One Size does not fit all in performance management if you want to maintain a productive diverse workforce. companies tend to performance-manage to the...

by Marie Y. Philippe, PhD

Corporate Vice President, Culture and Organizational Effectiveness
The Lifetime Healthcare Companies

One Size does not fit all in performance management if you want to maintain a productive diverse workforce. companies tend to performance-manage to the two tails of employees’ performance bell curves. Either employees get lots of attention because they are non-performers and in need of performance improvement plans or because they are identified as having high potential for career growth. Those in the middle, the majority, tend to receive little to no attention. If your company desires to either move many of the minority employees from the belly of the curve to the high performance end or from low to acceptable performance, differences in managing their performance may be worth considering.

All employees want to contribute to the success of their companies. Employee surveys generally reveal that minority employees wish to partake in the business success and do well personally, in the process. Therefore if they don’t, there are usually some major missing elements. There can be a multitude of reasons why any employee does not perform well. However, when analyzing determinants for successful performance management, a recurrence of primarily five factors seems to negatively impact the performance of minority groups’ employees:

  1. Many employees in the minority groups feel that they must do so much more than their non-minority counterparts to receive the same level of recognition. Perceptions are one’s reality. Most managers to whom this concept is presented will argue their equity in recognition treatment. Some, however, after some introspection, will agree that performance standards are not always evenly applied.
  2. When an employee is the only minority in a department that does not embrace the person’s uniqueness, the employee will eventually shut down. It is a psychological struggle to stay engaged and perform well when an apparent lack of appreciation for your contribution constantly faces you.
  3. Effective orientation and integration starting at hiring plays a huge part in long term success. Navigating a corporate culture is no easy task without a mentor, formal or informal. For a minority employee, trial and error is often the only method by which to seek the appropriate resources to complete an assignment, for example, or find a shortcut to training access. This trial and error can translate occasionally, into a lower performance level.
  4. The lack of clear job description and related expectations can also contribute to a real or perceived lack of high work performance. When an employee cannot clearly articulate what she/he is accountable for and doesn’t know the real priorities it is unlikely that they can perform well. Job-scope creep for minority employees who are reluctant to say “no” when given more tasks may lead to the vain effort of trying to be all things to all people, resulting in performance failure.
  5. Assignments that challenge employees tend to maintain their enthusiasm and increase their performance. Great leaders take the time to analyze skill levels and match assignments with increasingly stretched goals within their teams, in order to keep developing strengths and reducing weaknesses. For many minority employees, the missing challenge factor becomes the norm, even if voiced to management. Thus with reduced enthusiasm comes reduced speed in delivery or reduced creativity, resulting in reduced performance.

Obviously the list of identifiable touch points that can drive or maintain average-to-poor performance is much more expansive. the critical lessons to be learned are:

  1. Managers of people in minority groups need to be made aware that performance management must take into consideration differences; and
  2. If a minority employee is not performing well, the root cause for that outcome can often be misdiagnosed. To ensure a diverse, productive, and engaged workforce, performance management must be seen as a multi-faceted tool that capitalizes on differences.

Marie Y. Philippe, Ph.D.

Marie Y. Philippe, Ph.D.

Corporate Vice President, Culture and Organizational Effectiveness
The Lifetime Healthcare Companies

Well known for her leadership contribution in corporate culture transformation through strategic diversity initiatives and organizational change management. She can be reached at [email protected]

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