Build a Performance Management Plan That Works

Six easy steps show you how.

January 2012
by PCPS Committee

Performance management is a continuous cycle of planning, doing and reviewing performance throughout the fiscal year. And it is also a vital component to a successful staffing strategy in a profession based on knowledge workers. The PCPS Human Capital Center gives users the learning and tools, originally provided by RAN ONE and its People Development System, to build and maintain a constructive Performance System.

The key driver of the whole process is the Vision and Strategy for each firm and the One Page Plan, or business plan, as well as the firm competency model (road maps) to help achieve it. See the Strategy & Planning section of the PCPS Human Capital Center for more information about Vision and Strategy and the One Page Plan.

Your firm’s One Page Plan should detail the specific goals your firm expects to achieve in a 12-month period. Once the One Page Plan has been developed, the firm must determine if it has the right number of people and the right knowledge, skills and abilities required to achieve the plan.

A performance management process allows firms to:

  • Assess current role levels for team members
  • Assess how capable team members are of performing tasks within their role
  • Develop personal plans for team members
  • Monitor team members’ performance

Benefits of a well-run Performance Management process include the ability for firms to capture team member performance objectively and provide a basis for salary and promotion decisions.

Performance Management Step by Step

The steps to the annual performance management process are as follows:

Step 1. Establish a performance management champion. This individual will be accountable for ensuring all steps are followed and that the process is consistent and confidential. The confirmation of a Performance Management champion will promote an effective Performance Management process.

Step 2. Determine team member’s current role. This step provides an understanding with each team member as to which role they are performing and will be assessed against in the Competency Assessment process. While advisable, it is not necessary to perform this step.

Step 3. Assign a counselor. This individual helps to guide team members in the Performance Management process. All team members should have a counselor relationship with a person in the firm who is at a more senior level within the career structure. The purpose of this relationship is the development of a rapport that fosters constructive feedback, career guidance and a focus on continuous improvement.

Step 4. Carry out a competency assessment program. Once a team member’s role is established, the next step is to assess how competent the member is within that role. The firm can choose to have the counselor assess the team member or allow the team member to self-assess against the skills. The process provides a very strong focus on helping team members develop self-knowledge about their skills and abilities so that each can be given appropriate challenges to help them grow and develop with their clients.

Step 5. Develop a personal plan for the team member. The personal plan helps individuals link their personal goals and ambitions with the overall objectives of the firm. This plan requires documentation of expected career milestones or vision of where team members want to be over the next one to two years. Personal planning encourages individuals to think about their own future in the context of the firm’s future.

Step 6. Monitor the performance management process. Individual job evaluations can be used to monitor a team member’s performance on specific tasks. Quarterly performance meetings are also key in allowing both counselor and counselee to address progress and challenges. The mid-year performance review discussion and annual appraisal are formal steps in talking about and documenting performance evaluations. The monitoring process ensures that team members are continually assessing and reviewing their performance against their personal plan, role description and competency model.


Personal planning encourages individuals to think about their own future in the context of the firm’s future. The Performance Management section of the PCPS Human Capital Center provides member firms with the learning, tools and resources necessary to establish performance measures and to compare the team members’ performance to these measures consistently. This section also helps the team understand how to set their goals, give and receive feedback and constructively manage poor performance. Visit aicpa.org/pcps and become a member for access to an array of performance management tools and resources. To find out if your firm is already a member, send an e-mail.

This article has been excerpted from Human Capital Center Toolbox Series.

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Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz™, a nationally recognized expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic and customized senior level executive job search campaigns, banishing barriers that prevent immediate success. Her gift for Networking Purposefully™ and expediting stalled job searches connects candidates directly to decision-makers, not HR.