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What is performance planning? Its purpose, how it works and why it’s important

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September 20, 2021

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, you probably know many employers require their associates to set goals for themselves through performance planning each year. If you’re just entering the workforce, you may be wondering, “What is performance planning?”

Whether you’re a long-time worker or just starting your first job, it’s important to understand why performance planning is critical for your long-term success and how to meet the goals you create.

What is performance planning?

Performance planning ensures you, the employee, delivers business results while focusing on your career development throughout the year. It confirms your individual goals and behaviors are aligned with your department’s operating plan in order to meet and exceed business expectations and develop yourself in the process.

Performance planning should not be confused with a performance improvement plan (PIP) which is used when an employee consistently does not meet job duties and expectations.

The 5 steps of performance planning

Performance planning requirements often vary by employer. At Schneider, the cycle looks something like the following:

1. Beginning of the new year:

Work with your leader to set goals. Goals should be written down and include:

  • 4-5 business goals. These goals list the priorities for you to accomplish during the year. An example could be meeting a certain sales goal or resolving issues within a certain length of time.
  • 2 development goals. These are typically goals an associate, with the help of their leader, sets for themself. Usually, one goal is a strength you already have that you want to grow even more – for example, using your strong project management skills to take on your biggest project ever. The other is something you can develop for greater effectiveness – for example, practicing your meeting facilitation skills.

2. Once a month during the first half of the year:

Meet with your leader monthly or more to ensure you are on track to meet your goals.

3. Mid-year review:

This is a formal opportunity to look at the progress you’ve made toward achieving your goals:

  • Are you ahead of where you need to be?
  • Are you behind in accomplishing your goals?
  • Do you need some extra help in any certain areas?

A midyear review is a great opportunity to understand your strengths and growth opportunities and have specific time to talk about your career goals.

4. Once a month during the second half of the year:

Meet with your leader monthly or more for check-ins to ensure you are on track to meet your goals.

5. Year-end review:

This is a formal look at what you’ve accomplished during the year and how you accomplished each goal. A year-end review is a time to share feedback with your leader to position yourself for future success and progress along your desired career path.

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Tips to use performance planning to your advantage

Consider these tips when performance planning and working toward your goals:

1. Take your goals and performance planning seriously.

Even if you love the job you’re in and want to continue doing it for a long time, it’s still important to take performance planning seriously.

When it comes to your business goals, writing them out helps you clearly see what needs to be done to achieve success in that position.

With your development goals, it’s important to remember businesses are expected to stay innovative. Regardless of if you want to stay in the same position for the next 10 years, the responsibilities and expectations of the role will continue to change, and if you are unwilling to develop, you won’t remain a good fit for the role.

2. Weave your development goals into your day-to-day tasks.

Achieving your development goals shouldn’t require you to spend a lot of extra time focusing on things outside of what you already work on.

For example, if you want to improve your facilitation skills, you probably already go to a variety of meetings throughout the course of your week. Every time you’re in a meeting, you can make notes about what the person running the meeting did well and not so well and take time afterward to reflect on what you wrote down.

When meeting with your leader, you can talk about the meetings you attended during the last month and what you found effective/not so effective. You could then ask if you can facilitate any upcoming meetings and try to incorporate the effective techniques you picked up from others.

3. Take control of your performance planning.

Performance planning allows you to take control – you get to decide how you want to develop in your career and where you want it to go. Take advantage of that!

If you find yourself in a position where your leader does not prioritize performance planning, it is totally acceptable to take matters into your own hands.

If your leader does not schedule monthly check-ins, suggest that you do so and ask if you can create the agenda so you talk about items important to your success.

4. Value the feedback and advice you receive.

Performance planning is designed to ensure you’re getting the feedback needed to be successful at your job and in your career goals.

Sometimes it’s positive, and we love the validation that we’re on the right track! Sometimes it’s constructive and may not be as fun to hear.

When feedback is more constructive, watch that you’re not defensive or discounting feedback intended to help you grow and improve. Showing that you’re open to feedback will help you get more out of it and will help you reach your goals faster.

Next time you're performance planning ...

Instead of rushing to get your goals created as quickly as possible, be deliberate about setting them. Really think through what you want to accomplish during the upcoming year.

Remember, your career path is in your hands – lead it whichever way YOU want!

Wondering how to prepare for those monthly check-ins?

Learn how to plan for meetings with your boss, including how to put together an agenda, how to bring up your professional development and how to ask questions and answers ones that are asked to you.

About the author
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Karin Green joined Schneider in 1998. Over 20+ years she has held various HR roles and is currently responsible for leading employment law compliance and talent processes. Karin was instrumental in starting the Schneider Women’s Network (SWN) in 2007 and continues to serve on the SWN core team. She holds a bachelor’s degree from UW-Green Bay and the SHRM-SCP certification.

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