The first stage of the process is planning. Planning consists of setting goals, objectives, standards and direction. The performance plan identifies what is expected (accountabilities); how the job should be accomplished (competencies); and professional development goals. Plans should be updated at least annually, and, if job responsibilities/priorities change, more frequent revisions are appropriate.  Traditionally, the role of the supervisor was to develop the plan and let the employee know his/her goals and objectives to be met. The employee had very little input.

The newest approach involves both the employee and the supervisor. The employee basically develops the plan and sets his/her own goals and objectives. The supervisor's role in the planning stage is to act as a coach, mentor and advisor to the employee. The employee must be made aware of their position and the responsibilities of the position. He/She must also understand how their goals and performance interact with the organization's performance expectations. It is the supervisor's job to help the employee understand that the employee's goals need to be consistent with organizational goals. Once these goals are clear, the supervisor needs to let the employee develop the plan. The employee must be willing to take this role into his/her hands while the supervisor must learn to empower the employee and guide him/her in this stage without actually developing the plan for the employee. 

Components of the Planning Stage
I.    Development of performance plan
II.   Plan discussion by employee and supervisor
III.  Update the plan as priorities/goals change
The planning stage consists of the development of the performance plan, discussion of the plan by employee and supervisor, and updating the plan as priorities and goals change for either the employee and/or the organization. 
Planning the Performance
  • Areas of responsibility
  • Change as goals are met
  • Behavioral measures of how job is accomplished
  • Tend to be stable over time
Professional Development 
  • Attainment of new skills 
  • Enhance employee's effectiveness on job

Development of the Plan

When developing the plan, the three essential components to be included are key accountabilities and objectives; competencies; and professional development. 

Accountabilities are simply "areas of responsibility for which an employee is expected to produce results." Typically, positions may have three to eight key accountabilities. For each of these accountabilities, there should be specific performance objectives with measurable outcomes. Accountabilities are unstable and tend to change as goals are met or priorities/responsibilities change. 

Competencies are behavioral measures that focus on how the job is to be accomplished and may include skills, knowledge and/or behaviors that improve job effectiveness/performance. The number of typical competencies ranges from six to ten. Unlike accountabilities, competencies normally remain stable and do not change over time. Competencies support accountabilities. 

Compentencies Frequently Identified in Superior Performers 

Professional Development: Last, but certainly not least are professional development goals. The plan should include training to fill skill gaps as well as development of employees to ensure their employability and marketability. This can include in-house training or outside courses. Again, the role of the supervisor is not to choose training courses for employees but instead to encourage and support them on perspectives of new skills, competencies, and experiences they may need for future advancement. 

Plan Discussion by Employee and Supervisor

The next component in the planning process is the discussion or the plan by the employee and supervisor. This is an important step because both the employee and the supervisor must understand the plan. This step requires the employee and supervisor to have a good working relationship or some type of partnership. Good communication is essential to make this work. The supervisor must make sure the employee has set attainable goals and not ones that he/she is unable to reach. The supervisor should also be a mentor and should not dictate frequent changes to the plan. The final plan and expectations must be fully understood by all parties. Supervisors should be clear on how performance expectations and rewards are linked. 

Update the Plan as Priorities/Goals Change

As employees' priorities and goals change or are met (like accountabilities), plans need to be updated to reflect these changes. This area, like the previous area, requires regular communication between the employee and supervisor. In order to be aware of areas that need to be updated and changed, regular feedback and regularly scheduled meetings regarding performance are important. In fact, day-to-day feedback or coaching helps people to be able to accomplish the goals set in the planning stage. 

Sample Performance Plans