Blog Post

From manager to coach: Moving beyond performance evaluation

Mike Bollinger

VP, Strategic Initiatives, Cornerstone

As the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down and workers are thinking about finding new roles, they are prioritizing skills development and career growth when making their decisions.

80% of workers who are planning to leave their job cited concern about career advancement, while 72% say the pandemic caused them to rethink their skill sets. In order to keep employees happy — and in the door — there’s increasing pressure for employers to prioritize skills growth.

And according to Cornerstone research, there’s a 30% gap in confidence between employees and their employers in the ability to develop skills.

Our research also shows that most workers identify their managers as their primary source for learning new skills. Managers are the lifeline for companies to deliver valuable skills and growth guidance to employees. When companies prioritize clear communication about their learning and development initiatives, it’s often managers who connect that messaging into tangible opportunities and actions for employees, assessing how best to match company resources with employee aspirations.

To close the skills confidence gap, managers must be seen as more than just performance evaluators.

Instead, managers must become coaches and create development opportunities for employees according to their individual interests and abilities. By empowering managers to drive employee growth in a more personalized way, organizations can increase employee engagement, retention and drive business results.

Coaching employees beyond hard skill assessments

Performance evaluation is a necessary part of running any business, and a key function of any manager’s job. It’s important for assessing core competencies, as well as making staffing or compensation decisions. But many traditional performance evaluation models consider the conversation to be a one-way street: Managers deliver assessments from on high and employees are expected to adjust behaviors based on that feedback.

But performance management can be so much more. According to our research, two of the top skills employees wanted to prioritize included “soft skills'' such as leadership skills (43%) and communications skills (35%).

Effective performance management turns managers into coaches for their employees, working consistently as a partner to help put employees on a path to success. Equipping managers with skills data to gain a thorough understanding of existing skill sets can be crucial for identifying areas of opportunity and creating personalized growth paths for employees. Armed with data and tools that can help identify future skills, managers can match company needs with employee skills goals, helping their workers achieve milestones and better preparing them for rapidly changing future work environments.

Helping employees grow through meaningful conversations

Building successful employee-manager relationships start with empowering managers to have clear, honest conversations with their direct reports on a regular basis. However, only 20% of U.S. employees have had a conversation with their manager in the last six months about achieving goals.

Rather than one dedicated conversation a year during formal job performance evaluation, consider having regular check-ins that facilitate discussions beyond technical assessment. Managers should feel comfortable expressing curiosity to understand their employees’ ongoing work and goals, asking questions like:

  • What parts of your job are the most interesting or most rewarding?
  • What do you find challenging about your job right now?
  • What are your short- and long-term career goals?
  • How can I help you achieve those goals?

Aligning these answers can help managers craft personalized development plans for employees. By taking the time to understand goals, managers can coach employees toward stretch assignments, mentoring opportunities or learning content — all of which are likely to boost employee confidence in their ability to gain skills and grow in their careers at their current company.

The skills revolution accelerated overnight. In a global research survey, Cornerstone identified a serious confidence gap between employers and employees about their ability to consume skills development. Developing critical skills in a way that’s effective and meaningful for employees is a challenge, and these challenges exist across organizations, industries and the globe.

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Cornerstone Performance


Cornerstone Performance

Whether you do performance reviews only once a year or have a robust, continual performance management process, with Cornerstone Performance, you can set goals, coach employees, receive feedback, guide development, and give recognition. Seamlessly link performance and skills data with internal learning opportunities to enable employee-driven, manager-supported growth. Because the best way to invest in business growth and achievement is by investing in the growth and achievements of your people with Cornerstone Performance.

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