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How Performance Management Improves Well-being

Beth Thornton

October 15, 2020

If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ll know the state of your employees’ mental health is likely more strained than ever before. And that’s affecting your organization’s performance. However, with effective 1:1s, check-ins, feedback, and recognition, your teams can still hit their goals — and gain emotional resilience to thrive in the future.

Workplace well-being, which includes mental and emotional health and stress management, is a top priority for leaders. The 2020 HCM Trends from Deloitte note that 94% of workers feel stress, and 33% of workers feel that their stress is unsustainably high, leading to burnout and sleep loss.

“Well-being had the largest gap between importance and readiness across this year’s trends,” the report continued, “with 80% of organizations saying worker well-being is important or very important for their success over the next 12 to 18 months, but only 12% saying they are very ready to address this issue.”

The same trends can be seen among millennials, as described in Deloitte’s “Millennial Leadership Survey”: “Close to half (48%) of Gen Z and 44% of millennial respondents in the primary survey said they’re stressed all or most of the time.”

The reasons for these alarming statistics are easy enough to understand. Pandemic-related health scares, economic downturns, political and social volatility, automation and digital advances, environmental concerns, and so on all impact the work environment in various ways. For these reasons and more, leaders need to make mental health and well-being a top priority. 

Fortunately,  continuous performance management done right can help. But how?

Performance leads to wellness

To start with, organizational leaders need to know that performance in general is tied to mental health and well-being. That is, the more productive you are, the better you feel. You can anecdotally understand this from your day-to-day experiences, but scientific research also bears this out.

A large body of research on psychology and motivation called Self-determination Theory (SDT) argues that autonomy, relatedness, and competence “foster the most volitional and high-quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity.” This third piece — competence — is most significant for performance management.

Reading through the Wikipedia article on SDT, you’ll see that “competence” is defined as seeking to “control the outcome and experience mastery.” Positive feedback in this regard also helps to reinforce motivation and engagement. As we all know, feedback is a core component of a continuous performance management practice.

To sum it up, when an employee feels that they can use their skills to create better outcomes in their work, they’ll feel more competent, and thus feel better. Better performance, better well-being. Using tools like 1:1s, check-ins, feedback, and recognition creates healthier, more productive employees, so they can more effectively achieve their goals.

In other words, growth comes from accomplishment.

How to use 1:1s and check-ins to improve mental health

It’s never been clearer that meeting with another person — even virtually — has positive effects on our well-being. Many employees now feel an acute sense of isolation and loneliness, especially those who are younger or living alone. 

This is even more true when meetings include ongoing conversations around the employee’s career, goals, and overall engagement with the workplace. How are they doing during these difficult times? Do they have what they need to be successful? Are they taking care of themselves and their teams?

Having regular 1:1s and check-ins to address their concerns and their careers can go a long way. For example, a study mentioned in Harvard Business Review noted that 40% of global employees said “no one at their company had asked them if they were doing OK — and those respondents were 38% more likely than others to say that their mental health had declined since the outbreak.”

These are simple but critical checkpoints to monitor and improve your employees’ well-being and their performance. 

How to use feedback to improve mental health

Positive feedback encourages an employee’s sense of autonomy, relatedness, and competence, and therefore improves their overall well-being. In virtual work environments, however, employees can feel like they don’t know where they stand regarding their relationships or with their work progress. After a while, work begins to feel like an endless series of inputs and outputs, day after day, meeting after meeting, without ever feeling like they’re accomplishing anything.

This is where feedback can be helpful. By facilitating important conversations around goals and performance, and providing constructive, positive feedback on how employees can improve, your teams will feel grounded, that their work matters, and that someone cares.

But don’t forget that feedback is a two-way street. Manager-to-employee feedback is important, of course, but so is employee-to-manager feedback. This type of feedback creates a sense of empowerment and autonomy for your people, whereby they feel that their voice is heard and that their experiences matter.

Feedback like this can have profound effects on an organization. For example, the Deloitte report mentioned earlier described that, in one German hospital system, “workers’ feedback guided key work changes to mitigate common sources of stress, including better scheduling, new systems for clearer communication, empowering employees to make decisions, and changes to avoid overloading short-staffed teams. A study found that these efforts improved both work quality and worker health.”

In summary, performance management software that allows for continuous conversations, collaboration, and feedback in your employees’ day-to-day work can really make an impact on your teams’ ability to continue to improve employee and organizational health.

How to use recognition to improve mental health

Similar to the importance of feedback, recognition also improves your people’s health and well-being. Recognizing employees for their success or their progress along the way doesn’t have to be an involved process, at least not as involved as 1:1s or feedback. Tons of research in Harvard Business Review shows that a simple “thank you” for support or an award of value for a project delivered can greatly improve mental health, especially in times of crisis. 

As is the case with feedback, recognition can be in the form of manager-to-employee, employee-to-manager, and employee-to-employee. Anyone can share with anyone else their appreciation at any time. It’s easy, it generates feelings of connection, and when coupled with feedback, it also encourages a sense of relatedness. Inspire Software has recognition features built right into our homepage, 1:1, and goals features, so you can recognize with ease, view other people’s accomplishments, and be able to comment, like, or boost recognition to reinforce the reason it was given. It’s seamless because it’s in context, right where the work is being done. 

It’s clear that performance and well-being are intimately linked

The state of the world today doesn’t have to dictate the state of your organization or your people’s mental health. You have the power to change things. And as Self-determination Theory suggests, that sense of autonomy, relatedness, and competence is powerful.