When most people think about performance management they usually think in terms of planning and expectation setting, monitoring, development and improvement, periodic rating, rewards and compensation etc. I would like to offer another means to really understand how people are feeling. Words often are carefully selected, interviews and assessments are not often accurate and employees are just plain careful as to what they share.
In addition to all of the above being utilized, I propose you pay close attention to behavior/environmental influences by observing quietly.
Here are some suggestions to really get a sense of the morale and how people are feeling: read the environment with all of your senses: listen, smell, feel-don’t just use your eyes. See the big picture. Someone’s work environment (office, cubicle) provides many clues everywhere, but some tend to stand out: Calendars, photos, reading material, artwork, plants or flowers, candy dish are all revealing. Notice how everything is maintained and where it is positioned, and always ask how much choice the person had about the matter. Casual conversations get people relaxed and you get a much better sense of whom the person really is. Where people enjoy spending free time, the ballpark, a jazz bar, the mall, expensive restaurants, and the library provides insights into both their interests and values. Birds of a feather flock together. Our human environment-who we choose to sit next to in a meeting, who we have lunch with, whom we work, play and live with is an excellent measure of our true values and character.
Watching people interact with the security or door person, the admin, the janitor will speak volumes. Take it all in.