New NLI Poll Hints at Telling Mismatch in Performance Management


There’s a popular saying among forward-thinking (and empirically minded) management experts, which is that there’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. It refers to the preference many leaders have for relying on conventional wisdom and intuition, rather than what we know to be proven effective.

The results from a new NLI poll hint at another telling mismatch — namely, between what HR leaders see as the main obstacle to improving their organization’s performance management, and what they view as the solution. This divide has crucial implications for how companies actually go about building a resilient, growth-oriented culture.

Problems versus solutions

In a recent webinar featuring findings from NLI’s new white paper, “Transforming Performance Management with a Growth Mindset Approach,” NLI posed three questions to several dozen talent leaders.

  1. What is the main obstacle for a performance management transformation in your organization?
  2. How would you rate your current company culture when it comes to performance feedback?
  3. Which of the 3 benefits of a growth mindset culture is most relevant to your organization?

Data showed that 50% of respondents to question 1 said the main obstacle was “low levels of manager capabilities.” That can refer to the quality of conversations, the fairness of evaluations, and so on. And it hints at HR leaders seeing more of a top-down challenge, rather something in how employees behave.

Interestingly enough, however, the greatest number of responses to question 3 — about the biggest benefit of growth mindset in an organization — focused on the answer “Openness to feedback,” while “Fair performance evaluations” received the fewest responses.

We interpreted these results as being at odds. One might assume that if HR leaders identify manager capabilities as the greatest obstacle, they would look to solve that problem with a manager-led process — for instance, by improving manager capability to conduct more accurate performance evaluations. However, the responses suggest that talent leaders may notice a managerial obstacle and yet look to solve it with greater openness to feedback, an employee-focused solution.

Both sides play a role

These results don’t necessarily show that all HR leaders share the same views, but they do suggest that people may have an easier time identifying a weakness in leadership than committing to a solution in that space.

In reality, NLI’s research suggests that employees and managers alike play a role in improving PM practices. Managers can help their teams build a growth mindset, to see challenges as opportunities (rather than obstacles), and employees can do the work of asking others for feedback, to keep actively learning and growing.

To learn more about growth mindset’s role in performance management, grab a copy of “Transforming Performance Management with a Growth Mindset Approach” today.

Author: Chris Weller

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