How to Link Learning and Performance Management for Driving Business Results
Unleash the full potential of your performance management program and drive business results by linking it with learning and development initiatives.
Performance management is a complex idea and a somewhat pretentious term. It isn't immediately obvious how such an intangible concept can directly tie to something as simple as learning, but you should not ignore the connection.
Learning is an undeniable part of performance in most jobs, unequivocally so for knowledge workers.
To deny the importance of learning in performance management is a grave mistake, and investing in learning without a strategy is rarely a worthwhile use of time and energy.
By linking performance management and learning, you can align employee goals with the objectives of your organization, provide opportunities for growth and development, and support continuous improvement.
This guide will discuss the advantages of focusing on learning as a cornerstone of your performance management process. There is a significant overlap between these two concepts in the realm of business, and understanding their relationship will accelerate employee performance exponentially.
Whether you're just starting or looking to take your performance management program to the next level, this guide will help you drive business results and support employee growth.
🕵️♀️ The importance of learning and performance management in the modern workplace
A business unable to evolve and adapt is doomed to fail. Similarly, a company whose employees aren't learning and growing risks stagnation. To be successful, companies need a culture that encourages employee learning and embraces progressive performance management.
A learning culture that promotes employee advancement via improving skills and gaining knowledge has a two-fold benefit.
On the one hand, these employees are becoming more valuable to the company as their abilities improve.
On the other hand, individual growth is vital for providing employees with upward momentum in their career progression and qualifications (which also helps with employee retention and job satisfaction).
This form of upskilling is essential for keeping up with technology in virtually every industry.
For companies to stay competitive in their market, they need to be on top of the latest trends and opportunities, which require their employees to be adaptive.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted many ways companies are falling behind regarding technology.
Some estimates predict that 20% of workers will be underskilled by 2030.
More knowledgeable and skilled employees offer obvious value to their company through productivity and job effectiveness.
Establishing a culture of continuous learning is a long-term investment that requires a robust managerial foundation, but the benefits are worth the effort.
👩🏫 What is the role of learning in performance management?
Performance is affected by several factors, such as:
- effort and efficiency;
- time management;
- skill and talent;
- effective organization.
While training and on-the-job learning can't account entirely for performance, they can affect many factors like skill, knowledge, and often efficiency.
One of the most effective ways to manage performance is to identify areas for improvement and offer training to address them. This approach is the most direct learning method affecting performance management, simply enhancing employee performance by sharpening skills.
Progressive company culture should also facilitate career development, giving employees rewarding goals to work toward and management the tools to guide them. These goals should promote growth and innovation, discover leadership potential, and simultaneously support organization-wide objectives. Truly a win-win-win!
📈 What is the role of performance management in learning?
For learning to be efficient, you need a strategy and realistic goals. Company-wide seminars are inefficient because they don't address individuals' needs or roles.
For people operations to offer support and meaningful training, they need to rely on performance measurement and management.
A developmental plan should include performance goals and a way to accomplish them.
Compare these examples to see the difference:
Performance management without learning
"Your output for the last quarter was 85% which is great, but your accuracy was only 50%. We would like to see your accuracy improve to over 75%."
Learning without performance management
"Please complete this training on how to use the advanced features in Microsoft Excel."
Performance management with learning
"Your accuracy last quarter was lower than we would like it to be. Here is a training program for advanced features in Microsoft Excel. In Section 5, there they talk about conditional formatting which you can use to compare values and highlight cells that don't match up. I think this could help you catch more mistakes to get your score up. Let me know when you've had a chance to go through the training and we'll put it into action."
In the first example, performance management without learning sets expectations but doesn't offer a way to achieve them.
Some employees may find a solution alone or "work harder" to boost their stats. But many will simply become frustrated without any guidance.
In the second example, the employee receives a learning opportunity. Still, it is vague and may not be helpful to many. Moreover, these sorts of company-wide "training" are usually underdeveloped and unfocused, making them an inefficient use of time.
In the third example, we see performance management and learning coming together:
- The employee gets to understand there is a performance issue.
- They receive a solution in the form of a learning experience.
- They know when the follow-up will happen to monitor the results.
In this example, the employee will be more motivated to learn a specific skill to help them in their current role. Plus, that knowledge will likely be of use to them again in the future.
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🖇️ 6 Reasons why you should integrate performance management and learning
By now, it should be clear that learning is an integral part of performance management and vice versa. But exactly how these concepts work together may feel less than concrete.
So let's take a closer look at a few real-world examples to show the correlation in action.
The ability and willingness to make good decisions can significantly impact performance. Conversely, a lack of confidence may lead some to hesitate to make decisions, opting instead to defer to higher-ups, which can slow things down and negatively affect efficiency. Likewise, making poor decisions can influence performance in qualitative and quantitative ways.
The solution, in either case, is learning.
Employees would gain confidence in their performance through learning and positive performance appraisals. Then, through support and continued personal growth, employees acquire the skills needed to be good at their jobs, instilling the confidence to make decisions independently.
As for the quality of decision-making, this also relies heavily on learning. For example, some decisions related directly to one's role are made more accessible by mastering those processes. In contrast, others rely on a greater understanding of the organization.
Learning how the different parts of an operation work together through on-the-job training and collaboration allows employees to see the bigger picture and make decisions that positively affect the company, not just their immediate bubble.
Strategic alignment is a similar concept.
Employees whose training exclusively focused on what they need to know to perform their duties minimally aren't privy to the more extensive operation.
Handing down bite-size tasks and duties can be effective for simplifying different roles but hinders a greater understanding of what is at work for those lower on the totem pole.
Learning about the company and the broad concepts that the company focuses on teaches employees why they do their job instead of just how to do it.
Tip: To guarantee strategic alignment from each worker in your roster, they need to know the company's overarching objectives and the industry at large.
This one surprises many but is arguably one of the most important results of performance management and learning.
Gone are the days of annual performance reviews where employees receive scores that rank them against their coworkers like some game show.
The traditional employee review method is outdated and ineffective for anyone outside of the top performers.
Modern performance management is about cooperative support, not statistics and competition.
To ensure employee job satisfaction, you must support them to do their best with quality management and learning opportunities.
The fact is, people like to learn, especially when that learning enables them to better themselves in a meaningful way.
For example, they can improve their job performance and potential for promotions.
Retention will skyrocket when you improve job satisfaction through learning and performance management.
Some managers still cling to an old-school mindset fearing that empowering their employees will lead them to pursue other opportunities. However, the opposite is true.
Many employees view upskilling and learning on the job as a benefit to their current role.
You are providing value to these employees. And the ambitious ones will embrace the opportunity for advancement and continue to do so for as long as possible.
There is a greater risk of not encouraging individual growth, as employees feel stagnant in an endless cycle of the same-old work.
Proper performance management is vital for nurturing a positive growth culture in your organization. You want employees to look forward to opportunities for improvement and support, not fear an annual review that could go either way.
By encouraging and rewarding learning as often as possible, employees will feel they are accomplishing more than just their daily tasks and be excited about new goals and opportunities.
Of course, this depends on performance management to identify areas for improvement and deliver appropriate training and attainable goals.
With adequate performance and talent management, learning and growth create a positive feedback loop.
It goes like this:
- Employee satisfaction is stagnant.
- Performance measurement identifies an area for improvement.
- Performance management offers a solution.
- Through learning, performance improves, and employee satisfaction rises.
- As that high satisfaction wears off, the cycle begins again.
It's up to People operations to continue to jumpstart this cycle of performance advancement. As a result, there will be no limit to employee potential as they further their abilities and job satisfaction.
🏆 5 Best practices for implementing a learning and performance management system
Learning and performance management are two sides of the same coin.
For companies and other organizations looking to revamp their process, there are some best practices to help you start on the right foot. Some concepts will be natural results of this modern take, while others represent stepping stones to aid the journey.
For learning and performance management to be effective, everyone needs a clear understanding of objectives and expectations.
HR pros should collaborate with employees individually to set achievable and meaningful goals. This individualized approach offers them a specific target to work toward and grants a positive feeling of accomplishment.
You can help by influencing objectives toward industry trends and company needs so the employees' goals align with those of the company. Include not only individual performance but big-picture objectives like team productivity and synergy.
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The objectives shouldn't be random or cookie-cutter. They should apply to specific roles and contribute toward larger organizational goals. These could be related to those overall business objectives that are important for company success or simply priming employees to be better positioned to contribute in the future.
➡️ Learn how to align employees with company goals and skyrocket performance in 14 effective steps.
With goals set and agreed upon, it is up to people operations to provide the support needed for employees to succeed. This support might include on-the-job training and social learning, direct assistance (or assistants), or merely shifting responsibilities so employees can refocus.
Ever-present learning opportunities mean the company and its workers will continue to move forward together.
Competency-based learning is the most direct way to bolster performance management, but it isn't the only way. A culture of learning and development needs to embrace individual growth at every level while also finding what works for the company.
💪 For example, Freeletics embraces microlearning and leadership roundtables for efficiency and constant growth.
It may seem daunting to institute a performance and learning management system that requires one-on-one collaboration and action plans for every employee. There are two important things to keep in mind here:
- The benefit is that every employee becomes more capable of learning.
- Some tools can help!
A training management system can streamline repetitive tasks and do most of the heavy lifting for you. You only need to create one template for one employee, which you can then modify to match the specific circumstances of others.
With training automation, you can take on more of an overseer role rather than starting from scratch with every employee.
Training management software can also handle much of your progress tracking and reporting.
Seeing progress for long-term or multi-step goals allows you to adjust and offer additional support according to individual needs. This data is also helpful for measuring training effectiveness to fine-tune your performance management system.
Remember, the goal of performance management is PROGRESS.
Tip: Don't get caught up on whether employees pass or fail their goals. The critical thing is nurturing a constant growth and advancement culture through constructive feedback and support.
➡️ Drive learning and performance with Zavvy
Zavvy's mission is to enable people and the companies they work for to be their very best.
We offer the tools and training to help any company grow from within, achieving success alongside their people and building a positive workplace culture.
Whether you are interested in our learning management system, performance review software, behavioral training, or other tools and services to boost your business, we are excited to see how we can help. So reach out and say hello, or schedule a demo today for a service you are interested in.
How are learning and performance linked?
Knowledge is often the theoretical side of an employee's skills. At the same time, performance is the application of that knowledge. A worker without the opportunity to learn will lack the ability to improve performance and can rarely grow beyond their current level. Similarly, without performance measurement and management, a worker has little motivation to learn.
Why is learning important for performance management?
Learning and performance are intrinsically linked.
The path to improving performance is often through learning on the job or external training. While some other factors, like effort and timeliness, can affect certain aspects of performance, skills, and knowledge usually define the value and trajectory of employees.
What is the main difference between learning and performance?
Knowledge and learning are the theoretical capabilities and potential of an employee. On the other hand, performance relies on applying what an employee has learned.
You can see these concepts as two sides of the same coin. However, they are influenced by different factors. Likewise, they contribute to results in different ways.