I work with clients every week to help improve engagement, collaboration, retention, and productivity. And I know that when the term "performance management" comes up everyone either starts laughing or running.
The fact of the matter is that if you fall into the trap of creating annual goals and then never reviewing them (individually and/or with your people), then skepticism is probably well founded, and you ARE wasting time. But the best companies and the best leaders know that aligning team members' individual performance goals with departmental and organizational goals is critical for success. And in a year when doing more with less will be the standard, every action team members take should be aligned with the direction of the organization. Additionally, employees WANT to understand their performance expectations. Start 2009 a little differently.
• First of all, if you really want to get buy-in and build trust on your team, the goal setting process should be collaborative. Ask your team members what they want to achieve in 2009.
• Secondly, help your team members understand the big picture. What are the organizational and departmental goals for the coming year? Then, help them align their individual goals with those bigger picture goals.
• Thirdly, help your people chunk down their goals into more manageable and achievable action items with specific target completion dates.
• Fourthly, as you coach your people throughout the year (not just at the annual review), appeal to their individual aspirations. As a manager, you should know exactly what motivates each of your people.
This process takes time, but the investment is worth it. Even if they decide to laugh or run, your team members will feel connected. Their actions will be aligned. They'll be more engaged.