History and foundations of
Since 1993 the CIPD has been regularly reviewing and The work suggested that performance management
publishing work on performance management. As one in its broadest sense would be carried out when the
of the key practices of HR it has featured heavily in the following activities were apparent:
work on people and performance carried out in the
late 1990s and early twenty-first century, when it was • communication of a vision to all employees
identified along with work design and training as a key • setting departmental and individual performance
practice in performance delivery. targets that are related to wider objectives
• conducting formal reviews of progress towards
We have tracked the evolution of performance these targets
management since the early 1990s from a heavily • using the review process to identify training,
bureaucratised procedure focused on objective-setting development and reward outcomes
or merit rating to a more wide-reaching and inclusive • evaluating the whole process to improve
process integrated with other related practices such effectiveness
as career management, talent management and • expressing performance targets in terms of
development. measurable outputs, accountabilities and training/
We have traced this progression from a lack of • using formal appraisal procedures as ways of
understanding about performance management as a communicating performance requirements that are
holistic process to manage performance through its set on a regular basis
links to pay, development and most recently talent • linking performance requirements to pay, especially
management to its place as a tool for line managers for senior managers.
to direct skill and effort. We have also unpacked the
elements of performance management and looked Although the use of individualised performance-related
at how organisations can put a number of elements pay is now less common, the other characteristics are
together to create a performance management process still broadly true of performance management today.
that is more appropriate for their circumstances and However, the research also found that performance
particular talent pool. management systems exhibiting all or most of these
characteristics were, in the early 1990s, relatively
Work conducted by the then Institute of Personnel rare. Most apparent were the tools associated with
Management in 1992 produced the following performance management, such as appraisal or
definition of performance management: objective-setting, but often operating in apparent
isolation from other HR policies such as communication
‘A strategy which relates to every activity or development.
of the organisation set in the context of its
human resources policies, culture, style and In 1998 the Institute of Personnel and Development
communications systems. The nature of the strategy instigated another programme of research (Armstrong
depends on the organisational context and can vary and Baron 1998). Using a survey and a number of
from organisation to organisation.’ practice-based case studies, this work concluded
that performance management was most likely to
be viewed as a continuous process rather than an
annual activity. However, this process was still largely
a collection of interlinked tools rather than a single
Performance management 1
system to manage performance. Moreover, it was Performance management as a management tool
apparent that there was a significant schism between Performance management is most usually designed
performance management that was led by the desire by HR and delivered by line managers, although
to develop individuals, and performance management line managers have become more central to the
that was driven by the desire to pay individual rewards objectives and use of performance management.
linked to outcome performance. The research was also Over the years it has become the most important tool
able to identify a number of underlying trends, such as in the manager’s armoury to ensure that the people
the shift of ownership of performance management management side of their job is adequately addressed.
from HR to line managers and the rejection of In simple terms, performance management is the
bureaucracy with emphasis on minimising paperwork. means by which many firms ensure that managers
do what good managers ought to do, ensure people
Finally, when the CIPD revisited the area in 2005 know what they ought to be doing, have the skills to
(Armstrong and Baron 2005), they were able to do it and complete it to an adequate standard.
The people management aspect of the line manager’s
‘Overall there has not been a great deal of role was explored as part of the ‘Black Box’ work
movement in the kind of practices employed by carried out for the CIPD by a team led by Professor
organisations to manage performance since the John Purcell at Bath University and published in
1997 survey was carried out. Practices such as 2003. They found that the relationships between an
team appraisal and 360-degree appraisals had individual and their line manager is the most significant
become more popular, and it appeared that more factor impacting on the individual’s willingness to
organisations had become more sophisticated perform. As such they concluded that line managers
in their approach and in the integration of have a crucial role to play in bringing HR policies to life
performance management with other HR practices. and none more so than performance management.
However the vast majority still relied heavily on the They therefore identified performance management as
tried and tested practices of objective setting and one of the critical processes shaping the link between
review, accompanied by development plans and people management and organisational performance.
As such, performance management becomes a primary
However, the accompanying case studies revealed tool for managing the business if it is significant in
evidence that performance management has acquired shaping individual behaviour and ensuring these are
a much more central role in the strategic management directed towards achieving the strategic aims of the
process, particularly with regard to aligning behaviour organisation. As Mohrman and Mohrman (1995)
and values. As one manager commented: emphasised, ‘performance management is managing
the business’; in other words, it is what line managers
‘We expect managers who lead this organisation to do all the time.
behave in line with the stated core values. So the
competencies reflect the values, and the individual As a result of this history of performance management
performance management assessments are invited over the last couple of decades, we have seen
to assess how far managers are behaving in line performance management progress from an HR policy
with core values.’ firmly within the remit of the HR department to a
business process that is central to aligning activity with
Another stressed that performance management was strategic goals and is as much about managing the
the primary means by which they ensured a ‘line of business as it is about directing people and controlling
sight’ between strategic goals and individual activity the flow of training or reward.
and behaviours: ‘It’s about creating a line of sight
between what the individual does and what the
2 Performance management
However, this also means that it is not enough just to Other writers have tended to define performance
tell line managers they have to manage performance; management as a more operational process. For
they must also understand why this is necessary and example, Briscoe and Claus (2008) say:
understand what it means for them and their ability
to manage their departments or teams better and ‘Performance management is the system through
in a way that is aligned to the strategic aims of the which organisations set work goals, determine
organisation. performance standards, assign and evaluate work,
provide performance feedback, determine training
What does performance management look like in and development needs and distribute rewards.’
the twenty-first century?
Much of our work to date has focused on trends and However, undoubtedly the twenty-first century
developments in practice, looking at where the next has seen acceptance that the way forward to
generation of performance management activity might organisational performance and growth is to create
take us. In the latter half of the 1990s, performance high-performance, high-commitment work systems
management was developing rapidly as more that rely on relationships with managers built on
knowledge-intensive work demanded better and better trust, understanding and mutual co-operation. With
ways of directing and managing performance. The the old carrot and stick approach to management
result was that many organisations were experimenting long consigned to the scrap heap, the greater
with different performance management systems. preoccupation with employee engagement and
Many of the systems and processes studied in the commitment has cemented the place of performance
past CIPD investigations were less than five years old management as the centrepiece of communication
and many were still in the process of development or between manager and individual.
redevelopment. However, in recent years we have seen
evidence that there has been much more continuity in This shift has resulted in performance management
performance management, with organisations making being perceived as a continuous process rather than a
relatively small changes to an established process discrete event, with Latham et al (2007) commenting
rather than redesigning or redefining the objectives of that ‘a distinguishing feature of performance
that process. management relative to performance appraisal is that
the former is an ongoing process whereas the latter is
So the question now is less about how performance done at discrete time intervals…it is therefore owned
management itself is evolving and more about how and driven by line managers rather than HR.’
performance management is embedding into the
strategic management process to ensure that people Sparrow (2008) argues that the rise of HR
are adding value to the organisation and hence driving management (HRM) contributed to the shift towards
business performance. performance management as it moved the focus
to a broader agenda for the management of
In 1998 the CIPD (Armstrong and Baron 1998) performance with the emphasis on open and honest
concluded that performance management is a communication between managers and individuals and
process that contributes to the effective management the development of trust-based relationships.
of individuals and teams to achieve high levels of
organisation performance. As such, it establishes
shared understanding about what is to be achieved
and an approach to leading and developing people
that will ensure it is achieved.
Performance management 3
Why manage performance?
Since the early development of objective-setting The CIPD factsheet on talent management offers the
and review through all its later manifestations, the following definitions of talent and talent management:
underlying assumption of performance management
is that individual performance can be raised through • Talent consists of those individuals who can make
a focus on setting and monitoring goals and aligning a difference to organisational performance, either
development and reward to individual aspirations through their immediate contribution or in the
and potential to grow and develop new skills. Further longer term by demonstrating the highest levels of
performance management assumes that by raising potential.
individual levels of performance, organisational • Talent management is the systematic attraction,
performance will also improve, although to date no identification, development, engagement/retention
definitive evidence has been provided to conclude that and deployment of those individuals with high
this is indeed the case. potential who are of particular value to an
However, what we have been able to prove is that
former practices in the management of individual The phrase talent management was first used in the
performance have been found lacking. Merit rating late 1990s and popularised by the McKinsey report
and management by objectives – popular until The War for Talent. Originally talent management
the late 1980s – were eventually found to be too was a recruitment issue concerned with attracting,
mechanistic to deal with a fast-changing environment selecting and retaining the most talented people
where organisations need to be ever more agile needed by the business. However, more recently talent
and adaptable to survive. The annual appraisal risks management has also come to encompass identifying
becoming an annual ritual rather than offering and nurturing the talents of people already within the
meaningful direction. organisation and, as such, performance management
has an important role to play in identifying the talent
The work on people and performance found that needed for high performance and how to develop and
HR practices alone do not drive organisational sustain this.
performance, but they do contribute to developing
able, committed and motivated individuals who, What talent management should not be is
when given the opportunity, are more likely to exhibit performance management in another guise. Talent
discretionary effort and performance above that which management is about ensuring the right people with
is sufficient to fulfil the requirements of the job. the right skills are in the right place at the right time.
Performance management is about ensuring they
Performance management and talent know what and how to do it when they get there.
Any policies or processes to manage talent should be Performance management as a driver of
aligned to performance management to ensure that organisational performance
people are developing the right skills and are being In the past it has almost been a leap of faith on
challenged to develop themselves to the full extent of the part of HR managers and researchers that if
their talents. you manage the performance of the individual,
organisational performance will follow. Despite our
4 Performance management
best efforts and those of David Guest in 1997, we Later analysis of the line manager role confirmed
were unable to establish that organisations with performance management as a key delivery
well-developed performance management practices mechanism associated with the management
performed better. Guest concluded that the most likely behaviours instrumental in driving performance, such
explanation for this was ‘...the inconsistent application as listening, coaching, communication and creating
of PM’. He went on to say: relationships based on trust and respect.
‘On the basis of the evidence provided by this Given that we now have a body of evidence that
survey we are unable to prove that PM has a demonstrates the importance of commitment to
positive impact on organisational effectiveness. the willingness of individuals to perform or exhibit
However, the strength of opinion among managers discretionary behaviour in their day-to-day activities,
and the examples of best practice collected by it is not impossible that a more definitive link could
other means do indicate that it is felt to play a be made between performance management and
positive role in the majority of organisations that organisational performance. Previous research
engage in it. Our failure to prove the case for it found little evidence that performance management
can be attributed, at least in part, to the lack of processes were specifically designed to drive
systematic evaluation and the incredible diversity of commitment among employees. Yet it seems logical
actions that take place under the banner of PM.’ that if performance management is delivered in a way
that promotes trust and positive relationships with line
Subsequently the work on the people and managers, then commitment will follow.
performance link by Bath University identified
performance management as a key policy. The data
demonstrated that five key factors associated with
performance management had a significant impact on
• respect from manager
• job satisfaction
• career opportunity
Performance management 5
It seems that performance management has acquired The CIPD would welcome any feedback on the issues
a central place in the link between the activities that raised in this discussion document and particularly
individuals carry out day to day and progress towards any thoughts on what sort of guidance practitioners
achieving strategic organisational goals. Needless are looking for in developing twenty-first-century
to say, there are a range of other activities that also performance management systems.
contribute to this link, not least of which is talent
management but also coaching, development, reward We would also be grateful if you would complete our
and HR planning. online survey. Our intention is to publish the results
of this, together with some short, good practice case
What is unique about performance management is studies, as a preliminary to further work identifying the
its progression from an HR or people-management- elements of performance management that are most
centred policy to a business process central to ensuring likely to drive sustainable business performance.
that business objectives are acted on and delivered
to acceptable standards. We should expect to see
progressive organisations pushing this aspect of
performance management and designing performance
management processes to align with other activities to
ensure the maximisation of employee engagement and
6 Performance management
ARMSTRONG, M. and BARON, A. (1998) Performance LATHAM, G., SULSKY, L.M. and MACDONALD, H. (2007)
management: the new realities. London: Institute of Performance management. In: BOXALL, P., PURCELL,
Personnel and Development. J. and Wright, P. (eds). Oxford handbook of human
resource management. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
ARMSTRONG, M. and BARON, A. (2005) Managing
performance: performance management in action. MOHRMAN, A.M. and MOHRMAN, S.A. (1995)
London: CIPD. Performance management is ‘running the business’.
Compensation & Benefits Review. July–August. pp69–75.
BRISCOE, D.B. and CLAUS, L.M. (2008) Employee
performance management: policies and practices in PURCELL, J., KINNIE, K., HUTCHINSON, S., RAYTON, B.
multinational enterprises. In: BUDWAH, P.W. and DENISI, and SWART, J. (2003) Understanding the people and
A. (eds). Performance management systems: a global performance link: unlocking the black box. London: CIPD.
perspective. Abingdon: Routledge.
SPARROW, P. (2008) Performance management in the
INSTITUTE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT. (1992) UK. In: VARMA, A., BUDWAR, P.S. and DENISI, A. (eds).
Performance management in the UK: an analysis of the Performance management systems: a global perspective.
issues. London: IPM. Abingdon: Routledge.
Performance management 7