The 3-Step Agile Performance Management Process You Need

The 3-Step Agile Performance Management Process You Need
Summary: An agile performance management process relies on setting achievable and flexible goals for employees; frequent feedback, and coaching by supervisors.

The Agile Performance Management Process In 3 Useful Steps

Performance management has undergone several iterations over the decades. Once-a-year, performance review meetings between supervisor and employee used to be unavoidable. With time, those morphed into a more results-oriented performance management process. Recently, though, forward-thinking companies have begun adopting an agile performance management process — an approach with the adaptability needed in today’s workplace.

Agile performance management essentially mirrors the modern work environment, and the people in it. Workplaces have evolved from a hierarchical top-down structure to an open, collaborative one where staff from many teams and management levels join forces to achieve a common purpose.

That same trend holds true in performance management. Employees don’t want a checklist of objectives recited to them. They expect to be involved in developing their individual goals and the plans for achieving those goals.

Millennials, in particular, crave more frequent guidance in their work. In fact, a 2015 survey by TinyPulse [1] discovered 42 percent of Millennials wanted weekly feedback from their supervisors.

This mindset results partly from a hyper-connected world, wherein messages and texts fly instantaneously: Millennials are used to instant communication. Workplaces today are as connected as any online social network, so employees and supervisors communicate in real time. Performance feedback doesn’t need to wait for a yearly review.

The biggest reason agile performance management is emerging as the standard for employee evaluation is that businesses as a whole must be agile. A company’s talent requirements can change in a nanosecond, so yearly evaluations are obsolete. Operations must be set up to support innovative approaches to product development and evolving go-to-market strategy.

Successful modern businesses demand an agile performance management process. Let’s explore an agile performance management definition, and how any business can successfully practice this approach.

What Is Agile Performance Management?

Agile performance management is an approach to employee appraisal and development that replaces traditional annual employee reviews with an ongoing and interactive process. Agile performance management emphasizes goal setting, measurable results, collaboration, frequent feedback, flexibility to meet changing organizational needs and effective coaching.

This approach finds its roots in the performance management process first developed by Dr. Aubrey C. Daniels in the 1970s. He literally wrote the book on it — Performance Management: Changing Behavior that Drives Organizational Effectiveness [2].

Daniels defines performance management as a scientifically-based, data-oriented management system. The system’s 3 primary elements are measurement, feedback, and positive reinforcement. "Although each of these 3 elements can exist alone,” says Daniels, “all 3 must be present before you have true performance management. And they must be implemented systematically and in sequence".

Or, as Daniels adds, performance management is "a way of getting people to do what you want them to do and to like doing it".

Several key elements emerge from Daniels’ definition of performance management: measurable goals and outcomes, for certain, as well as behavioral psychology at work. Positive reinforcement directs employees on the path to achieving those goals.

Agile performance management constantly evolves throughout the year. It builds on a basic performance management model by being frequent and regular, yet elastic enough to accommodate organizational changes and each employee’s unique abilities and ambitions. It also requires supervisors to become coaches [3] to their direct reports.

How To Implement An Agile Performance Management Process

First, companies must ditch the annual employee review sheet. Agile performance management entails an entirely different template, but one that can be easily developed.

1. Before The Meeting: Crowd-Sourcing Data

A supervisor should define the employee’s job not just in terms of daily duties, but in terms of how those tasks relate to the team’s and organization’s ultimate purpose as well. As part of the performance management process, the supervisor gathers data on the employee’s actual performance and whether it matches those objectives.

This information can come from the employee’s file and the supervisor’s observations, along with comments from peers, external partners, and the employee’s direct reports. From this crowd-sourced data, the supervisor gains insight to where an employee has succeeded — or has fallen short. This forms the basis of a performance development blueprint that lays out specific goals for each employee.

2. During The Meeting: Setting Goals

Armed with a plan, the supervisor and employee discuss the goals set forth in it. Together, the employee and supervisor devise steps to reach those goals and determine how the outcome will be measured. For instance, if the objective is to consistently meet deadlines, the performance development plan charts how many times in a month the employee will meet that target.

The supervisor’s task during the meeting is not only to give feedback but to obtain input from the employee as well. Doing so ensures the goals set out are meaningful, achievable and fully understood by the employee.

Goals must link to the team’s and organization’s overarching purpose. For example, meeting deadlines and providing good customer service profits the company. Emphasizing this relevance and the employee’s importance within the company fosters better employee engagement.

When an employee’s performance requires improvement, he or she must agree to the goals and the measurement standards. If the overall performance is satisfactory, the supervisor can suggest ways the employee might upgrade his or her professional skills such as through additional training.

3. After The Meeting: Checking In

Agile performance management relies on frequent feedback and coaching to be successful. After the initial conference, the supervisor schedules regular meetings to check in with the employee. Have they met their goals? Are they experiencing any difficulties? Of course, between these meetings, supervisors can provide feedback and coaching if needed.

As its name suggests, agile performance management adjusts as organizational needs change. It’s a performance management plan that can be modified at any time using a fluid document rather than a set-in-stone, one-size-fits-all employee review form.

There is no single agile performance management definition. Each organization decides how to structure their own process to best suit its own needs and circumstances. Some may require a standard organization-wide procedure and measurements as well as extensive documentation. Others might amend and replace certain steps in their performance management process to match their company’s operations. Why agile performance management works

Why Agile Performance Management Works

An agile performance management process engages employees in a year-round, continual process of individual development. They become active participants in cultivating their strengths in ways that benefit themselves and the entire company.

An agile performance management process engages employees in a year-round, continual process of individual development. They become active participants in cultivating their strengths in ways that benefit themselves and the entire company.

The company, meanwhile, retains or alters its workforce skills as business needs change. By practicing agile workforce management, companies build a staff with the ability to support their objectives. This leads to less turnover, more engaged employees and higher revenues.

Like most every HR function, performance management has been digitized. Many companies now provide performance management software. Capterra has reviewed a number of available products here.

Whether digitized or not, the basic principles of agile performance management remain the same: goal setting, objectively measuring results, frequent feedback, collaboration, effective coaching, adaptability and, of course, flexibility.



  1. The real reason why Millennials crave feedback in the workplace
  2. Performance Management 5th Edition
  3. What Is Agile Performance Management?
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