Performance Conversations: Aligning Performance, Growth & Priorities
Updated: Apr 12
Purpose: Performance Conversations
Performance conversations are the foundation for effective and healthy organizations to exist & grow. Performance conversations focus on current, past, and future employee performance, growth, and engagement.
Without consistent, common, and continual communication, we will struggle to build the relationships and clarity needed to drive employee performance and growth. Without communication, no relationship can persist.
Performance conversations can be weekly, monthly, quarterly, midyear, and/or year-end interactions that focus on employee:
- Performance (Current, Past & Future)
- Development, Career & Growth (Current, Past & Future)
- Engagement, Motivations & Rewards
Performance conversation frequencies are organization-specific, but are always led by managers to help employees and organizations improve and grow.
We know that healthy organizations build unique cultures and through these cultures, incredible results are produced. By creating consistent, thoughtful, and intentional conversations, we can grow both our people and organizations to solve today’s realities and tomorrow’s challenges.
Talking About Performance
Performance conversations start and end with performance. Our objective is to discuss and review past, current, and future performance. Conversations about performance help us identify behaviors we need to adjust, keep, and grow.
Productive conversations about performance assume that there is role and goal clarity between the employee and manager. Check out our article on role clarity to ensure that the right expectations are defined and aligned.
Here are a few performance conversation starters you may want to explore:
Performance Conversation Starters
What would you consider to be the greatest contribution and successes you/they are currently making to the team? Please provide examples and the impact these behaviors make on the organization.
When looking back, what do you believe were the biggest performance challenges/opportunities you/they experienced? What can you both do to help implement the necessary changes and behavioral adjustments?
Do you feel there is enough time for you/them to successfully complete the work assigned? Are you overwhelmed or need more time to focus?
On a 1 to 10 scale, how productive are you/they? If you wanted to increase your/their productivity, what would it take?
What’s one project you’d/they would love to focus on for an entire week, but don’t have time to accomplish?
What are you/they spending a ton of time doing, that has the least impact?
What would you consider to be the greatest contributions and successes you/they made over the past (ADD TIMEFRAME)? Provide examples and the impact made on the organization.
How well did you/they prioritize and manage your/their workload? Where did you/they find success? Why? Where could you/they have improved?
What are your/their goals over the next week, month, quarter or year?
How do these goals align and drive the company’s strategies forward?
What do you believe are the biggest opportunities to improve team and organizational performance? What would you recommend? Why?
Growth conversations focus on developing the skills, perspectives, and abilities of an employee to directly impact performance. Growth conversations also focus on career path development as they align to performance. The best path to expand one's career development is through growth and performance.
Helping employees develop the skills and performance necessary proves an ability to grow, adapt, and master a current set of responsibilities. This mastery allows an employee to expand their duties into new opportunities. Career development needs to be focused on skill development, not titles.
Here are a few growth conversation starters you may want to explore:
Growth Conversations Starters
Are you/they currently working on skill leadership or people leadership development? Why?
Skill Leadership: Expanding technical or specific skill development in a focused area of the business (sales, marketing, engineering etc.)
People Leadership: Expanding skills and abilities focused on leading, developing, and managing people.
How has your/their skill development made positive contributions to the success of the team/company? Please provide examples and impacts of these behaviors.
Moving forward, do you want to focus on skill or people leadership development? Why?
- How will this make a positive impact on your goals?
- How will this make a positive impact on your growth/career?
What skills are you/they struggling to develop? Why? And where do you need help?
Do you/they get to use their natural strengths within their job? If yes, what are they and what examples and impacts can you share? If no, what impact is this having on your/their performance and experience at work?
Over the past # weeks/quarter/months how and where have you/they grown skills and abilities as an employee or leader? What impacts has this development made to the organization?
As a manager, what could you have done to have helped this employee build greater levels of success through their development?
What skills and experiences have you/they gained that align with your career development and progress? What did you learn? What has changed for you?
What new skills do you/they want to have by this time next year?
What skills or abilities would you/they like to focus on over the next # months? Why?
How will developing these skills impact…
- Exceeding goals?
- Driving the organization forward?
- Supporting customers?
- Developing your skills & career?
Engagement, Motivations, Rewards & Recognition
Understanding employee engagement, motivations, rewards & recognition can accelerate employee growth and performance. These elements can be challenging for many managers and employees as they require conversations that are both personal and beyond simply the work. For managers that can bridge this gap, employee performance can accelerate beyond expectation.
Engagement looks at an employee's level of commitment, passion, belonging, and focus on their work, team & organization. Engaged employees significantly outperform disengaged employees, but a majority of the workforce is disengaged with their work/teams.
Motivations focus on individualistic intrinsic & extrinsic motivators that drive employee behaviors. Motivations are dynamic and change with employees over time and as their realities shift.
Rewards & recognition focus on the rewards systems and styles of recognition that individual employees appreciate. Cash is not the number one way to reward/motivate all employees, and not everyone wants to be recognized in a public manner.
Each of these areas requires time, attention, and conversation between an employee and manager to be fully understood and leveraged.
Below we have provided engagement, motivation, rewards, and recognition conversation starters:
Meaning: Does my job provide me with a sense of meaning and purpose?
Autonomy: Do I have the freedom to choose how to best perform my job?
Why does this matter to me?
Growth: Do I feel challenged and stretched in my job in a way that results in personal growth and satisfaction? Why does this matter to me?
Impact: Most days, I see positive results because of my work?
Connection: I feel like I belong here?
Select the three to five work place motivations that are most meaningful to you...
Growth & Development
Rewards & Recognition
How do they/you like to be rewarded when you/they are successful? Why?
How do they/you like to be recognized when you/they do good work? Why?
Alignment: Goals & Priorities
When walking away from a successful performance conversation, employees and managers need to be aligned on the goals and priorities.
Goals should be well defined, S.M.A.R.T., and agreed upon be.
Once goals are aligned & defined, we must ensure that goal priorities are established. Both managers and employees should understand which goal is the most to least important and why. Ensuring we have alignment on goal priorities supports the most important work is known and appropriate time is allocated to these top priorities.
Each organization must develop performance conversation cadences that work best for their realities. The more frequent, intentional and consistent a manager and employee discuss performance, growth, and engagement, the higher the chance performance will grow, skills will evolve, and engagement will rise.
We must all remember that none of us can read minds, and due to this, we must find ways to communicate openly, honestly & frequently. When it comes to growing employee performance, growth & engagement - there are no shortcuts, only conversations!