How to Talk With Your Clients About Performance Management: Getting Started and Setting Them on the Right Path

By Michele Lindsay

I’ve been working in the talent industry for over 20 years and it is a universal truth—Performance Management, and the technology that delivers it, is fundamentally misunderstood or misapplied and thus feared. Like most things that are dreaded it’s not the “thing” itself, but the unknown around it that causes stress. The solution is to identify the pieces of performance management that are unfamiliar so you can understand your client’s needs and recommend talent processes that will work for their organization. 

For this exercise, let’s set aside the technology and focus on demystifying the approach to implementing performance management for any type or size of organization. We’ll answer the question:  how do I help a customer improve (or begin) the process of assessing and developing employee performance?

Identify the Unfamiliar

While there are lots of different approaches to performance management, small businesses typically fall into 3 different categories. 

  1. They may be new to Performance Management and need you to recommend the best way to set up their employee appraisals and review process. 
  2. Similarly, they may have had performance reviews in place but would like advice on how to optimize or change their process. 
  3. Finally, there are the organizations who like their approach but need help moving it to an online system.

Regardless of where they fall on this spectrum, there are several things you can do to help address the unfamiliar aspects of the task ahead of you.

Predefine a methodology. 

It’s important to have some pre-baked processes and templated appraisals (review templates) ready to be shared with customers who are new to performance reviews.

Doing so removes the uncertainty around what to do when a customer asks “What can we do for annual reviews?” This becomes their default starting point, which can then be tailored to how and when they want to do reviews. If you’re using PrismHR Performance Management, there’s a library of things like job competencies, coaching comments, and core values to get you started.

Learn how to deliver effective performance management solutions for your customers using PrismHR Performance Management.


Examine their status-quo.

When customers come to me with their current system, I always ask two questions:

  • What do you like about your current method?
  • What isn’t working for you with your appraisal process?

The answers to these questions will help you quickly identify what changes you might recommend, the pain points you need to address, and what components need to be incorporated for the customer to consider the change a successful one.

Get their forms and reports. 

If they have a current performance appraisal form or review template, have them send it over first thing. This simple step will immediately tell you where they are coming from and help you define where they need to go. Their reports will tell you what output they find valuable as well.

Keep it simple.  

This is a hard one for many.  Some feel the more you include in a review, the more you can measure and improve. This just isn’t the case. In today’s business environment it’s important that your customers focus on the things that really improve performance:

  • Communication tools that allow supervisors and employees to regularly touch base about performance
  • Continuous coaching and feedback
  • Flexible objectives that align with company strategies
  • Clearly defined performance standards

Regardless of what the review looks like, if the above items are incorporated into the process, the process is more likely to produce the results your customers are looking for. Anything more than that can complicate the purpose of the review and lead to frustration for your customers and their staff.

Improving Performance Management Post Covid-19

The ‘traditional’ approach to performance management – the once a year review to “check the box” – is showing its age, particularly in 2020. Managers and employees alike often don’t see the value. Managers see it as one more thing on their list to do, employees see it as an exercise that won’t change anything. It’s also subject to poor results, for example:

  • Recency bias: People tend to recall/focus on only the work that has been done recently (e.g. past 2 months). It’s difficult for employees and managers to recall 12 months worth of efforts.
  • Proximity bias: People tend to reflect and place value on only the things that they see or are directly aware of. Especially with more remote work occurring, it’s easy to miss things with such infrequent discussions and feedback.

According to research from Gallup, only 2 in 10 employees say their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. With 2020 and presumably 2021 bringing uncertainty for many employers and employees, businesses need to be more agile and adaptable in how they assess, engage, and motivate employees. Additional Gallup research calls for organizations to modernize their Performance Management approach:

How Gallup calls for organizations to modernize their Performance Management approach.

This means helping your clients see the value of being flexible in how they provide feedback (and a venue for discussion) and doing it on a frequent basis. Engagement, which we know is key to productive workers and retaining high performers, increases with the frequency of feedback – for both those who work remotely and those who don’t:

A final nugget to keep in mind, especially in this time where your clients feel like they may not be able to do much for their employees:

“If there’s one important piece of advice for leaders, it’s this: Don’t stop tracking performance and having meaningful conversations about the task at hand. Even if you cancel bonuses, merit increases, awards ceremonies, etc., it’s important to communicate: We are still tracking progress and need high performance. We see what you’re doing. We appreciate you.”

Your clients need to show employees they are seeing, keeping track of, and appreciating the hard work that’s being done. Especially if they are unable to show it with compensation and other perks.

Get Started With Performance Management

Now is the time to have these conversations with your clients – review season is here and it’s fresh in their minds. If you move quickly, you can even assist them with year-end 2020 or early 2021 reviews. 

PrismHR has the tools and personnel in place to help you build a successful and profitable talent management program. We offer two plan options depending on your level of expertise and available resources:

  • PrismHR-Managed: We’ll co-sell with your team and handle all of the SMB implementations, training, and ongoing support. A great option if you want to offer Performance Management to your clients ASAP, but can’t (or don’t want to) commit additional time and resources.
  • HRO-Managed: You take care of sales, implementation, and first-line support for your clients. A good option if you have in-house expertise and resources to handle the work.

To learn more about PrismHR Performance Management, reach out to your Customer Success Manager. Also, check out the Seeds site for helpful resources for promoting Performance Management to your clients.           

Contact your Customer Success Manager to learn more about PrismHR’s Performance Management System.