Background: Societal development and a competitive corporate climate have resulted in increased emphasis on performance management (PM) but also sustainability and health challenges in working life. Opportunities for employee well-being, development and performance are thus highly relevant for organisations and society. PM includes a manager-employee dialogue process and is identified as a complex challenge when combined with employee development and well-being. Managers have a key role in PM, and research in collaboration with practitioners in specific contexts is needed. An exploratory study, focusing on managers’ experience of dialogues between managers and employees in practice, was therefore conducted in collaboration with an inter-municipal corporation company in southern Sweden.
Methods: A qualitative study with an inductive design, supported by semi-structured focus group interviews, was chosen based on the exploratory character of the study. Thirty-five managers were approached in the company and 15, of varying age and managerial experience, agreed to participate. Staff Development Dialogues (SDD) were used in the company PM model to facilitate employee development, performance, and well-being. Data was analysed using conventional qualitative content analysis to obtain new insights without using pre-set classifications.
Results: The analysis resulted in three categories of SDD experiences: SDD in a business context; Managers in relation to SDD; and Employees in relation to SDD. The findings revealed varying SDD experiences as well as approaches, and analytical themes were considered in relation to the organisational context and the specific SDD content and process. The study showed the importance of SDD adaptation and a well-being perspective in the dialogues was related to relational aspects and the manager-employee approach to SDDs.
Discussion: The findings confirm the complexity and challenges of PM including development and well-being. Adaptation to specific departments as well as employees is important, and using the same PM strategy throughout an organisation can be questioned. The identified link between a relational approach and a well-being perspective indicates a missed opportunity for systematic workplace health promotion. Strengthening the well-being perspective can, thus, improve the quality of an SDD model, which in turn can facilitate the creation of sustainable workplaces and better fulfilment of employers’ health-related obligations for systematic work environment management.
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