High-Performance Management (a How-to-Guide)


In an increasingly competitive business landscape, the concept of high-performance management has become acutely significant as companies seek a competitive advantage over their corporate rivals. 

In this article, we’ll examine what high-performance management consists of and describe how you can go about introducing it to your business practices. 

What is high-performance management?

High-performance management is a system of strategies and practices used to optimize the performance of both individual workers and the business as a whole. 

Typically this involves using data-driven technological solutions, combined with talent management best practices, to improve business results through enhanced efficiency and innovation. 

This involves things like:

  • Setting clear goals and objectives
  • Defining performance metrics
  • Promoting continuous learning and development
  • Encouraging greater employee autonomy
  • Outlining clear performance-based incentive systems and methods of recognition and reward 

 Why is High-Performance Management Important?

  • It encourages employee recognition and reward: Achieving consistent, high performance is only possible with the correct incentives. It’s been shown that meaningful reward systems for employees can increase employee engagement by as much as 50%. Plus, 68% of workers increase their efforts when they view their work as being valued by senior management. 
  • It cre­ates clarity around goals: Employee uncertainty around specific goals and which outcomes to prioritize is surprisingly common. Continuous performance management prevents ambiguity by providing workers with total clarity of what they’re supposed to achieve through regular reviews and feedback sessions. 
  • It makes employees feel respected and heard: High-performance management also works to reassure individuals and teams that their input makes a positive difference to the business. Previous studies suggest that as many as 96% of employees would prefer to have more regular feedback. This is so that they know their positive contributions are recognized. More than that though, regular feedback helps employees understand what they need to address in circumstances when they failed to achieve what was expected of them. 

Best Practices for High-Performance Management 

1. Get Your Team Invested in Your Company's Success 

Once again, we’re back to motivations and incentives. If an employee’s only concerned about collecting their paycheck at the end of each month, they have no incentive to go the extra mile or look to improve how they go about their job. 

With continuous performance management, you provide your workers with consistent, regular recognition. And, perhaps more importantly, reinforce their understanding of their own significance and value to the organization.

There are many ways to go about getting employees more invested in the business’s performance. 

This can involve highlighting outstanding performances with colleagues in group communications or meetings, providing additional financial incentives (pay bonuses, stock options), or something that can encourage both individual and group development like paid-for outings at high-end restaurants.

Of primary importance is setting out clear paths for progression within the corporate structure on a results-driven basis. The chance for career progression is often the core driver of individual employee performance. 

2. Identify and Address any Performance Gaps or Issues Within the Team 

Whilst recognition and rewarding productivity are core elements of high-performance management, identifying and addressing underperformance is just as crucial.

Regular reviews and discussions can not only work to resolve poor performance but often prevents it from happening in the first place. They achieve this by pre-empting the root causes behind achievement gaps.

If an individual employee is underperforming you need to understand why. 

For example, are they missing sales quotas because they lack sufficient training or core competencies, or have they been given a set of sub-par leads?

Have they been regularly late to the office? If so, Why? Are they just indifferent to proper time-keeping or are they experiencing unavoidable difficulties outside of work which is having a knock-on effect?

3. Recognize and Reward Performance Publicly and Frequently

In high-performance management, it’s important that recognition of high-performance achievements is done both publicly as well as in private one-to-one sessions. Public recognition not only serves as a reward in itself but also works as an external motivator to other members of the team. 

Examples of High-Performance Management

1. Accenture

Accenture got rid of 90% of its prior working practices to embrace high-performance management.

They were able to revolutionize their business practices and improve results across the board by using a more fluid performance management process. 

This process included providing employees with ongoing, regular feedback and a sharper focus on continuous employee development.

2. Adobe 

Adobe were able to improve their results by dispensing with an archaic, stack-ranking system and annual performance reviews, and replacing them with a regular check-in system. With this system, managers and workers would regularly discuss ongoing performance and how to meet targets. 

3. Microsoft

Similar to Adobe, Microsoft has also transitioned from stack-ranking and annual/bi-annual reviews to a more frequent, ongoing process of reviewing performance feedback.

Employees were said to embrace the change as being better for their mental well-being and that the new processes were better suited to enabling them to improve their performance. 

How to Establish High-Performance Management

1. Evaluate the Current Company Performance

You can’t get to where you’re going without first knowing where you are. 

Prior to introducing a high-performance management system to your business, you must understand how the business is currently performing. 

Once this information is available, you’re then able to make informed decisions about what investments to make, how to delegate new responsibilities, and how to provision resources optimally.

2. Choose an Evaluation Method

Performance management systems come in a number of different guises including:

Management by Objective (MBO)

In this method, success or failure is based on agreed objectives and outcomes. For instance:

  • Increase revenue by 15% in Q3
  • Generate 500 new MQLs per month
  • Increase employee retention by 20%
  • Decrease client onboarding time by 50%

Checklist Method

This involves ascertaining employee performance and behavior through a pre-determined checklist of questions that will be asked of key stakeholders to which they respond with a “yes” or a “no.” 

For example:

  • The employee is punctual
  • The employee is courteous and helpful to his/her team members
  • The employee is engaged in his/her work
  • The employee is reliable

Alternatively, a performance review checklist can use an aggregated scale, like a Likert scale:

E.g. On a scale of one to ten, please rate [employee’s] proficiency in leadership:

  • Handles conflict in an appropriate manner
  • Is an adept problem solver
  • Competency-based

3. Set Performance Expectations

As we touched upon before, it’s vital that employees have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them and how they’re supposed to go about achieving these objectives. 

By having clearly defined outcomes as targets, workers know what is expected of them. This will negate any underperformance brought about by ambiguity or confusion around their responsibilities. 

4. Incorporate Professional Development and Training

Ongoing training and professional development is a key element of high-performance management. 

Employees can’t be expected to work this stuff out for themselves. It’s down to you to develop a robust, carefully laid-out development plan for each of your workers that meets each of their individual needs for progression. 

5. Recalibrate Performance Expectations for the Next Year

Your performance management processes should evolve and develop just as you want your workers to evolve and develop as a result of its introduction. 

Incorporate any changes in overall business targets into your process and correlate them to each path of individual performance improvement. 


High-performance management is increasingly relevant to more and more businesses as they seek to gain a competitive edge over the competition. 

They work to benefit the business by increasing employee satisfaction as well as providing additional incentives for improved performance. 

NoHQ helps remote business owners to build successful remote strategies. Check out our actionable guides and wide-ranging set of free tools to see how you can start improving your company’s performance. 

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