive feedback, mentoring, and coaching. Moreover, these programs aim to increase women’s awareness of their own biases, and how various biases manifest in their organizations. This unconscious bias training component should be designed to be action-oriented – structured around workplace situations, but also designed to reduce defensive reactions from participants who feel under attack for their unconsciously held thoughts and beliefs [22].

 

Women-only management training should include the following elements:

  • Having women clarifying their attitudes and feelings about themselves in relation to their work/personal roles’

  • Asking women to review their experiences of managerial life: what specific issues do they face as a woman?

  • Asking female managers to examine their management styles in order to promote their personal strengths at work;

  • Having women study the concepts of power and politics in order to enable themselves to apply these concepts effectively;

  • Helping women become more proactive in managing their careers;

  • Helping women satisfy goals in a safe environment.

 

Women-only leadership programs can help ambitious women address the particular challenges they face in leadership roles. In one study, authors’ used their experiences of designing and teaching over 50 women’s leadership programs to illustrate how standard leadership topics and tools can be adapted to address the challenges women face10. As an example, 360-degree feedback can boost women’s leadership:

  1. Women tend to receive less feedback than men. A 360-degree feedback provides more comprehensive feedback on their leadership, both from the team they lead, but also from senior management.

  2. A 360 can help participants identify and deal with gender stereotypes and double binds, such as being rated highly on competence but low on likeability. A 360-degree feedback can help female leaders reconnect with larger organisational goals, focusing them on the most important aspects of leadership rather than myopically focusing on contradictory feedback.

  3. Participants can share their 360 feedback with their co-workers and managers. By using objective data to point to their leadership capacity, women can counter gender stereotypes and biases that might otherwise negatively influence their perceived leadership effectiveness and potential.

 

Women may also benefit from women-only leadership activities through access to networking opportunities. Women often report experiencing networking as inauthentic and unappealing, as well as reporting scheduling difficulties with attending networking events that occur outside of regular work hours. Having a rationale or purpose for networking can encourage women to participate and help them strengthen their networks in more effective ways. Second generation forms of gender bias [19] can also be mitigated through developing skills in negotiations, leading change, and managing career transitions.

 

Finally, Ely and colleagues [19] recognize the following three principles for any successful leadership program designed for women:

  1. Situate topics and tools in an analysis of second-generation bias to diagnose workplace experience and propose effective actions in response.

  2. Create a “holding environment” to support women’s identity work, by creating a safe space for learning which has limited disruptions and facilitates sense-making.

  3. Anchor participants on their leadership purpose – rather than focusing inward and fixating on how they are perceived by others, female leaders can instead focus on their leadership purpose in the organisation, by focusing on how to facilitate maximum effectiveness in working towards shared goals.

 

General recommendations

Organisations can help avoid unconscious (gender) bias and increase objective decision-making by [18]:

Increasing awareness

Unconscious bias happens below the threshold of consciousness. Therefore, it does not necessarily reflect consciously held goals or intentions. Help staff understand that unconscious knowledge is something that everyone uses to navigate their lives, but that bias is a potential result of inaccuracies in our knowledge.

Naming it

Explicitly name unconscious bias to facilitate conversations and discussions. This can help to encourage honest feedback between colleagues. Being able to name one’s bias indicates an awareness of those underlying beliefs and tendencies.  

Anticipating bias and create systems to reduce it.

Unconscious bias can be tackled individually, or through developing systems that can mitigate or prevent opportunities to exercise bias. Systems can also help monitor behaviours and identify problems, as increased awareness of bias does not necessarily mean that faireness ensues.

Building empathy

Replacing negative associations with positive thoughts in order to break down automatic reflexive thinking.

Holding ourselves accountable

Collect and utilize data to better understand patterns of behaviours and interactions that reflect unconsciously held biases. Illuminating these patterns is essential for tackling them and creating change.

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