Managing Tribal Employees with An Effective Performance Management Process

Managing employees in a tribal business environment has more unique challenges than in a non-tribal business organization. There are many differences between the two business types. These differences can sometimes make it difficult to effectively manage and make decisions within a tribal organization.

 The Complex Tribal Employee Environment

In general, tribal business managers have more factors to consider when making decisions. The answers aren’t always simple, and the fairest choice is not always clear. Tribal influences and the politics of individual tribes can have far-reaching effects. Most tribal business managers will have to consider things such as the following:

  • Indian Preference – The preference for hiring native employees is a core part of tribal business, but it must be managed carefully. Indian preference can be applied to decisions like hiring, promoting and layoffs, but it should not be part of disciplinary processes. All employees should be held to the same standards in this area.
  • Politics and Relationships – Strong and consistent policies make it easier to navigate the interwoven relationships that often exist in tribal organizations. Their approval by key organization members helps to ensure buy-in and adherence among team members.
  • Special Policies – Written policies help define and lay out procedures for unique exceptions that most likely wouldn’t apply to a non-tribal business organization. They address things such as rehire policies and special tribal holidays. For example, tribal members may be rehired multiple times whereas non-tribal employees may not.

 Why Performance Management Is Important

Performance management is needed to ensure that employee, management, and company goals align. Performance management goes beyond simple employee evaluations and is integrated into the daily activities of all involved. It includes an ongoing cycle of support and improvement meant to enhance growth for both the employees and the organization.

A well-implemented performance management system will meet each of the following four goals:

  • Set performance expectations and provide feedback – Employees need to be aware of what is expected of them in whatever role they fill. Management should also be open to feedback to help establish whether or not these expectations are realistic.
  • Enhance communication between employee and supervisor – Good communication is a key factor for success in any organization. Employees should feel that they are free to contact and communicate with supervisors to provide feedback, report or resolve problems, etc.
  • Review and reward accomplishments – It’s important to show that good performance does not go unnoticed. Employees and teams should be rewarded when goals are met. Doing so encourages continued participation and drives the desire to improve performance.
  • Correct and redirect behavior – When goals are not being met, an effective management plan will help employees to correct behavior through personal or group training, counseling, one-on-one meetings, mentorship, and other programs. The system should focus on helping employees improve rather than punishing for poor performance or behavior.

Managing Tribal Employees

Once the basic goals of performance management are understood, creating a plan for an effective management cycle in a tribal organization can be simplified into four basic steps:

  1. Set and clarify expectations
  2. Identify company, team, and individual goals
  3. Collect feedback
  4. Review and act on results

Every member of the organization needs a clear understanding of what is expected of them. They also need to know how their role contributes to the overall success of the company. This begins with company goals, which lead to executive and management goals, which then help define team and individual goals. The result is that each employee and team has a clear set of priorities that keep them aligned with the company’s overall goals.

It’s also important to remember that all employees should be held to the same standards and treated both fairly and consistently. Tribal preference may be used to help decide who becomes a part of the organization, but once inside, all employees need to know they are on equal ground.

Remember, performance management is about helping employees just as much as helping the company. Proper planning and implementation of an effective performance management system will help both to succeed.

At S3 Management group, performance management is a key component of our Tribal UI Partner Program. To learn more about this program, click here.