Everything You Need to Know About Team Performance Management

September 17, 2021

Team Performance Management

When we think about performance management, we’re all too used to thinking about individual employee performance. But while organizations are made up of individuals, these individuals work in teams. 

And these teams have a common purpose with all team members working towards a set of shared goals. 

So, in order to nurture a high performance culture in your organization, you need to put in place a system for team performance management

After all, a good team performance management system reduces costs and improves overall productivity. It provides a benchmark to measure teams performance against. And it allows the organization to align its strategic activities to the business plan. 

But just what does team performance management entail and what tools do you need to measure team performance?

In this article, we’ll explore team performance management, dive into the difference between team-based performance management vs individual-based performance management, and share with you our top tips for how to evaluate team performance.

What is team performance management?

When you think of performance management at work, typically the first thought is around individual employee performance management. Well, team performance management isn’t too dissimilar. 

Teamwork performance management involves similar things, but for the whole team, not on an individual level. For example, setting team goals, monitoring achievement of those goals, sharing team feedback, reflecting and evaluating team performance, mentoring, coaching, and guiding to improve performance. 

And team performance management, like individual based performance management, should be a regular occurrence - something that becomes a part of the team’s daily routine. 

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Why team-based performance management is so important

There’s no point looking solely at the performance of individuals when the bulk of work in today’s workplace is done in teams. 

Yet, too many organizations only review performance on an individual basis. The problem is that relying solely on individual reviews and rewards create competition. Plus, they’re often carried out using a dated, traditional performance management approach, rather than one that focuses on continuous performance development.. 

As such, in recent years there’s been a dramatic shift away from individual “forced ranking” and “numeric ratings”, towards programs that facilitate continuous feedback and encourage coaching, not just for individuals, but for teams too. 

According to McKinsey, a team based performance management system is essential not only to ensure that teams are recognized for their work, but to ensure the entire organization can operate to its fullest potential.

That’s not to say you should forgo individual performance management, far from it. It’s just that both team-based and individual-based performance management are needed in the workplace. 

Which raises the question: What are the differences between team and individual based performance management?

Team-based performance management vs individual-based performance management

Individual-based performance management

Understanding a team requires an understanding of the individuals in the team, and individual-based performance management is still very much needed to ensure the team performs highly. 

Successful individual performance management starts with identifying where employees are performing well and where they need more development. 

Individual based performance management should be delivered through regular one-to-ones, as well as continuous feedback conversations and coaching.

Team-based performance management

The goal of team performance management is to ensure that the whole team is working together efficiently and effectively, achieving results. And to identify where the team requires further development. 

There’s a reason why Apple, Google and even Goldman Sachs use this approach - when you measure performance, it helps teams work better together. And strong teams deliver the best results.

When teams succeed, it instills confidence in the team members, and the team itself grows more resilient and performs at a higher standard.

How to evaluate team performance

High performing teams are nurtured and led by great managers. But not all managers will know how to evaluate and develop their teams. Often, they will need to be trained. 

In the next section we’ll outline key team competencies that each team should strive to possess, before providing guidance on how managers can assess each one to determine the team's overall performance.

Key team competencies

You can’t just put teams together and expect them to thrive. Instead, you need to provide guidance about what you expect from them.

But what should you expect from them?

Below, we have listed some of the core competencies or skills that the most successful teams possess: 

Accountability: For teams to succeed, they will need to be held accountable. This means accepting responsibility for what they say they will do. Ultimately, it implies ownership and responsibility.

Competency: Teams need to be competent. In fact, each team member needs to believe in their own competence so that they can develop the confidence needed to effectively contribute to the team, and they need to believe in one another's competence as this is a critical step in establishing trust between peers

Inclusivity: The highest-performing teams are inclusive. They actively seek, respect, and share diverse contributions from all team members.

Reflective: Strong teams regularly reflect on what's been done in order to improve their overall performance. It allows them to identify actions and behaviors that they should repeat, adapt, and even avoid going forward. These same teams will also have regular retrospectives.

Self-awareness: Self-awareness is key among high-performing teams. Why? Well instead of trying to fix or avoid how they feel, team members remain curious about their feelings, learning about their default responses, their habits and their tendencies, for the betterment of the team.

The ability to listen: High-performing teams are also excellent listeners. Team members have the ability to fully concentrate and positively engage with what is being said.

Vulnerability: The best teams are comfortable being vulnerable with one another. That is, being able to show weakness and ask for help. They also embrace feedback, try new things, share new ideas, speak up, and admit mistakes. 

How to assess team performance

When assessing team performance, it’s important to remember that you’re evaluating the performance of the entire team, not its individual members. 

It's also important to remember that the metric you’re measuring has to reflect the specific competency that you want to evaluate. 

1. Invest in continuous performance management

We've outlined everything you need to know about continuous performance management here, but in essence, it’s a modern approach to evaluating and improving team performance, through the use of regular feedback discussions between the team members and their line manager.

This approach is based upon regular feedback conversations such as team retrospectives, or team project reviews or if it’s urgent, a team stand up. 

Regular team performance discussions help teams identify areas of strengths and weakness, as well as unearth any potential issues. 

2. Track L&D metrics

Evaluate team performance by tracking and measuring how well your L&D (Learning and Development) programs are doing.

While L&D initiatives often target individuals, high performing teams are the result of managers who encourage team members to participate in the programs and adopt a mindset of learning and development. 

You should therefore be tracking metrics such as how often teams are participating in the learning content you provide through your LMS, how often they complete your development courses, and how often they participate in team building exercises. 

3. Monitor team outcomes

One easy way to evaluate how teams are performing is to monitor team outcomes. There are several ways to monitor team outcomes, a couple of which include: 

  • Team performance - are team goals being met? Are projects being finished? Is the team successful?
  • Psychological safety - use a feedback tool to uncover how psychologically safe individual team members feel in their teams. How comfortably they bring their whole selves to work. How empowered they feel challenging the status quo and asking awkward questions. Even how comfortable they are making mistakes and owning up to them. 
4. Conduct periodic team health checks

Team health checks should be used to simply assess a team’s performance, in order to understand what’s working and what needs to be improved. .

They’re also great for seeing how each team across your organization stacks up against one another. In fact, you should benchmark the achievements, contributions and qualities of your highest performing teams,and use it to see how other teams can improve. 

When it comes to running these health checks, you should be gathering employee data via a survey or a tool such as Saberr, specifically seeking to understand:

  • How communication is within the team
  • What relations are like between team members
  • Does the team have good levels of psychological safety
  • Are team members safe sharing ideas or raising concerns?
5. Get feedback from team members

How are you going to know what’s really going on in a team if you don’t ask team members to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences?

Saberr’s handy feedback feature allows feedback to flow both ways - managers can report on team members, and team members can report on each other and their manager. 

Regular feedback is important to allow the whole team to grow together and work better as a cohesive unit. It also highlights small issues before they escalate. 

More importantly, you should be encouraging managers to turn giving and receiving feedback into a habit that’s embedded in the team’s daily routine. 

6. Ensure managers are developing the 7 habits

Speaking of habits, one of the clearest signs that a team is performing is when they adopt good habits. 

We’ve identified 7 habits of highly effective teams, and when teams display them, you know they’re onto a good thing:

  1. Holding regular one to one meetings
  2. Having effective team meetings with a regular cadence and adopting good meeting ground rules
  3. Having a clear team purpose and embedding it in their daily work
  4. Having well defined team goals and an action plan for how to achieve them
  5. Giving and receiving regular feedback
  6. Holding regular retrospectives to review what’s working and isn’t working within the team
  7. Holding regular team health checks to ensure the team stays healthy

How Saberr supports performance management in teams

The problem with performance management in many organizations is twofold. To start with, they often solely rely on annual or twice-yearly formal appraisals as a way to provide their employees with feedback. Which is catastrophic for not only employee development, but also morale. 

Secondly, they often only manage performance on an individual basis, and not collectively as a team. 

At Saberr, we understand that work happens in teams. Which is why we help teams to develop the habits and routines needed for high performance.  

More specifically, we equip the managers that lead these teams with the skills, tools, resources, and knowledge so that they can effectively coach these teams to success, in the flow of their everyday work.

You can learn more about how we do this here.

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