A Lesson in Performance Planning

For many professional services firms this time of year will be defined by salary reviews, promotions and performance planning. It’s an exciting time. Despite (or perhaps, in spite of) all the talk about alternative billing, the new financial year still means firms can adjust their hourly rates to reflect PQE (post qualification experience).

It’s a bit like how all the horses celebrate their birthday on 1 August.

If you work in a marketing or business development role within a professional services firm, you might wonder what all the fuss is about.

Chances are you haven’t even had a proper performance review.

You’ve probably never had a conversation with your manager about performance planning.

Consequently, you don’t have a performance plan in place.

And I’m aware of very few firms that have documented the competencies its marketing staff need to achieve to qualify for promotion to the next career level.

So what are your options? Do you leave? Do you wait it out in the hope that something changes? Or do you take matters into your own hands?

Performance Planning Tips

If you do not want to be doing the same role in 12 months’ time; if you want to learn and grow; and if you desire a career (in or outside your present firm), here’s how I recommend you approach your performance plan.

Set at least one – ideally, two – goals under each of the below five headings. In doing so, think about the questions you’ll be asked in 12 months’ time:

  • Did you do it (that’s a yes or no answer)?

  • How did you measure it? Your goals need to be quantifiable.

Dimension 1 – Leadership

Whether you’re the head of department or a marketing assistant, every employee has the opportunity to demonstrate leadership. So, too, does every ambitious employee need to develop strong leadership skills. In establishing Leadership goals, think about how you might demonstrate the traits commonly associated with good leaders, particularly initiative and forward-thinking.

Dimension 2 – Decision Making

Professional people are busy people so removing the burden by making recommendations, not just presenting problems, is one of the most effective ways you can demonstrate your value.

Decision making ability is also essential as you climb the corporate ladder.

So, again, whether the decision relates to the format of your firm’s Christmas card, or the purchase of a cloud-hosted CRM system, the key here is to demonstrate that you can define a problem, assess the risk, consider all perspectives, weigh up the pros and cons, and then recommend the best course of action.

Whether your recommendation is accepted is inconsequential.

Dimension 3 – Technical Ability/Expertise

This dimension is role-specific; it’s all about improving how well you do your job. Everyone has weaknesses and areas for improvement. Focus on those. It’s highly likely your goals under this dimension will be technology-related.

Dimension 4 – Knowledge capture and reuse

Knowledge capture and reuse is central to business process improvement. So, too, is tacit knowledge (often referred to as corporate memory) both a risk and an opportunity for every organisation.

In my experience, the most common marketing pain points relate to

  • templates (not having them; not knowing how to use them)

  • content (not being able to find it; it not being up-to-date)

  • key person back up (there’s no understudy in place in the event someone leaves or is absent).

Your Knowledge Capture and Reuse goals should be able to help address these issues. Within your firm there will be scores of opportunities to streamline and standardise how tasks are done, eliminate reinvention, and document procedures and cultural ‘norms’.

Dimension 5 – Learning and Development

I’m a strong advocate for learning and development and I’ve been fortunate to have worked for some companies that heavily invested in my education. Whether you are working your way through a master’s degree, attending occasional industry events, or completing modules from your firm’s online curriculum, the point is you do not stop learning. But remember to quantify your L&D goals – three subjects, 20 hours, six lunchtime seminars and so on.