Training: The Critical Link to a Successful Performance Management Program

Nicole D. Carr is the Director of Human Resources at the California Department of Social Services and she has been appointed to various executive-level positions within State Government during her 20-year, public service career which includes but is not limited to serving as the Assistant Deputy Director for the Department of Housing and Community Development and a Budget Officer for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

As a Human Resource (HR) Director, one of my favorite tasks is helping employees succeed at their jobs. I have had the opportunity to assist managers restructure their organizations, build high-performance teams and train staff members to perfect their analytical skills and abilities to enhance productivity. I have also had the occasion to manage poor performing staff whose behavior improved through the use of training, staff recognition and progressive discipline.

This article offers managers four, effective performance management program tools for immediate use:

1) a work behavior indicator/solutions matrix designed to correct the behavior of poor, performing staff;

2) specific steps necessary to develop and implement a performance management program;

3) an employee evaluation process that encourages engagement; and

4) multiple training resource tools which support performance management programs.

Performance Management Program Defined

Too often, performance management programs (PMPs) are strictly interpreted as a means of disciplining employees; not training them. Although it’s true that PMPs usually include progressive discipline steps, the primary purpose of a PMP focuses on the training and development of employees to create high performing teams. In fact, successful PMPs should be a fluid, agile process where managers collaborate with their employees and develop training plans to strengthen employee weaknesses and build on their strengths. Progressive discipline rules and training techniques should be woven into PMP processes to ensure the progressive correction of poor work behavior and the development of new skills.

Tool #1: Identifying the Cause of Poor Performance with a Behavioral Matrix

It’s difficult to develop an effective PMP without first understanding the causes of poor performance. Managers may not specifically recognize the behavior contributing to poor performance, instead, they may recognize the undesirable outcomes of the behavior such as low productivity and poor service delivery. In fact, there is a growing presumption that poor performance is a clear manifestation of incompetency or an employee’s lack of workplace tools necessary to complete work assignments, but that may not necessarily be the underlying cause of poor performance. The key to addressing poor performance is determining the root cause of performance deficiencies to identify an appropriate solution using a poor work behavior indicator matrix (see page 2). A behavior indicators/solutions matrix identifies common performance behavioral types, which if not addressed, could lead to poor performance and a need for progressive discipline.

Training is the fuel which drives the entire performance management process and program. In fact, one of the first places that I turn to in order to train my staff is the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR).



Poor Work Behavior Examples of poor work behavior Performance Management Steps
Poor attitude Insubordination, hostility, poor attitude Issue expectation memos and provide formal subject matter training/peer to peer training.
Resistance to Change Unwillingness, refusal or inability to update skills, resistance to policy/procedure or work method changes Launch broad communication plan to explain changes and seek input/feedback from staff to encourage support of new policies.
Inappropriate interpersonal relations Impatient, inconsiderate, argumentative, inappropriate communication style Use periodic performance reviews to correct behavior and provide interpersonal skill training.
Inappropriate physical behavior Abusive smoking, alcohol or drug use, hostile, or intimidating behaviors Ensure staff awareness of organizational expectations by providing mandated trainings and ensure full enactment of no tolerance policies.

Tool #2: Performance Management Program Development/Implementation

The vision for every employer is to ensure the success of their employees, by providing honest communication, feedback and training. Development of a PMP begins with the review of the baseline practices of managers’ interactions with their direct reports coupled with establishing improvement milestones for staff. Improvement milestones are developed using the PMP tool #3, the PMP evaluation and also from data collected from staff assignments.

Tool #3: PMP Evaluation

One of the tools integral to the success of a PMP is the inclusion of a performance evaluation process. The PMP performance evaluation approach (see below) modifies traditional evaluation methods to incorporate training elements and encourage an interactive process with managers and staff to develop a collaborative framework of clear communication and objectives.


  • Gain employee commitment to meet goals by clearly communicating goals/objectives to employees.
  • Collaboratively work with employees to develop viable, training development plans.
  • Monitor employee’s performance by aligning performance objectives with organizational standards and expectations to provide employee performance feedback.
  • Ensure an interactive and engaging performance review by requesting that the employee come to the review prepared to discuss his/her job performance and job satisfaction.
  • During the evaluation, ask the staff member for their opinion of their job performance, then provide the staff member with performance feedback that contains clear, objective, non-judgmental language.
  • Managers should conduct ongoing, performance improvement or appreciation discussions with staff to improve performance or provide praise for high performance.
  • Incentivize employees who improve their performance and recognize those who maintain good performance.

Recognizing the Training-Performance Management Link

According to a study from the Journal of Economics, Finance and Administrative Science, performance is improved when organizations increase employee training and development activities. The results of these findings indicate that organizations that invest in their employees and implement quality employee training and development programs find that their employees reciprocate those efforts by producing good work products and demonstrating high performance habits. Further, the study indicated that organizations that provide incentives can motivate employees to be more engaged in their work and accept increased levels of responsibility within the organization.

Tool #4: Training Resources

Training is the fuel which drives the entire performance management process and program. In fact, one of the first places that I turn to in order to train my staff is the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IIPMA-HR). The IPMA-HR hosts a number of courses at which provide basic to advanced skill development for mid to senior-level human resource professionals. The second resource is the Cooperative Personnel Services – Human Resources which offers a wide variety of courses at ranging from the Human Resource and Risk Management Academies to professional and analytical development courses for staff and management. The third resource for any organization should be the development of an internal training program. I always encourage organizations to develop internal training programs whenever possible as peer to peer trainings are effective ways to transfer knowledge and meet staffing needs for organizational, succession plans.

Final Note

The very most important task that managers must do is this: hire talent. To adequately manage the need for performance management and training, managers must invest sufficient time to recruit and retain qualified candidates. That is, managers must develop a comprehensive search for talent by carefully developing duty statements and job bulletins as well as advertise vacancies using diverse communication channels such as LinkedIn, Indeed, email blasts or the like to obtain the sufficient, competent applicant pool. Doing so, reduces time, effort and the additional costs associated with training, re-training and the possible use of progressive discipline to ensure acceptable performance.

If an organization hires the right person for the job, then it is the formidable blend of training and an effective performance management program which contributes to the success of an employee and the health of an organization. It is management’s responsibility to ensure recruitment of the best talent and to work to retain staff through quality, employee training and development to achieve high performing staff, maintain productivity and encourage enhanced organizational performance and growth.

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