In conducting research for SAP on the topic of performance management, our team of Baylor MBA students has interviewed companies across the globe, looking into how executives, managers, and employees view performance management.

One of the trends identified through these engaging, one-on-one interviews, was that employees at a majority of companies identified with a hands-off approach of management, where they had clear expectations and goals and only initiated conversations with managers when there was an issue. This trend was further supported by managers; Managers were confident that they were seen as approachable and available to employees if they needed any assistance, or if they had a question about a particular task, or ran into a problem.

Informal, incremental meetings were common among organizations to reinforce goals, identify progress, and determine areas of improvement.

Digging deeper into this reasoning of ‘as-needed’ communication being a trend among managers and employees, we structured questions to analyze how communication was being used within these organizations; these questions revealed various aspects of communication, for example: frequency of ongoing communication, setting expectations of employee performance, and measuring progress.

Through this information, we could better understand why employees were not seeing ongoing communication as essential or effective as an as-needed, open, and approachable style of management, as well as why managers were also confident in this tactic’s effectiveness. Our findings identified yet another recurring theme: poor-performing or new employees are the ones who require the most time and effort from managers, and thus require on-going communication during initiation to a new position.

Employees were trained and told about clear expectations during the on-boarding process; during this time period, it is crucial that managers provide them with direction and support as employees learn how to perform tasks and adapt to the culture of the organization. This initiation stage requires significant time and effort dedication from managers, but as these employees become more developed, they need less attention and they evolve into those employees that prefer an as-needed approach to communication and management.

Once employees develop to this stage, employees and managers both prefer communication only if an issue arises, referring to the common theme of as-needed communication. More intensive findings from our research go into the aspects of how managers support and develop employees to this stage.

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