How to Help Tame the ‘Dragon’ Through Performance Management

By James Tehrani

September is Global Company Culture Month.

Or at least it apparently has been for the past few years. OK, we haven’t heard of it either. 

Sure, there’s a day and a month for just about everything nowadays, from National Clean Your Desk Day to Appreciate a Dragon Day, but we believe focusing on workplace culture helps companies breathe new life into their organization. And, believe it or not, Performance Management might possess some real magical “powers” to help transform an organization that would make a fictional flying creature jealous.  

Left unattended or if a company’s just “winging it,” workplace culture can be a drag on any organization and perhaps even a destructive force that can hurt morale and even the bottom line. 

But done right, it can be “fire” as the kids say these days. 

Today’s Workforce 

Coming out of a pandemic, workplace culture is one of the biggest differentiators separating foundering companies from formidable ones as the competition to retain and attract new employees continues to heat up.  

While you don’t hear as much about the Great Resignation these days, it’s clear that workplace attitudes have changed. Key topics like pay, benefits and limited opportunity for career advancement are still leading reasons why people change jobs, but don’t think workplace culture isn’t a top reason as well.

In fact, it encompasses all those topics and more.

One thing you do hear about often is burnout, which plays a big part of workplace culture, too. Stressed and mentally exhausted employees tend to want to find alternative places to work. In fact, one psychologist recently even presented an argument about why burnout might need to be classified as a mental disorder.  

“Burnout is also expensive for organizations as it increases high staff turnover and absenteeism and reduces job performance,” wrote Dr. Llewellyn van Zyl in Psychology Today. “Again, classification could help create new prevention and treatment programs.” 

Besides things like burnout or even, in some cases, serious compliance issues like workplace harassment, lack of or minimal communication between a manager and an employee can cause major issues that hurt morale and, ultimately, the overall workplace culture. 

Culture and Performance

While workplace culture has been discussed for years, it’s still a hard concept to define as it means different things to different people. It’s a little like an abstract painting; some will love it, some will like it, and others will be confused by it. 

Don’t be confused. 

It is said that Elliott Jaques, a somewhat controversial Canadian social scientist, introduced the concept of organizational culture back in 1951 when he published the case study The Changing Culture of a Factory. Seventy-plus years later, companies still struggle with workplace culture. 

“The culture of the organization had been fashioned to act as a defensive system against the anxiety of having to have too explicit a responsibility for people,” Jaques wrote.  

In other words, the culture was broken, and it’s a problem many companies have. 

Soar With Performance Management  

So what can companies do to improve their workplace culture? 

As with any relationship, it starts with building a connection, making people feel important and heard, connecting on values and offering regular, constructive feedback. 

In today’s world where feedback is almost instantaneous—just check out an Instagram post—companies need to be able to provide regular feedback on performance. The days of waiting for the annual review to give an employee an idea about how well they are performing are long gone. 

By focusing on a true Performance Management strategy, companies can help align performance to organizational goals, improve morale, increase engagement and recognize where there are opportunities for Learning & Development. Mix in some mentorship for new employees, fun activities, maybe some philanthropic opportunities and even some employee resource groups with a Performance Management strategy, and you’ve got a recipe for a powerful workplace culture. 

As an HR outsourcer, you can help provide these Performance Management tools to your clients. Bonus: You can mine that data to provide your own insights to help your clients succeed, too.  

Julian Lute, a strategic adviser to Great Place to Work, summed up what workplace culture is all about in this post:  

“I can recall the first time I walked into the lobby of a company on our Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list. As I approached the door, employees who were walking in and passing by made eye contact and said ‘hello.’ The employee behind the desk greeted me warmly, offering me a cup of coffee and a comfortable seat. There was a distinct, positive energy in the building. My first experiences as a guest gave me a taste of how they ‘do things around here.’ ” 

You can help your clients create that kind of vibe and help them compete with those Fortune 100 companies for talent by bringing Performance Management into the fold. 

That’s how you can help tame the “dragon” that could be causing damage to their workplace culture and reputation—and perhaps affecting your bottom line—any month of the year.  

Learn more about Performance Management. 

James Tehrani is PrismHR’s digital content marketing manager. He is an award-winning writer and editor based in the Chicago area.