According to the latest Glassdoor UK Employment Confidence survey, the improving economy and falling unemployment rates has inspired increased feelings of job security and optimism for the future amongst UK workers.

In a recent blog post, HR commentator Jon Ingham points out that this more positive workplace vibe provides employers with a great opportunity to get people more focused on their roles and more engaged with the business.

With uncertainty and the fear of redundancy declining, employees are less likely to be pre-occupied with the personal, and more willing to become enthusiastic participants in whatever journey the company has mapped out.

In this emerging work scenario, it is more important than ever for employers to take a pro-active approach to managing the performance of their people. Here are five reasons why those performance conversations matter more than ever.

The business needs talented people to help it seize opportunities

There’s a definite sense of business optimism in the air, and as markets start to pick up, companies are beginning to look at how they can evolve and grow. The ability to seize new opportunities depends, however, on having the right people in place to move the business forward. Regular performance reviews – both formal and informal – provide a great opportunity to keep employees up-to-date with where the business is headed, and what part they have to play in its future.

Competitors are lurking

How confident are you that your top talent can’t be tempted away by a better offer? Are your key players happy in their jobs, or are they feeling disengaged, and as a consequence, vulnerable to approaches by competitors? Too often, performance management is a box-ticking exercise where no-one really says what they are thinking or feeling. If employees feel you are paying lip service to the process and nothing will change as a result, they won’t bother to start the important conversations. Minor niggles turn into major issues and before you know it, your best people are heading out of the door.

People will be asking for more money

As Jon Ingham points out in his blog, people’s salary expectations typically rise alongside economic improvement. The business is doing better, they can see budgets are not quite as tight as they were – and now they’d like a pay rise thank you very much. The trouble is that even when business is on the up, the company doesn’t have unlimited funds for salary increases. Having a consistent performance management process, where issues such as performance, career development, and salary can be discussed, can help ensure that employees have the right expectations, and understand what drives salary decisions. It also helps managers identify the high performers who are really adding value to the business, so that decisions about reward can be made fairly, and on an informed basis.

Career development is rising to the top of people’s agenda

For a long time, employees have been happy just to have a job. Now that the tide is turning – they are beginning to pay more attention to their career and to pick up the threads of the plans they may have put on hold over recent, difficult years. Performance conversations shouldn’t just be about what people need to be doing more of or doing better. They also provide the opportunity to talk to people about their aspirations, about the skills they possess but may not be using, and at what kind of professional development they’d like to do. People are much more likely to stay and be fully engaged with their role if they can see the business is prepared to invest in their development, and support them in their career goals.

Managing the performance process has never been easier

The latest generation HR software takes much of the pain out of the performance management process – and can provide invaluable data to support the performance conversation. Managers can be ‘nudged’ with email reminders of when appraisals are due and, HR can keep track of when they’ve been completed. There’s a central place to record the outcome of any discussions, and to log training or development needs. Performance management systems also make it easy to check back on any actions that have been agreed – and make sure they happen. Managers and employees have easy access to the information they need, the business has an overview of the skills it has at its disposal, and everything is much consistent and transparent. Technology can’t replace the open, honest conversations managers need to have with their teams, but it can save an enormous amount of time, and make processes much more efficient and effective.

Is performance management high on the agenda in your organisation? How are you using it to support business growth? We’d be interested to hear your views.

Want to read more about performance management? You might be interested in our guide on how to have a productive appraisal.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.