Performance Management for Capability and Culture (HR Congress World Summit)

I enjoyed presenting at the HR Congress virtual World Summit 2023 yesterday.

MIhaly Nagy kicked off the conference talking about paradox and we heard more from Dave Ulrich speaking about this later on (actually a recording from the in-person HR Horizon conference) too.

As I noted in my session, for me, the need for HR to be both strategic and people-centric (see my Linkedin newsletter on multi-sided HR) is the most important paradox we face. This leads on to the need to both create organisation capability, and develop culture, which was the focus of my own session, and which I’ll be reviewing in my newsletter early in 2024 (subscribe to learn more about this then).

So it was interesting to also listen to a panel discussing the transformation of performance management which was on after me, touching on the needs to navigate paradox (eg managing both individual and team performance), and to support both culture and capability.

However, what most struck me was that asking how to transform performance management is really the wrong question, and a poor starting place for proper transformation. Much better than this is to start with our objectives for capability and culture and work out what type of process, or other intervention, we need.

In my session, I argued that using the categories of human, social and organisation capital often provides the best way of thinking about capability. Performance management provides a perfect example of this, as each type of capability leads to a very different approach to managing performance:

  • A focus on human capital leads to an approach to performance management which focuses on the development of individuals, optimising their skills and engagement to contribute to business objectives
  • A focus on social capital is similar, but emphasises the development of teams (and I agreed with Dave Forman in his presentation that today, the point of performance is often the team, and therefore we should be focusing on social, rather than just human capital (see more in ‘The Social Organization’ on this)
  • A focus on organisation capital leads to a very different sort of performance management buult around strategic execution and aligning people with what a business needs.

As I also discussed, given the increasing importance of people, these days we also need to think about how performance management supports of informs our culture – or better, how we need to develop culture and what role performance management can play.

For example, we could develop a coaching culture, aligned with a focus on human or social capital, by role modelling a coaching style and encouraging executives and other influencers to do the same, plus highlighting examples (stories) or where coaching behaviours have been helpful, etc.

You’ll find more about all of this in the Academy’s Re-engineering Performance Management course.


Jon Ingham

Director, Strategic HR Academy

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