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What is Performance Management for Participant Workers?

Performance management is an ongoing process that helps build and maintain effective participant worker-supervisor relationships. Supervisors evaluate participant workers and provide feedback on areas of strength, opportunities for development, and growth potential. Through performance coaching, participant workers and supervisors work together to set goals and develop a plan for gaining necessary skills through diverse experiences, such as training, new assignments, job enrichment, or self-study.

Why is it important?

  • Having strong performance management enables employment social enterprises to:
    • Develop and improve a participant worker’s capability to receive feedback and perform, in both their current job and ultimately in future roles as well.
    • Achieve higher retention rates, stronger wage progression, and increased career advancement for participant workers.
    • Support a high-performance culture and help managers improve the productivity of the ESE.

Best practices   

Develop an effective performance management process

  • Create a performance management plan: Supervisors should work with participant workers to create individual performance plans that include measurable goals and desired timing. It is important for supervisors to discuss the standards by which performance will be judged and to clarify how the participant workers’ work directly contributes to the organization’s overall success.
    • For social enterprises with a transitional employment model, it may be helpful to consider a “job readiness” framework when developing a participant worker’s performance management plan and discussing performance standards. Transitional participant workers may be considered “job ready” once they have developed appropriate soft skills, hard skills, and stability in their personal life to transition to mainstream employment. Check out this article by REDF to learn more about what it means for participant workers to be job ready.
  • Enable participants to have a voice and provide input on their performance: Develop practices for participants to provide their input and self-assessment on their performance. For example, this can look like having participant workers rate themselves using your job readiness assessment and having a follow-up conversation. 
  • Continually monitor performance: Supervisors should monitor participant worker progress through frequent check-ins (e.g., weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly). Consistent check-ins give supervisors and participant workers the opportunity to discuss progress (whether favorable or not), work together to solve issues as they arise, make course corrections, and adjust timelines. Identifying performance problems early on allows supervisors time to work with the participant worker on improvements well before formal reviews are due.
    • For social enterprises with a transitional employment model, supervisors should monitor a participant worker’s performance in soft and hard skill categories, and a case manager (or employment specialist) should monitor the participant worker’s personal readiness since sensitive information about a worker’s personal situation should not be shared with supervisors.
  • Develop and provide services to participant workers: Through continuous monitoring, supervisors can determine whether additional training and/or employee success wraparound services might help participant workers to achieve their performance goals. Supervisors should work with employee success program staff (such as case managers) to connect participant workers with relevant resources. 
  • Periodically evaluate participant worker performance: When the time comes to review a participant worker, the supervisor should have a good sense of how the participant worker’s performance compares to their last review and against performance standards, based on their frequent check-ins. This should make it relatively straightforward for the supervisor to complete a performance review, and the final assessment should not be a surprise to the participant worker either.
    • For social enterprises with a transitional employment model, a job readiness assessment may help your organization not only evaluate a participant worker’s performance, but also identify when the participant worker is ready for and prepared to transition to employment outside your social enterprise. REDF has created a Job Readiness Assessment Tool that you can download and customize for your organization’s needs.
  • Tips for leading a successful performance evaluation and feedback session:
    • Focus on behaviors, and be specific and objective: Discuss behaviors that a participant worker can control and make sure that your feedback is descriptive so that they understand the issue or behavior. Feedback should also be objective based on what you have observed, as opposed to personal feelings or opinions. It is helpful to provide examples to illustrate your point and offer specific, actionable feedback so that the participant worker is clear on how to improve future performance. 
    • Be positive: Focus on opportunities rather than barriers. Find ways to leverage a participant worker’s strengths to improve performance in other areas. Break down goals into small, attainable steps and celebrate each accomplishment.
    • Actively listen: Effective feedback sessions are a two-way conversation, and it is important to have a dialogue to foster open communication. Meet people where they are and listen to what they are saying. Provide time for participant workers to respond, offer their input, and ask questions (when they feel ready).
    • Use proactive thinking: Focus on the big picture and the long term – what are the participant worker’s long-term goals, and how can you help them get there? 
    • Discuss next steps: Brainstorm solutions, set goals, and develop a timeline for change together. Continue with your regular check-ins and, as you see the participant worker making progress against goals, let them know and celebrate their achievements.
  • Reward positive performance: Once participant workers achieve their performance goals, recognize and reward their accomplishments with incentives or promotions.
    • Here is an example of how Boston-based ESE More Than Words rewards positive performance with more pay & leadership: 

“During their time with MTW, youth are expected to progress through three different levels of promotion: starting as an Associate, which is primarily adult-led and provides the basic job knowledge and experience for the businesses; Partner, which is joint-led between the youth and adult staff, and allows youth to train others and be shift leader, and Senior Partner, a primarily youth-led experience focused on helping to manage a segment of the businesses along with formalizing transition plans beyond MTW.” – More Than Words