Reframing the performance management system: a conversations perspective

Paula O'Kane, Martin McCracken, Travor Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: To explore human resource (HR) practitioner perspectives of the effectiveness, challenges, and aspirations of the performance management (PM) system to inform future directions for PM design and success. Design/methodology/approach: Interviews with 53 HR practitioners from a cross-section of organisations operating in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. Findings: Practitioner's discussed the criticality of effective conversations across all elements of the PM system. Using an interpretive approach, and through a lens of social exchange theory (SET), we used their voice to develop a conversations-based PM model. This model centres on effective performance conversations through the design and implementation of the PM system. It includes four enablers and five environmental elements. The enablers (aligned goals, frequent feedback, skills development, and formality) depend on skilled interactions and conversations, and the organisational environmental elements (design, development function, buy-in, culture, and linkage to other systems) are enhanced when effective conversations take place. Practical implications: Practitioners can use the conversations model to help shape the way they design and implement PM systems, that place emphasis on upskilling participants to engage in both formal and informal honest conversations to build competency in the enablers and assess organisational readiness in terms of the environmental elements. Originality/value: By listening to the under-utilised voice of the HR practitioner, and through a lens of SET, we developed a PM model which emphasises reciprocity and relationship building as key tenets of the PM system. While past research recognises the importance of effective conversations for PM implementation, it has largely silent been about the role of conversations in system design. Our model centres these conversations, presenting enablers and environmental elements to facilitate their core position within effective PM.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalPersonnel Review
Early online date5 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished online - 5 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • qualitative
  • performance management
  • social exchange
  • human resource practitioners
  • performance conversations


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