The Best Performance Management Puts Humans First

It’s one thing to decide to revise your performance management approach. It’s another thing to successfully re-engineer the mindset that embraces the change — and then manage that transformation across the organization. Too often, performance management is still stuck in an old framework that conflates human performance and business performance as one. If there’s anything we know now — illuminated by revealing data — it’s that humans must come first.

Why intentions get derailed

Yes: our business or organization is only as good as its people: to a certain extent, that’s true. But confusing how we measure what people do and how the organization is doing often results in our people feeling devalued and their efforts overlooked. We know what happens next. While many companies say they want to change how they evaluate performance, 9 out of 10 still use numerical performance scores to not only to rank employees but also determine compensation. A recent HR strategy roundtable focused on plans versus reality: Most organizations average a mere two hours a year on performance management per employee. Meanwhile, half (48%) of employees surveyed in a recent study felt that a performance review helped them improve their performance.

Without the engagement and alignment of our workforce, all the big plans in the world won’t amount to much. The organization is likely too busy spinning its wheels to just sustain a workforce. We’re in a talent crunch: good talent is hard to find. Great talent — even harder. Facing churn and constantly forced to train and rebuild new teams, some managers are understandably going to fall back on the systems they already well know, and resist the prospect of yet more change. The complex fabric of today’s workforces will only exacerbate that sense of being under siege.

As the business performance suffers, it seems to underscore the need to better oversee how the people are doing, which can turn into a review of the mistakes or lapses they made in the past turbulent year. Some exasperated managers may want to point the finger at employees not ‘pulling their weight.’ Competitive rankings, awkward peer reviews, accusations of unfairness, a long future of compensation based on a half-hour meeting, surveys that start with key weaknesses — there go any plan to retool the workplace culture. There, then, go some of your best people. It’s crisis HR: forget redesigning the house at least until the fire’s out. Newsflash: the fire isn’t going to go out.

Change requires better tools

Here’s what must happen instead. Empower everyone. The role of managers is to enable the organization to work to keep it working: their loyalty must be to productivity. They may know full well there’s a better way but simply not believe it’s viable given the current turbulence they’re trying to navigate. But it’s exhausting, managing by crisis mitigation. It’s not engaging for anyone. So, if you can pry your captains’ hands off the wheel for a moment, it’s an ideal time to make the change — if it’s done right. Successfully initiating and seeing through a complete shift to a culture of collaboration, innovation, and empowerment — for everyone, including managers — means capitalizing on the powerful tech and innovative systems now available.  That way all levels of the organization, particularly management, is secure in knowing nothing will fall between the cracks.

In with the new

This new model of performance management functions on technology that frees manages to play a far more frequent and connected role in the overall performance of employees. And here’s what happens: the value is put back into people. On the human side, we get to be — human. Whether a meaningful debriefing when a project is still fresh in everyone’s mind, team feedback given by request, individual check-ins through a day or a week, or exchanges around goals and targets, the mindset is freed of a transactional imperative. There’s no need for human effort to be flattened into a spreadsheet and numbers. Replacing that is a far more collaborative and ongoing conversation that’s far more responsive to the needs of everyone involved and thus more productive in terms of the data and knowledge it creates.

On the tech side, the difference is a sea change. Goal alignment and attainment, for instance, can be measured on a granular level for employees and managers — to see specially and immediately how they’re working and what kind of progress is taking place. What skills need to be deepened, what training needs to be added, what improvements can be made — all is based on information, not an onslaught of impersonal rankings. Performance reviews, whatever time period they do cover, are based on tangible and real data that, in turn, is connected back to the employee’s own experience of the work. The tech integrates into existing systems and platforms, becoming part of the workplace — within the workplace, not outside of it. And every action can be measured to provide data that empowers improvement. The bottom line is responsiveness. The right performance management system is responsive the organization’s needs as well as human needs — and acts as a bridge between the two.

Organizations are only as good as their people, it’s true. We also know that employees do far better when they can take ownership of their own success and invest in their own excellence. The key difference is that people need to feel like that paradigm’s not a liability, but an advantage. To drive true change in performance management, there must be a powerful set of tools in place to keep it from going off the rails, set it on its course, and let it gain momentum from within. The right tech can effectively free managers from the relentless administrative pressures that tend to, by necessity, narrow their focus — when what they need is to be freed to connect with their workforce. The best tools put humans first — all of them.

To learn more, check out the webinar, “Making Performance Reviews More Human.”  from Reflekive.  Enjoy.

Photo Credit: Ravennanotizie Flickr via Compfight cc

How to Achieve a People Centric Performance Management Process

In an illuminating TEDTalk “The way we think about work is broken”, Barry Schwartz encourages us to think about whether it’s human nature that creates institutions or institutions which can shape human nature. In traditional factory lines, work was based simply on the exchange of labor for money. However, money doesn’t have to be the only thing that drives people to get up and go to work every morning.

Rather than creating a workplace in which people go to do the bare minimum, designing an institution that allows and facilitates people’s innate need to use their creativity, find purpose and reach their potential will shape the way people feel about work.

The key is to begin questioning everything.

In the race to create more agile, engaged and innovative organizations, companies are now placing the heavy task on HR to revamp outdated processes. Many HR innovators have taken this moment to do some long needed cleaning out of failed institutions and construction of new processes that reflect the unique people and purpose running through their organization.

Despite what you may think, this is not reserved for companies with large budgets to spend on Google style perks. Even without the budget, you too can transform your organization in a positive way.

Today’s HR innovators don’t take any process, institution or practice for granted. The only way to discover what truly works best is to put yourself into the shoes of the people who work and run your organization and open your mindset to new possibilities. While it may sound intimidating, this isn’t a call to all out anarchy. Design thinking is a highly ordered approach which will provide you with a new lens through which you can view your organization.

What is design thinking?

Until now design thinking has mostly been used to create a customer focused approach to designing and marketing products. However, today HR professionals are realizing they can use this methodology to design better employee experiences. In fact, the adoption of this process has had so much success that Deloitte’s Global Human Capital trends recognized design thinking as one of the top trends to follow.

According to Tim Brown, CEO of international design firm IDEO:

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

The process encourages you to look at three main touch points within the organization to better understand what’s needed. These are the processes, people and technology that your employees come into contact with at each stage of their journey throughout the organization.

Which processes are cumbersome? Which need to be abolished? How much support do your people receive from team leads or peers? Are there new solutions which can make your employees’ lives easier?

There are two tools which can help you get into the design thinking mindset. One is employee journey mapping. This allows you to map out the stages and assess touchpoints at each step using your people data. The other is employee personas. These fictional characters allow you to visualize and put yourself into the mindset of your employee.

Creating a people-centric performance management process

Performance management is one of the most important cornerstones of your organization. Having a strong system in place that will help your people develop and grow new skills will give your company the advantage it needs to meet industry changes head on. At the same time, helping your workforce improve also keeps engagement levels high.

Rather than simply an exchange of money for services, today’s employees are looking to exchange their time and effort for growth and learning opportunities. In a recent survey, Gallup found that 87 percent of millennials considered professional development or career growth opportunities to be very important in a job.

Professional growth should be seen as an exchange between employees and the organization, but rather than money, it’s about an exchange of value. Valuable knowledge and skills in return for help further developing and honing those skills.

Think about the journey…

Think about the 3 different touchpoints (processes, people, technology) your workforce comes into contact with during performance reviews. How do they impact their experience?


  • Who benefits? Is it seen as a process that helps the company identify top and low performers? Or as a process that is meant to help individuals grow and develop?
  • How long does it take from the time when they fill out their self-assessment until the time when they receive their results?


  • Who gives and receives feedback?
  • Do managers receive upward feedback from reports?
  • Do people receive training on how to give feedback actionable?


  • What kind of performance management tools do people use during the process?
  • Is the process straightforward and user-friendly?

View the process through the lens of your personas

Everyone will have different objectives, pains and also different experiences with each touchpoint they encounter during the process. Think about the journey from each different point of view.

Customer personas are fictional characters used by marketers to represent different types of customers. They’re often given names and bios including their likes, dislikes, pains and objectives based on data collected from customer feedback, interviews and focus groups. The idea is that having a few fictional customers that represent larger interest groups allows you to optimize processes for a wider audience. For example:

Julie the new manager:

  • Wants to give her team helpful feedback that will encourage them to improve
  • Nervous about giving constructive feedback to a few team members who used to be peers
  • Expects to have a better idea of who her top performers are and where the team needs to improve at the end of the process
  • Also wants to gain insights into her performance as a team lead

Paul the millennial employee:

  • Expects to find out what his strengths are in the team
  • Has trouble analyzing the feedback he received and creating a strong development plan
  • Wants to receive more feedback outside of performance reviews

Anna the new tech hire:

  • Wants to be recognized for her achievements
  • Expects a fair balanced assessment but encountered bias in the assessments she received at her previous company: does not trust the process
  • Wants to be able to receive feedback on cross-collaborative projects she participated in


When redesigning your performance management process consider how you can optimize it to meet the needs of your different personas. The best way to gain a full picture is to combine these two tools by mapping out the different touchpoints (processes, people, technology) your personas would encounter during your current performance management process. Consider how each would be impacted differently.

The insights provided by this exercise will enable you to redesign performance management at your organization in a way that takes into account your wider workforce. There is no one size fits approach to performance management. Design thinking can help you to create an experience that fits your unique organization.

This article was first published on Workology.

Tech Trends: A Look at What’s Ahead for HR Tech

Technology touches everything in our lives today, changing both how we consume and how we work. Our team, for example, recently began to experiment with Cisco Spark, a cloud-based collaboration platform that incorporates file sharing, phone calls, team messaging, video chats, and more. That’s just one example of stakeholders leveraging tech tools to become more efficient—there are plenty more. As the market for enterprise tech continues to boom, one area in particular stands out as having an exceptionally robust year: HR technology. In fact, if 2016 is any indication, the HR technology market is about to undergo one of the most disruptive years in a decade. Let’s explore some of the top HR tech trends to watch in 2017.

Top HR Tech Trends for 2017

Josh Bersin of Deloitte has been following the HR tech market for almost two decades, and he recently produced a perspective-packed report on the state of the market. As you can see from Figure 1 below, Bersin found the evolution of HR systems has been drastic over the years as software has become more sophisticated and cloud tools and apps have become mainstream. I like this graphic because not only does it highlight the change in HR tech tools over the past ten years, but it also offers perspective on how the roles of HR personnel have collectively shifted as technology has become increasingly embedded in our lives.

HR tech
Figure 1. Source: Deloitte

Enough looking back. Now, let’s dive into what you can expect in HR tech in 2017:

  • People data collection turns to predictive analytics. Applying people analytics in HR isn’t a new strategy, but look for HR leaders to take it to a new level this year by incorporating predictive analytics into the equation. As tech gets more sophisticated, so do prediction models that can help HR teams see better hiring outcomes, less employee turnover, and a more efficient distribution of human capital.
  • Employee experience becomes paramount. Employees are expected to use a variety of tools required by HR, including scheduling software, benefits portals, digital feedback platforms, and more. In the past, these tools often lacked integration and had clunky, cluttered user interfaces that made for a poor employee experience. When functionality reigned supreme over experience, though, these challenges often fell to the backburner. Not anymore. Today’s employees want to be treated at work like they’re treated as consumers, expecting their experience with digital tools in the workplace to be seamless in terms of layout, ease of use, time to value, and more. HR tech in 2017 will lean in when it comes to user experience, functionality, and integration.
  • Marketing and HR collaborate to produce better hires. Marketers are known to be a pretty tech-savvy bunch, adept at targeting messaging across multiple platforms to best reach an audience. HR has been tapping into this capability for a few years now, using marketing principles during the recruiting and hiring processes with tools like Candidate Relationship Management systems. Look for this usage to jump in 2017, especially as hiring companies begin to market the employee experience (see above), not just the salary.
  • Performance management takes a backseat to coaching. Performance management has long been a hallmark of many existing HR processes. That, however, may be coming to an end. Of course, it’s still necessary for employees to be evaluated and for that data to be recorded for future use—the approach, though, is what’s about to change. Especially with the continued influx of engagement-driven Millennials in the workforce, look for more organizations to phase-in frequent coaching—a tactic emboldened by collaboration software and the accessibility of mobile apps—instead of traditional, anxiety-inducing reviews delivered from across a boardroom table.

What’s Next?

It’s undeniable that tech shapes your workplace. Today, it’s easy to get caught up talking about things like tools and bottom lines, benefits and timelines. At the end of the day, though, companies are run by teams of real people with real goals and challenges. Culture is an important part of disruption, and HR inherently plays a substantial role in developing and fostering that culture within your organization. Enabling them with the right technology to meet actual human needs is the basis for all the tech trends I mentioned above, and all the ones we’ll see in the future.

Does your HR team have any digital go-tos? Do any of the trends I addressed here sound like something you’d want to explore further? Tell me in the comments.

photo credit: Crestfelt Photography Matrix anyone? via photopin (license)

This article was first published on FOW Media. 

5 Tips For People-Oriented HR Management

What makes a professional hiring manager? Dealing with budgets, business priorities, and tons of paperwork is essential; but is it what employees need and expect to see from us? After all, human resources are about people, aren’t they?

In 2016, 70.6 percent of HR professionals called “influencing the company culture to have more authentic, people-oriented managers” their top priority. With more than $2 billion plunged into HR technology, the emergence of new, more people-oriented, trends seems clear.

Together with gamification, video hiring, and other HR trends of 2016, this year brings more tech challenges for us to implement in order not to trail far behind. Focused more on people, they help to create a positive company culture and not earn the reputation of the worst HR ever.

So, what can you do for employees?

Manage their performance

2017 is the year when performance reviews will become a regular part of hiring managers life. Performance management apps are team-centric and cloud-based today, which makes it easier for us to keep track on employees.

Performance appraisal software, such as Saba Cloud or Performly, allows workers to understand their role in a company’s success, boost productivity, and unleash their potential. Featherlight helps to manage real-time performance, Weekdone enables to monitor accomplishments, and PerformYard lets you document and performance results.

Most of these applications feature online assessments, allow managing performance by teams, and integrate with other HR tools and employee directories.

Train them

Professional development is a must for employees, and they would thank you for interesting and engaging training programs. Make this training more effective with new solutions in HR tech, such as Workday Learning or Fuse Universal.

They are online platforms focused on video collaboration and other interactive methods of learning, including features for curation and data-driven recommendations. Employees consider such category of learning products efficient, and they are ready to develop new skills with online resources about math, writing, time management, and more. 

Manage their wellness and activity

2017 is the year for the utilization of HR technology solutions for employee wellness, engagement, and recognition. The number of tools to manage activity and work-life balance grows for hiring managers to improve the work environment.

Use solutions from Oracle or Ultimate Software to manage what employees do, how well they take care of their health, and how happy they are. Such tools have built-in analytics engines to view workers wellness and give insights on how to boost their productivity and make them work better.

Encourage communication

Tools for evaluating an employee’s real-time engagement become critical infrastructure for companies, as they help to understand workers needs and consider corresponding changes. Integrate those tools with your performance management system, and you will join the 85 % of executives considering employee engagement a top priority.

Encourage communication by using HR software: Trakstar helps to keep employees informed about employers goals and expectations, and ReviewSnap improves real-time feedback for workers to learn how their performance fit into the objectives of the company.

They are great to encourage mobility and connect staff members. 

Analyze them

The rise of people analytics is among the HR tech trends of 2017. Predicting a staff’s behavior, thoughts, and desires, you will know how to implement all corresponding changes effectively.

Survey software works best here. Graphical reporting features of SmartSurvey or Dub InterViewer allow getting data from employees to analyze their changes and recommend training they need for better performance.

New tools for people analytics include:

  • tools, analyzing e-mails to assess how people’s communication and time management practices differ, encouraging lower-performers to change behavior.
  • tools, monitoring workers’ locations and voice tenor to see when they experience stress and reorganize facilities accordingly.

Don’t forget about talent acquisition

The talent acquisition market is enormous today, so embrace it to hire the right talents for your company. Social media can help you here, but the latest HR tech from Lever, Gild, and SmartRecruiters would not be wise to miss.

They are recruitment management systems, handling everything: sources, analytics, interview management, candidate scores, their onboard relationship management, and more.

So, make the most out of your job performance by using HR technology to find strong candidates, manage them, and help them fulfill potential. Make your hiring strategy more people-oriented, and no one will have the heart to say you are a non-specialist in the profession.

photo credit: Informedmag business meeting – Credit to via photopin (license)

Top Five Leadership Challenges: How to Overcome Them

There are many challenges that all managers face. Whilst these challenges can arise at any point in a manager’s career, they can be particularly prevalent for newer or first-time managers. We’ve compiled a handy list of these challenges with tips on how to combat them, become the best manager possible, and support your team on their way to success.

Adjusting to the role

First time managers often find it difficult to adapt to taking ownership of their role. It can be particularly difficult managing those who you’re used to working closely with and perhaps have personal relationships with. It’s important to keep these personal relationships separate from workplace practices. You can do this by positioning yourself as an approachable and supportive manager and ensuring that the tough conversations still take place. Remember that giving constructive feedback shouldn’t be seen negatively, but  instead be seen as a way that you can help your team perform at their full potential.

Over managing

Whilst it’s undeniably important to be there for your team, and coach them to make sure you’re getting the best out of them: there’s a fine line between managing a team well and not letting people take on their own work. Your role is to support, so make sure your team has the space to complete their assignments and have some autonomy, whilst helping them make progress as individuals and take ownership of their development. Whether the people you’re mentoring are older, younger, or no matter how long they’ve been in the field, if you are able to guide them through hardships, lead them in the right direction and help them progress in their role or career, then you are succeeding as a mentor and as a manager.

Not giving enough guidance

Whilst over managing people and not providing the space to work can be an issue, the other end of the spectrum is not giving people enough input or guidance. Much as your team likely know what they are working on, as manager it’s up to you to ensure everyone is fully aware of what’s expected of them and how their work aligns and contributes to the wider company goals. If managers are unable to communicate clear guidelines and expectations for their team members, they will of course be unable to take ownership of their work and ultimately less productive. They will also have less motivation and drive to work towards their goals if they are unaware of the impact their work has on the company.

Keep the conversation open

No matter how things are going, it’s key to keep communication frequent and open. Providing constructive feedback is not always the easiest task, but it’s an essential way to ensure your team can develop and really progress within their role. It’s equally important, however, that you also celebrate people’s successes, however big or small. Giving positive feedback to your team when things have gone well or particular team members have shined is key to letting people know they’re valued. It will increase engagement; people will know that their work is recognized and that they’re appreciated. Introducing or optimizing the use of 360-feedback is also a great practice to really keep communication open and useful for everyone.

Embrace upward feedback

Giving feedback aside, it can be difficult, particularly as a newer manager, to receive constructive feedback: it’s not always the easiest to handle, particularly when still adjusting to managerial responsibilities. But it’s important to see such feedback as positive; something which will help you develop in your career and become the best, most supportive and  efficient manager possible. It’s not only key to receive this upward feedback with an open mind, but also to ensure you act upon it appropriately. Following up feedback either by discussing with your team what the next steps are and how they feel things could improve, or by taking the next steps based on people’s feedback really shows your team that you value their input. This will build trust and respect for you and ensure that everyone is on the same page moving forward.

What to share?

Transparency is something greatly appreciated by modern workforces. An employee engagement survey from Harvard Business Review actually found that 70% of those asked said they were most engaged when managers shared continuous updates and insights into company strategy. With many organizations adopting a flatter, less hierarchical approach, and employees taking more ownership of their roles, it’s not so much a case of management being the only ones in the know. Many employees now value transparency and candidness over more traditional practices. And, with an increasing amount of companies taking transparency even further, with salaries made public knowledge, and other less traditional information being disclosed to employees, it’s clear people like to be aware of what’s happening in the company. To be a manager that people trust and feel comfortable with, don’t close yourself off- keep your employees in the loop.

A version of this post was first published on the Impraise blog

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These Blind Spots Are Ruining Performance Management

Have you ever watched a movie where the hero is being chased by predators through the woods? He quickly arrives at a cliff screeching to a halt and nearly falling off into a river far below. He now has a choice, stay to face the predators, which will likely kill him, or take a chance and jump into the river below risking possible serious injury or even death. He jumps.

In my opinion, this describes the decision many major organizations made when they changed
their performance evaluations. They were being chased by the poor results of the typical
appraisal. These include significant wasted time, complaints by employees (especially
millennials) about the quality and frequency of feedback, and the lack of development discussion time. These companies jumped. Some went into the “river of software” where the hope was to spend less time and remove much of the paperwork angst. Some jumped into the “no ratings” river to avoid the difficult and often damaging conversations which managers dread and which upset employees.

The acknowledged reasons for change are not always the root causes of that change. The predators chasing the companies to the cliff’s edge are mostly just symptoms of the real root causes. Unless we know the real reasons for dysfunction how can we be sure our jump is not just a reaction instead of a proactive strategy? The predators chasing the large organizations through the woods include significant wasted time on preparing and delivering the typical performance review meetings and the high percentage of employees and managers who are frustrated and disappointed.

Many of the employees (especially millennials) who are unsatisfied with the typical appraisal process claim the feedback is poor and doesn’t help focus on developmental needs. As high as 65 percent say it is not relevant to their job (Meinert, 2015). Only 8 percent of HR executives believed their performance management systems made a significant positive improvement in employee performance (Rock, Davis and Jones, 2013).

Accenture, GE, Microsoft, Adobe and Deloitte (to name just a few) have changed, but why are employees/executives still unsatisfied? There are two reasons: the lack of appreciation for a system – we call this scotoma –  a spot of blindness. The second is the idea that a manager is THE one who must provide feedback. I call this the omniscient manager scotoma.

Recent brain research suggests that the typical appraisal meeting creates an environment that can prevent creativity and innovative problem solving. This clearly is one of the root causes of the dysfunction, but it’s just not enough to ensure a valuable, sustainable redesign.

One of the main reasons the typical appraisal fails is because it is inconsistent with systems thinking. Rarely does one hear this explanation from one of the major organizations. Systems thinking requires the placement of responsibility for results on the design and functioning of the system and the avoidance of placing responsibility for performance on the individuals or parts of the system.

Many organizations still attempt to provide consistent and frequent feedback to the individuals within their organization. Organizations are social systems with interdependent parts. Any attempt to evaluate the parts ignores the influence of the system on those parts and will either frustrate managers and employees by wasting their time and/or make performance worse.

Why do organizations continue to insist that managers deliver the frequent feedback? This idea is a holdover from the hierarchical view of organizations. Why not design a performance management process that provides opportunities for everyone to learn from each other? Why not allow everyone to innovate their service and performance to improve the quality and speed of the system interactions?

A manager cannot possibly know enough to help employees with all their interactions. This approach in performance management is the false belief that managers must be omniscient and omnipotent simply because they have the big title.

A redesign that offers the option to speak to multiple employees would provide significant opportunity for those who desire frequent quality feedback. In a future article, I’ll share my ideas on how to do a redesign.

If an organization is ready to replace their appraisal process because the leaders find themselves at the edge of the cliff, it is important to recognize the two scotomas and redesign the process to address the two root causes of dysfunction. If not, you’re just jumping off that cliff because the predators have caught you. That’s not strategic leadership. It’s reactionary and deadly to company and employee success.

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HR Is About to Get an Analytics Makeover

Many organizational departments rely on analytics for decisions they make and strategies they implement. Through using analytics and data, these departments can get a better idea of what customers and clients need or want. But until now, HR hasn’t led the way. That’s about to change as HR braces for an analytics makeover.

Business analytics is used primarily in logistics or marketing. But HR is beginning to dip its toes into the world of data-driven tracking and measurement. Many companies have already implemented HR analytics. However, big data metrics aren’t always understood. And they’re seldom used with practical applications.

As we get deeper into 2017 and HR analytics grows more popular, we expect to see businesses take advantage of big data in new ways. Here are some areas that should benefit from appropriate HR analytics implementation:

What to Expect From an HR Analytics Makeover

1. Better Data-Backed Hiring and Promotion Processes

Hiring and promotion processes can be complicated. When a hiring manager is in charge of sifting through applications to select the best candidates, personal bias can easily cloud their judgment. This can prevent the most qualified applicant from getting the job. The same idea applies when HR considers who should be promoted.

However, by using data gathered through analytics HR teams can identify who is best suited for a job or promotion. For example, it’s easier to determine who outperforms coworkers and who has the right skills for a position.

2. More Efficient Ways to Track Engagement, Productivity and Job Satisfaction

Your human resources department is responsible for ensuring company employees are meeting certain standards and performing their jobs correctly. Unfortunately, this can be difficult to track. In 2017, we believe analytics will help HR departments see how engaged and productive employees are.

Job satisfaction is another area HR departments must consider. Very few employees want to openly admit to their boss that they are unhappy in their jobs. But when people don’t feel connected or committed to their work, the whole company suffers. By using analytics, HR departments can help make suggestions on how to improve job satisfaction.

3. Better Operations and Cost Management

If you’re trying to oversee the costs and operations of an entire company without analytics, there are definitely going to be some key components you miss. By implementing HR analytics in 2017, business owners can use data knowledge at all levels of their companies to improve operations and reduce costs.

Analytics can help HR departments get a better view of how the company is running and what could be modified to save money or time. With the right programs, systems and software, HR analytics can actually be beneficial to the company as a whole, not just to the HR department.

4. Ability to Plan for the Future

Analytics can also be beneficial for creating plans for the far-off future. While you may have a strong workforce now, this does not necessarily guarantee the workforce will continue to stay strong in the next few years. Through using HR analytics, companies can track what problems may come in the future, what those problems could cost the company, and what the HR department will need to do if that problem happens.

This idea is especially true for companies with employees all around the same age or experience level. If you don’t have a healthy mix of ages working for your company, you risk having each employee retiring around the same time. Without a proper plan on how you’re going to navigate this situation, the HR department could be left scrambling for new hires. With proper analytics, you could see this coming.

When the HR department takes advantage of analytics, the entire company benefits. This helps HR focus on hiring the right employees, ensuring they’re doing their job productively and efficiently, and overseeing company operations. As a result, HR teams can be a more strategic partner in business performance.

Soon, using analytics in HR will be something companies can’t ignore. As data-based technology advances, HR analytics will become just as crucial as analytics in other business departments.

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Improve Leadership Training Programs with Manager Feedback

360-degree feedback can bring up a whole host of areas for improvement and goals to be worked towards. Developing based on feedback is important for anyone, regardless of position, experience level or objectives: managers are no exception.

Today major companies don’t simply want people who will listen and carry out: they want creative thinkers who will come up with innovative ideas and solutions. As a result, rather than giving orders, managers must find ways to foster this creativity. This means companies want:

  • Less micromanaging and more autonomy
  • Faster development of new skills
  • Higher employee retention

We explain how the feedback managers receive can establish specific leadership training plans to help improve skills, performance and daily practices to make sure this can all be achieved, and both teams and managers can function in the best way possible, helping both inexperienced or first-time managers and those just looking to take their leadership skills to the next level to improve how they lead their team in this ever-changing modern work environment.

Upward Feedback & where to go with it

Gaining feedback on daily practices, performance and skill sets can be an incredibly useful process. 360-feedback encompasses upward feedback from your team members, helping you to gain perspective from those who work closely with you. Hearing the views of those who work with you every day and have an acute awareness of your leadership style is a great chance to take a step back and re-evaluate. But, of course, once the feedback has been given, the process doesn’t end there. Using feedback for leadership training means that managers are able to work on the specific things that would improve both their leadership qualities and general interactions with their team on both a daily and a long-term basis.

Keep your team!

It’s often said that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. If there are multiple issues within a work environment but people generally like their manager, and are satisfied with how they’re being led, they’re less likely to leave their position. Ensuring that managers are not only listening to but acting on the feedback which they receive from their team makes it clear that the team’s views are valued, and means that managers will be able to use the feedback given to communicate with and work more effectively with their team. Managers will be on the road to improvement, and team members will feel both valued and more satisfied, be less likely to leave their position and begin to work more effectively with their managers.

Engagement & Team spirit

After the leadership training has taken place, it’s likely that team morale will increase, communication will improve and employee engagement will be on the rise. It’s not just managers that will improve from leadership training either. Research from the Journal of Business Strategies found that leaders who were able to impact the long-term cohesion of their teams could account for more than 25% of the team’s overall performance. Effective leaders will keep their team communicating well and keep engagement levels up by giving them useful and motivating feedback, and making the organization a positive and impactful place to work.

Using a performance management tool such as a feedback app  has never made it easier for managers to develop. Feedback comes in the form of both real-time updates and reviews where questions can be tailored to find out exactly what skills or traits can be improved. Once feedback is received, it’s collated into an automatic report identifying exactly which skills and practices require focus.

Now it’s time for improvement: continuous feedback that carries on long after the review process gives team members the opportunity to continue the conversation and provide real-time feedback on their manager’s ongoing development. Based on feedback, the best training programs can be devised to develop managers’ skills. Just like your employees, offering regular trainings on key skills will keep managers engaged, motivated to improve their strategies and at the top of their management game!


  • Using upward feedback for manager training means team members know their input is valued
  • Successful leaders interact with employees in a way that significantly increases employee engagement and performance
  • Employees communicate better as a team as a result of more effective management
  • Good leadership training based on team feedback will lowers turnover rates

A version of this post was first published on Impraise. 

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Overcoming the Fear of Feedback

Mary considers herself to be a good manager. Whenever one of her employee’s is struggling with an assignment she swoops in to help them put things into order and give pointers. Her company is now introducing a new 360-degree performance management system based on continuous feedback and, as a manager, she’s been encouraged to lead the transition by asking for feedback from her team first. She’s excited about this new change because she thinks it’ll help a few of her team members to open up more and resolve conflicts amongst each other.

However, when she receives her feedback, she’s surprised to find that several people said she needed to let go more and allow people to work out assignments in their own way. One person even used the term ‘micromanaging’. Even though she’s supposed to be setting an example, her first reaction is to get angry. She sets aside a lot of time to help her employees solve problems and only gets criticism in return. She’s now supposed to act on the feedback she receives in order to encourage employees to do the same, but she’s still feeling betrayed.

Most people have difficulties receiving feedback well. For others, the only thing worse than receiving constructive feedback is giving it. When given correctly, feedback is not meant to harm or criticize people, but meant as a way to improve. Even if we know feedback is good for us, what’s holding you back from accepting and sharing it with others? The answers might all be in your head.

What are the psychological factors that make us afraid of feedback?

The most common answer is our body’s natural negativity bias. Prominent psychologists and neurobiologists have found that our brains are hardwired to react to negative stimuli faster. This was originally necessary for our survival. Sensing an attack would trigger our body’s natural fight or flight mode, increasing the amount of hormones released to the bloodstream, elevating reaction time and heightening our emotions. The experiences that trigger these reactions become etched into our brain so that we can react to dangerous situations faster. This is why we tend to remember negative experiences more than positive ones.

However, in an office setting our negativity bias and flight or flight reaction can actually work against us. Even when receiving mostly positive feedback, it tends to be the constructive feedback that we recall most acutely. Though feedback doesn’t constitute a physical attack, in their separate research Psychologist Peter Gray and Management Professor Neal Ashkanasy both explain that criticism can signal a sense of exclusion. In hunter-gatherer societies people were dependent on the group for survival. For this reason, constructive feedback can sometimes trigger our fear of exclusion from the group.

Is fear of giving feedback more about yourself than others?

In fact, this is also relevant to giving feedback. A study by Dr. Carla Jefferies of the University of Southern Queensland discovered that a failure to give constructive feedback may actually be more about protecting ourselves than others. In her experiment, participants were told to give feedback on an essay either face to face, anonymously or to give feedback that would not be shared with the author.

She found that participants with lower self-esteem gave more positive feedback face to face and more critical feedback in the other two situations. People with high self-esteem gave the same feedback in all situations. According to a researcher on her team, “If one accepts that people with relatively low self-esteem are expected to place greater emphasis on wanting to be perceived as likeable or attractive to others, then this lends support for the self-protection motive.”

Supporting this research, a study conducted by leadership development consultancy Zenger/Folkman found that 74% of employees who received constructive feedback already knew there was a problem. This shows that employees aren’t necessarily blind to the things they need to improve, they just either aren’t sure how to improve or aren’t fully aware of the impact on the rest of the team. In fact, in their previous research, they found that a majority of employees actually want constructive feedback.

However, the caveat is that people don’t want to receive top down instructions on what to do. In their study, they also found that the more managers carefully listened to their employee’s point of view before giving feedback, the more honest and trustworthy their feedback was perceived. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman suggest that the best way to give constructive feedback is to first give the other person the chance to explain the situation and what they think went wrong. Before immediately going into feedback, first allow them to formulate their own plan of action. If you listen carefully up to this point, when you give your own feedback it is much more likely to be well received. Finally, offer to check in the following week so that you can lend further advice if needed, without seeming overbearing. For more information on how to give constructive feedback see here. So what are we still so afraid of?

Changing your mindset

Stanford Professor Carol Dweck’s studies into what she terms ‘fixed and growth mindsets’ also provide valuable insights into this fear. According to her research, people with fixed mindsets view their skills as constant personal traits, while people with growth mindsets view their skills as malleable abilities which can be improved. For example, children who have been praised for being smart throughout their lives may face difficulties improving after receiving a bad grade on an exam. However, children who have been praised for getting good grades based on their hard work and dedication are more likely to see a bad grade as an opportunity to learn more.

When we associate abilities with a part of our identity, receiving constructive criticism can feel more like a personal attack. People with growth mindsets, on the other hand, are more likely to take risks and overcome obstacles by seeing failure as a signal to try harder, rather than time to give up.

The good news is that we are not naturally divided into fixed and growth mindsets. Developing a growth mindset towards feedback is possible. According to Dweck, the first step is recognizing your fixed mindset “voice”. When you start placing blame on others for the feedback you receive, this is your fixed mindset speaking. Once you recognize this voice you can begin counteracting it and responding with a growth mindset. See Dweck’s TEDTalk, ‘The power of believing that you can improve’, for more inspiration.

Overcoming fear of feedback through habit

An important part of overcoming your fear is creating a feedback habit. In Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, he describes how neuroscientists and psychologists discovered the impact of habits on rewiring the brain towards certain behaviors. Marketers and CEOs have used the key elements of creating a habit – cue, routine and reward – to induce certain behaviors in consumers and employees. Duhigg contends that by creating a routine and reward system triggered by certain cues, we can rewire our brain to create new habits and behaviors.

If you want to start exercising more, leaving your running clothes next to your bed will trigger a cue to go for a run in the morning. If you get into the routine of going for a run every morning your body gets used to the routine. The incentive can be a reward, such as having a big breakfast when you get home. Eventually, the habit kicks in and your body will become accustomed to going for a run when you wake up, even if you forget to leave your running clothes out or don’t have time for an elaborate breakfast.

One example he gives is Starbuck’s success in teaching employees how to navigate difficult situations with customers. In Duhigg’s book he introduces Travis, a manager of two successful Starbucks locations, who attributes his professional success to Starbuck’s lifeskills training program. In his previous jobs, Travis had difficulties dealing with angry customers. Rather than dealing with the situation calmly, he would be overcome with emotion and argue back, making it difficult to hold down a steady job. When he began working as a barista at Starbucks he entered into its education training program.

The company’s main focus is providing great customer service, and it found that the best way to do this was to ensure its workers received training on life skills such as managing emotions, how to stay organized and focused and, most importantly for Travis, willpower. Through these trainings Travis was able to master his emotions by creating go to habits for different situations that could arise at work. For example, the LATTE method is used to deal with difficult customers:

Listen to the customer

Acknowledge the problem

Take problem-solving action

Thank them

Explain why the problem occurred

The program encourages employees to imagine difficult situations with customers, decide how they would react in advance and practice through role play. By having a set routine in place, Travis was able to overcome his emotional response to angry customers. As soon as he receives the cue, a complaining customer, he dives into his routine allowing him to stay level headed. Since instituting this program, Starbuck’s revenue increased by $1 billion. See Duhigg’s thought-provoking TEDTalk detailing more insights from his book.

Creating a feedback habit

You can also use this method to create a feedback habit in your company. Amongst our clients we’ve observed that as employees share more and more feedback through Impraise, they begin to develop feedback behaviors. As the habit forms, people become more comfortable expressing feedback face-to-face. In our biggest client company, a major hotel booking platform, we’ve seen this lead to an increase in the exchange of unsolicited feedback and better professional development conversations.

Utilizing their employees’ affinity for games, a gaming company we work with has created a reward system in which people vote for the best feedback they were given, resulting in a bonus for the top contributor.

When creating your own feedback habit keep in mind these three elements to habit forming. For example, your steps could be:

Cue – Receiving a feedback notification from a colleague


  1. Analyze the feedback,
  2. Ask questions to better understand
  3. Thank them
  4. Strategize ways to improve based on your feedback
  5. Set goals for yourself based on these strategies

Reward – Using the feedback to reach the professional goals you’ve set for yourself

To put this into context we’ll go back to Mary, the manager who just received surprising constructive feedback from her employees. When her thoughts of betrayal and exclusion start to set in, she should recognize her fixed mindset voice and respond: “It’s not that my employees are ungrateful for my help, they just want more opportunities to grow professionally.”

Following these steps, after receiving her cue, feedback notifications on her real-time feedback platform, Mary should automatically read through them and write down keywords and patterns she sees. She should then respond to her feedback in order to fill in the gaps: “What can I do to better support you when you reach an obstacle?” Finish by thanking them for their feedback.

Based on their answers, it’s time to come up with strategies for improvement. Maybe her employees would like her to first ask if they need her help. When they do ask for help, she can make sure to adjust her language and tone, so that she’s sure to provide suggestions rather than instructions. She should also consider offering individuals opportunities to take on more responsibilities. For example, suggesting that an employee take the lead on a new project. Another option is committing to having more regular one-on-ones with her employees, so she can check in and offer her assistance when needed.

Finally, Mary can set her professional goals around this feedback: “Becoming a better leader by providing more autonomy to my employees”. Mary should then check in from time to time and ask her employees for feedback on her management style and what she could do to more effectively reach her goals.

A version of this post was first published on the Impraise blog.

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6 Reasons Why Your Company Needs Real-Time Feedback

In the news today we’re constantly seeing major companies announce they’re dumping their old performance management systems for more agile solutions. Accenture, Adobe, Deloitte, Gap and Microsoft are just a few of the big names that have upgraded their people management processes based on real-time feedback. You may be asking yourself what the reasons are for this major shift in HR and how it will affect your company? Here we’ll share the six major reasons your company needs an HR revamp.

  1. Stack ranking is out

Stack ranking does not work. Despite its popularity during the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, companies began to realize that it actually works to tear down teamwork by pitting employees against each other and encouraging office politics. Though mounting evidence has been building against the system, it was when founding company GE decided to move away from stack ranking that the evidence became clear. According to the Institute for Corporate Productivity, the number of companies practicing stack ranking plummeted from 49% in 2009 to 14% in 2011.

  1. The Problem with Annual performance reviews

Similarly the annual performance review is already becoming a thing of the past. In today’s rapidly changing work environment employees need advice and training more than once a year. 95% of managers are unhappy with the way performance reviews are conducted in their companies. Furthermore, evidence has proven that the stress caused by annual performance reviews triggers our body’s natural ‘fight or flight’ reaction.

  1. The Need for Better Data and Greater Transparency

Basing assessments solely on annual performance reviews and stack ranking is not only ineffective, but also inaccurate. 90% of HR leaders question the accuracy of the information received. Research shows that two-thirds of performance management systems actually misidentify top performers regardless of forced rankings. The reason for this is that they’re highly subjective. When someone rates you the rating often says more about them than about you. Motivation for example is an abstract concept. If your manager rates you on how motivated you are at work it’s based on what they consider to be high and low amounts of motivation. Business consultant Marcus Buckingham calls this the idiosyncratic rater effect. Studies show this can also result in bias against women and minorities, resulting in low performance reviews and ultimately unequal promotions and pay.

  1. Modern Employees

The skills that companies are looking for in an employee have changed. In the fast pace changes of the modern business world, especially in the tech industry, professional skills have an average life of 2 ½ to 5 years. This means that employees must constantly be learning to keep up with new trends. Even more than technical ability, companies are looking for creative young talent that have a high learning capacity. However, even with the ability to learn quickly, these employees also need managers who will spend more time (more than once a year) on coaching in order to keep up to date with the latest trends.

  1. Millennials

The new generation of workers have the reputation of being disloyal and impatient. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Millennials are smart and tech savvy. This generation is more likely than others to have advanced degrees and, growing up in the social media age, they are always hungry for more information. However, they’re also used to getting answers instantly in real-time. What millennials want is more training and opportunities for development and they have no qualms about job hopping until they find it. In a survey by TriNet and Wakefield Research, 85% of millennials reported they would feel more confident if they could have more frequent performance conversations with their manager.

  1. What we know now about motivation

Employees want to be recognized for their efforts. Showing appreciation for a job well done goes a long way. In a survey 83% of employees found recognition for contributions to be more fulfilling than rewards or gifts. Furthermore, a number of HR experts are now finding that focusing on improving an employee’s strengths, rather than weaknesses, boosts motivation. However, to make strengths based training work managers must have more frequent discussions with employees to help them pinpoint and develop these skills. Managers who know their employees’ strengths are 71% more likely to have employees who are energized and engaged.

To find out more about the benefits of real-time feedback and the best ways to introduce it into your company download Impraise’s free white paper.

A version of this post was first published on the Impraise blog.


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3 Performance Indicators That Will Make Or Break Your Company

Want to find out how your business is performing? Setting and analyzing performance indicators for your company is the best way to forecast and get on track with your business goals. Creating KPIs or Key Performance Indicators will help you measure your company’s success. The question is what to focus on? How you measure performance says a lot about your company’s objectives.

Common Types of Indicators

There are two common types of performance indicators: financial and customer focused.

Financial indicators are the most commonly used metrics for performance including: revenue growth rate, net profit, return on investment, among others. In terms of employee performance these are often quantified using output related measurements. These can be useful for growing your company’s finances but companies that focus solely on profit related indicators often face an innovation problem.

A focus on financial goals can put pressure on managers to focus on short term profitability over creativity. Financial indicators also don’t provide a full picture of a company’s performance. Rather than taking risks on new ideas, these companies can become known for creating ‘one hit wonders’ that sell and repackaging past successes. Eventually, quality and customer satisfaction can become compromised and employee motivation drops.

Microsoft learned this lesson at the expense of its top spot in the tech world. Originally a leader in cutting edge technology, after 2000 it began slipping in the rankings against companies like Google and Apple with its inability to keep up with new trends. As these companies began producing paradigm shifting products like the iPhone and Google Maps, Microsoft continued to survive off of its updated versions of Windows Office. Financial indicators demonstrated the company’s shift in popularity but not the contributing factors.

Internally, Microsoft had taken a cut throat approach to performance management called stack ranking. In this system employees were ranked according to their performance, with the top being put in line for promotions and the bottom 5-10% being shown the door. Rather than boosting productivity, this system merely increased competition and discouraged teamwork. Ultimately, instead of being encouraged to collaborate on new ideas, employees had to focus on gaining favor to survive.

Customer success indicators are increasingly seen as the most important performance metric. Some of the main customer centered KPIs include: conversion rate, customer retention, Net Promoter Score (NPS), etc. Due to differing objectives, companies that focus on customer centered indicators focus more on gaining a loyal customer base by producing great quality products, utilizing different marketing techniques and emphasizing a strong customer support service.

An example of this is Riot Games’ ‘Free To Play’ games which helped them to gain a loyal customer base by allowing gamers to play some of their best games for free online. Zappos’ customer service is famous for providing unsatisfied customers with gifts and free shoes to improve their customer experience. Creating a customer service culture is an essential part of their business strategy and the focus of CEO Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness.

However, for companies that don’t take off straight away, the money and time put into each product can lead to slower profit generation and financial instability. Furthermore, while customer satisfaction is an extremely important key to success, what customers ultimately want are state-of-the-art products. Though customer focused indicators can help you build a loyal client base, they do not necessarily solve a company’s innovation problems.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 8.44.55 PMCompanies should use a combination of both financial and customer focused indicators but there is a third key measurement which is essential to meeting your company’s goals.

Why employee centered indicators are so important

More and more companies are beginning to realize the importance of employee centered metrics. These types of indicators include: employee engagement, satisfaction and turnover.

Studies show that higher employee engagement is linked to higher customer satisfaction. When employees are happy at work and believe in their product/company this comes across to customers. Gallup revealed that companies with high employee engagement levels outperformed companies with lower levels of engagement in customer ratings by 10%.

Engaged employees take less sick days. A study by Workplace Research Foundation found that engaged employees take an average of 2.69 sick days annually compared to disengaged employees who take an average of 6.19 days. Most important, they’re motivated to achieve more. Gallup’s study also showed that engaged companies outperform others in productivity by 21% and profitability by 22%.

In fact, the treatment of employees is also an important factor for consumers. Deloittes 2015 study on millennials revealed that this generation considers the treatment of employees as the top characteristic of industry leaders, even over profit generation and impact on overall society. Furthermore, “While they believe the pursuit of profit is important, that pursuit needs to be accompanied by a sense of purpose, by efforts to create innovative products or services and, above all, by consideration of individuals as employees and members of society.”

Companies that have employee centered strategies are also more likely to foster innovative environments that promote autonomy and employee ownership. Atlassian became famous for its ‘Shipit days during which it actually encourages employees to drop their work and spend twenty-four hours on a creative project of their choice. Allowing employees the freedom to try out new ideas sounds like a great financial risk but it turned out to have great returns. The projects developed during these sessions have resulted in some of the company’s most profit generating products. Atlassian not only dominates Australia’s tech industry, it has also been named the best company to work for the past two years in a row.

More and more companies have started focusing on an employee first strategy:

In an interview with Inc. Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson disclosed that the company puts staff first, customers second and stakeholders third. He explains, “If the person who works at your company is not appreciated, they are not going to do things with a smile.” Southwest Airlines, the company consistently reaching the top 10 in employee and customer satisfaction surveys, follows the same ideology. The company does this by motivating employees through its company values and creating an environment that regularly recognizes employees for going above and beyond.

Southwest Airlines follows the same strategy. Founder Herb Kelleher posited, “A motivated employee treats the customer well. A customer is happy so they’ll keep coming back, which pleases the shareholder. It’s just the way it works… They can buy all the physical things. The things you can’t buy are dedication, devotion, loyalty—the feeling that you are participating in a crusade.”

A version of this post was first published on the blog.

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Performance Reviews – Don’t Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater

The demise of annual performance reviews is a hot topic today—thankfully so.

There is a groundswell throughout the HR community and ongoing discussion, even in the mainstream media, about companies throwing out annual performance reviews or performance reviews altogether. They have been recognized as outdated, ineffective, and not providing real value to the ultimate goal of improving organizational workforce performance.

By now, the rationale has been spelled out often. HR leaders and thoughtful professionals understand the problems—feedback is too late, highlights (and lowlights) are forgotten, categories, such as strengths and weaknesses, can be nebulous.

Performance Management—Formal Reviews Out, Technology In

It might seem a dichotomy that formal performance reviews are falling out of favor at the same time that “performance management” software and technology to help organizations improve workforce performance are gaining in popularity. Looking at the situation more closely, however, helps clarify the situation.

The concept of the two-way dialog is gaining favor and this is great news. Rather than a one-way conversation, with the supervisor relaying his or her ratings and observations gained over the course of several months or a year and the employee either agreeing or supplying a rebuttal, a balanced, two-way discussion leads to a more beneficial exercise.

A conversation will hopefully lead to more open and honest communication. Real value to the employee as well as the manager can be realized with a back-and-forth exchange that results in improvements to employee and manager performance. All for the better of the organization. There is still a lot more necessary to improve performance than merely having a conversation, for example, training, coaching, and leadership development, but these new conversations are an important step.

Where’s the incongruity?

The Valuable Pieces

Despite the above-mentioned benefits, it does not make sense to throw out all aspects of  performance reviews. Certainly, it does not mean that managers and employees only need to have conversations, however frequently, and think that will fix everything.


  • Conversations can be forgotten or misinterpreted by one or both parties. For this reason, key elements of conversations need to be recorded and agreed upon by the employee and the manager. This is especially true as the amount of time between interaction increases, even if it is more frequently than once or twice a year.
  • Without documentation of conversations, the opportunity for disagreement is high. This will result in frustration at best, but more likely continued or worsening behavior that never gets corrected. And, that can lead to an unfortunate and perhaps unnecessary separation down the road.
  • Without some formality or uniformity to the process, unfairness can easily seep into the overall review of any conversation. See the above point for the depressing consequences.

Technology: The Performance Enabler

While not a cure or substitute for the above potential pitfalls, technology is an enabler of the improved performance management process in this new era of valuable two-way conversations. Indeed, the larger the organization, the larger the teams and the more direct reports, the more important and valuable technology becomes. At a minimum, it becomes a point of record. But more importantly, it leads to a wealth of information and insight that leads to continued employee, team, and organizational improvement.

Through the insight gained through data available via improved performance management and with the ongoing conversations as a foundation, organizations will realize numerous benefits:

  • improved communication and alignment between employee and supervisor
  • goal alignment between employees and organization and between teams and organization
  • improved trust among employees and leadership
  • improved employee retention
  • better succession planning
  • identification of training needs and opportunities
  • better resource allocation
  • reduced legal exposure

Keep the Good

But none of this will be accomplished if an organization simply ends the practice of performance reviews. Embedded within that dreaded practice is a wealth of valuable information, which can be obtained in a not-so-disheartening manner.

While it may be time for you to throw out annual performance reviews, don’t throw out the valuable insight that you can still obtain through new, ongoing conversations.

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How GE Renews Performance Management: From Stack Ranking To Continuous Feedback

These days, not another day passes without an industry leader announcing that they are done with their inefficient performance review processes. AdobeAccenture and Deloitte all announced that they are changing their performance reviews by getting rid of rankings and implementing frequent performance conversations to enable employee growth. Amazon was chastised because of its suspicious people management practices.

It is of course great news that innovative companies are trailblazing performance management, but the biggest milestone is probably the announcement that General Electric (GE) is reinventing its performance management. Given that GE is the company that made stack ranking popular in the 80’s and 90’s, the commotion this move has created is no big surprise.

Having Thomas Edison as one of its founders, General Electric is an American multinational conglomerate that was founded in 1892. Currently, the company operates in several industries ranging from energy to finance and has 300,000 employees. GE’s size and constant success makes it an important game changer in many areas of business, including company culture and management. Its business practices even made it into popular culture: The industry giant was often mocked by the popular NBC (also owned by GE) show 30 Rock for its ruthless management practices.

Jack Welch, a 20-year chairman and CEO of GE, made stack ranking a widespread people management policy. During this time, several other companies followed suit and applied similar systems within their organizations. However, 30 years into its inception, GE admits that the old system is not functioning very well anymore. With the move, GE is dumping annual performance reviews and performance management system over the next couple of years. It will implement more frequent feedback via an app, and an experimental group will pilot feedback without any numerical rankings.

What does the research say?

In the late 80’s under Welch’s influence, stack ranking became popular as a solution to the performance management system that preceded it. Previously, managers would set goals for their employees, provide feedback about a six or twelve month performance and then rate employees on whether these goals are met or not. Managers would rate employees from 1 to 5.

As managers would have to justify any rating that indicates outstanding or bad performance, they soon developed a habit of giving most of their employees a 3, which indicates average performance. The “rank and yank”“stack ranking” or“vitality curve” was invented in hopes of measuring performance better. With the new system, managers were forced to define their top and bottom performers annually. Compensation decisions were tied to the ranking and bottom performers would have to be fired each year to improve performance.

Recently, HR professionals and influencers realized that this decades-old solution actually creates frustrated employees who dread performance review cycles. One of the main reasons is our human reaction to rankings. Research indicates that our brain is evolutionarily wired to have a “fight or flight” response to physical attacks. The response our brains give to criticism of any kind is the same type of neural response when we are confronted with physical danger.

The second problem of stack ranking is the way it reinforces the wrong kind of mindset about human growth. A research conducted by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, revealed that people generally have two different approaches to human learning. The “fixed mindset” argues that people have an inherent capacity that remains the same throughout one’s life. The “growth mindset”, on the other hand, holds that people can learn new abilities and advance the one they already have.

Although few people are usually inclined to either the growth or the fixed mindset, popular performance management practices usually favor the fixed mindset. In a performance management environment where bottom performers are shown the door without providing an opportunity to learn, it is unavoidable that fixed mindset prevails.

One major difference of new performance management systems applied by GE and other companies is their emphasis on the growth mindset. By setting up short-term goals and having ongoing growth conversations that are not tied to compensation, modern workplaces reinforce the notion that anybody can rise to the occasion and learn to be successful professionals.

Reasons for the change

Led by the current CEO Jeff Immelt, one reason for the change at GE is the rise of mobile technology. Head of Human Resources at GE, Susan Peters stated that millennials influenced this decision. Peters admits that millennials are born into the age of technology, and they are used to getting continuous feedback. With social media becoming widespread, millennials’ need for feedback has become a fact of life.

CEB, an advisory services company specialized in business practices, states that the average number of direct reports for a manager has increased from four to seven, which has decreased the time spent on coaching and guiding each employee. Add to that the fast pace of change that has caused many companies to realize that annually set goals might not remain the same for the whole year.

Raghu Krishnamorthy, who is in charge of GE’s Crotonville management training center for a long time, tells that the center is currently focused on aiding GE’s culture change. The center is currently working on helping executives transition from a competitive process to one that is identified by its emphasis on growth. The new mission of Crotonville is to “inspire connection and develop people” instead of the “command and control” system Jack Welch was known for.

The new system

The new performance management at GE involves a mobile app to enable frequent feedback. Called PD@GE, the app provides a platform to define near-term goals for employees. Managers are expected to have frequent conversations, named“touchpoints”, with their employees on how far they are from their goals. The app can provide summaries of these touchpoints when desired. The main aim of the app is to unlock constant improvement.

First adopted by the HR group at GE, the app is currently used by around 25,000 to 30,000 people. Peters estimates 80,000 people will be using the app by the end of this year. While GE hopes to implement the new system throughout the organization by the end of 2016, a small fraction of around 8,000 people are already testing an alternative system with no rankings.

Krishnamoorthy states that the most important element of the new system is continuous conversation, not the mobile app. Feedback conversations are constructed to be positive, and annual salary decisions are much less linked to performance with the new system.

How could that work for your company?

Although GE transforming its legacy performance management system is big news, there are still several challenges down the road. One of these is “shadow rankings”, which means that companies still rate their employees, but more in the background. Since it is difficult to justify compensation decisions with new methods, managers are still resorting to conducting rankings informally. One of the ways to overcome this is to invest in training managers on how to get used to the new system of performance management. Adobe’s Head of Human Resources Donna Morris states they made big investments in training their leaders during their transition, which apparently yielded .

Apart from conglomerates developing their own tools and systems for performance management, there are also an impressive amount of companies opting for external solutions such as Impraise. Impraise is a mobile-first platform that enables continuous feedback conversations between coworkers and managers. Managers can initiate 360-degree review cycles to gain better insights into how well their teams are doing. Employees can also request feedback from their peers or managers to take ownership of their own development.

Whether or not the new system will turn into a success story at GE remains unknown, but at least the conversation around performance management is going in the right direction. People management practices are being criticized and enabling growth in the workplace is becoming a hot topic. The conversation around new and old practices in performance management going is vital to establishing the right mindset for new methods, so that they do not become a mere replacement for old systems.

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How To Give Constructive Feedback Your People Want To Hear

What is the most constructive way to give feedback? You praise, you criticise or you do both? Some say that the Americans prefer the feedback ‘sandwich’. It means 3-step feedback. You start with positive comments, then add one or two things that can be done better, and finish with more positive points. However, some leadership training experts advise that one should step away from this model. Their argument: couching criticism with positive comments can dilute the message and sound insincere.

So, how do you know that your feedback is constructive and has an impact? In an increasingly culturally diverse workplace, there is no simple formula for all feedback. Nevertheless, you can learn to give feedback constructively by starting with the right question. First ask yourself WHY instead of how.

Why do you want to give feedback? You want to help your colleague to work better, right? Keep a positive attitude and start any performance review conversation with it.

“Let’s look into how we can improve our performance in the next quarter.”

When you talk to people about WHY, your message goes to the part of the brain which controls feelings and drives behaviors. When people empathise with your motivation, they are more likely to accept your feedback and work on it.

Now, let’s move on to HOW

You have set up a positive mindset about giving meaningful feedback. Now you should know about the right time and space, and adopt the right behaviors to give feedback constructively.

The Right Time

It is better to give feedback sooner than later. How soon depends on the specific situation. When a teammate does a good job, you should pay her or him a compliment as soon as possible. Whenever other people are affected by a certain behavior, try to address the issues in time so further damage can be avoided. If strong emotion is involved, it is wise to wait till the heat has gone before giving any comments. Choose the right time for your feedback. Impraise’s mobile app can help you share feedback right when it matters the most.

The Right Space

Most people like to receive compliments in public. An Oscar is not really as good if you receive it in your front room instead of before an audience including your respectable peers, your family and friends. A public recognition of one’s achievement feeds their needs for respect and boosts their self-esteem, the second highest level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When a colleague achieves exceptional sales record, give your compliment in front of the whole sales team. It not only shows your appreciation of his or her contributions but also encourages others to perform better.

Regarding more critical feedback, the golden rule is to do it in private. No one wants to receive negative feedback in front of others. Find an empty conference room or go to the lunch room if it is vacant. Make sure that you choose a place where your colleague and you can relax and feel comfortable. If you want to give your feedback in a meeting room, make sure it is well lit and the temperature is not too hot or cold. Sit close to your colleague so you can have eye contact and do not have to shout. You want to make it like a casual conversation rather than a formal meeting. Alternatively you can take your teammate out for a walk, talk over a coffee and make it a natural and relaxing chat. You want to avoid extra pressure that might block your colleague from receiving the feedback well and ultimately accepting it. Allow enough time and space to discuss unclear points until you reach a common ground of understanding.

The Right Behaviors

Be Specific

Think about the specific behaviors that are important for your team to do an amazing job. For example, having integrity and paying attention to details are essential for a good auditor. An excellent communication skill and the ability to work under pressure are otherwise necessary for those who work in a PR agency. Considering your team, you need to define the ideal behaviors and communicate them up front to your people. Everyone should be aware of those and continuously receive personal feedback on them. Impraise makes this a simple and natural process.

If you notice room for improvement, share it with your colleague in break-down points. Say you receive a complaint from a client. Your colleague failed to help the client to fix a technical problem within the time requested by the client. Besides, he didn’t get back to the client afterwards with an explanation. You don’t just tell your colleague that the client is not happy with his service. Instead, break it down into behaviors that would create a good customer service experience: 1. Sticking to a client’s requirements. 2. Keeping good communication with a client: during and after providing a service. 3. Having a strong drive to exceed a client’s expectations. 4. Reaching out for help if appropriate and if necessary. Your feedback will help guide him away from inappropriate behaviors so that he can deliver a better experience to a client the next time.

Offer Suggestions For Improvement

Give some practical examples about how to do things better. Practical examples are easy to remember so your colleague is more likely to take up your suggestions. Provide a sense of direction. For example, a colleague achieved a higher sales record in the last quarter. You are giving feedback to him or her. Besides a compliment on a good job, you can offer him or her a direction to move forward, like to get involved in training new sales staff.

Listen Actively

Always listen to what others have to say. Why do they choose design A instead of design B? Is it because of their personal preference? Do they know certain scientific research backing up option A? or Do more tested users give positive feedback on A than B? Ask clarifying questions and encourage them to give suggestions. When you listen actively, you know more about their field of interests and discover development solutions. The knowledge will help your feedback be more constructive.

Follow Up

Do not just throw an icy bucket of your opinions at someone and leave them with it. You need to follow up. Come back to the person after a week or a month, depending on the nature of the matter. After you suggest your accounting team to use a new tool to keep track of small expenses, check back with them after a month. Ask if they are comfortable with changing their way. You can sit down with them to see if the new tool saves them more time and helps them keep a more accurate report. Ask for their feedback.

The Final Word: Practice

It takes practice to give constructive feedback. People hold various perspectives, and respond to feedback in different ways. Giving feedback to a dominant character and to a timid person on a similar matter can be two different experiences. Practice gives you the flexibility and confidence in delivering feedback in the most constructive way. Practice giving feedback to your colleague today with

  • A mindset starting with WHY
  • Appropriate choice of TIME & SPACE
  • The right BEHAVIORS

Do you find these tips helpful? Are you struggling with a dilemma and you are not sure if your feedback would help? We would love to hear your stories.

Photo credit: Bigstock

Performance Management: Going Beyond the Appraisal

Performance and performance management – it’s something every organization, be it a Fortune 500 or a non-profit or a public sector institution talks about. Odds are they talk about it a lot and despite all that talk it is still likely a topic that causes managers and leaders to want to pull out their hair and one that stirs feelings in employees ranging from dread to fear to mental eye-rolling. Some organizations tackle the challenging of reviewing and communicating performance via three-point scales or five-point or twenty-seven point; others embrace 360 degree reviews; some organizations have highly calibrated processes whereas others have “Oh, it’s that time of year again” approaches; then there are the organizations dropping the idea of formal performance appraisals in the goal of creating more dialogue and something better. The point: assessing, measuring and managing performance is complex and ever-evolving; but there are some core principles that regardless of where an organization falls on the spectrum of processes and approaches that hold true.

Performance Happens Every Day

Employees come to work every day, some do solid work and get done what they need to. Others may perform more marginally and there will inevitably be a contingent that builds a reputation for being “rockstars” or “role models” or “ninjas.” Every organization regardless of industry has employees doing good work and great work and work that falls somewhere on either side of that; they’re doing that work every day and every day serves as an opportunity to recognize the good and the bad, to praise and to coach. So whether your current system formally appraises employees annually or in some other fashion, remember that the role of leaders and managers goes beyond “addressing performance” but rests in keeping an ongoing “performance dialogue” going.

Great Performance Requires Clear Communication

As operational demands change and organizational strategies shift – it is important to make sure that the impact on performance expectations are made clear. From setting annual goals to clearly articulating key responsibilities to holding regular touchpoint and one-on-ones, the opportunity to ensure employees understand what is expected from them, how they are being measured, and the impact of those measurements on them, their team, and organization become more and more important. In making the leap from “meets expectations” to “exceeds expectations” there is as much onus of responsibility on the manager to be clear on what is required and expected – regularly, not just during an overly stuffy sit down once a year – as there is on the employee to meet those requirements and expectations (or to speak up when they are facing a hurdle in doing so). In this sense, communications becomes the two-way dialogue it is intended to be; leadership can better understand the nuanced challenges impacting employees across the organization, and employees understand how to rise to the level of “rockstar” or the like. Or as Jim Collins puts it in his book Good to Great, there is a difference between managing and leading, between telling and communicating: 

“The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake. The best people don’t need to be managed. Guided, taught, led–yes.”

High Performing Organizations Make Performance Investments

Recognizing that performance happens every day and that superior performance isn’t just a matter of an employee doing their job but also understanding what drives and defines performance in the organization are significant factors in facilitating performance and creating a performance culture, but then the question becomes, “what next?” In some organizations that may be intricate performance measurements layered over top of tools and forms and processes, in others it may be a matter of continuing the conversations that is already hopefully taking place – regardless, the acts of assessing, measuring, and managing performance should lead to a larger conversation about talent; where an organization is strong, where it has opportunities, and where it has the ability to create and mold talent on the cusp – this process as its most basic can look at employees as fitting into one of four categories (further illustrated in the tool/diagram below):

Invest – employees who are setting the paradigm, driving operational successes, impacting and informing strategy, those that see expectations and blow right on past them; these employees have a high level of actualized contribution to the organization with minimal to no distractionary consequence (negative impacts, distractions, derailments, etc.) to their colleagues, peers, projects, or teams. Dollars spent here, not just on salary and incentives but also on training, development, and talent fostering are almost guaranteed to create a strong return on investment for the organization and create stronger engagement with your best employees.

Assess – employees who make strong contributions but perhaps not always consistently, they may need help in seeing the big picture or understanding the impact of their work and contributions (let alone those of their colleagues and peers); these employees have a high level of actualized contribution to the organization with a middling to high level distractionary consequence to their colleagues, peers, projects, or teams. Dollars spent here are an investment in “what if,” this group of employees has the potential to become high performers but requires strong leaders, solid coaching, and often times greater organizational effort in order to achieve their best.

Push – employees who are middling or haven’t quite yet found their groove, they may show glimpses of high potentiality, or they may simply show up every day and do their job based on their understanding of the expectations upon them; these employees have a low to middling level of actualized contribution to the organization with a low to middling level distractionary consequence to their colleagues, peers, projects, or teams. Dollars spent here can be viewed as equal parts investment and analysis – the idea being to tap the full potential in this group or determine if perhaps this isn’t the right role or organization for them at this point in their career.

Exit – employees who aren’t meeting expectations, haven’t embraced the organizational culture, or more simply put are a bad fit for any number of reasons; these employees have a low level of actualized contribution to the organization with a high level distractionary consequence to their colleagues, peers, projects, or teams. Time rather than dollars should be spent here in helping this group understand their next steps, how to better utilize their unique set of KSAs with a future employer, and to prepare themselves to find the right role in the right organization that best meets their personal career value proposition.


It’s Time To Ditch Annual Reviews

Most employees, managers and HR professionals have a strong opinion about the annual performance review. Overwhelmingly it seems that most of us would prefer that they go away. Yet, many employers still rely on this out-dated and often inaccurate tool to measure work performance.

The annual review is time consuming and rarely ends up being the performance management tool it is supposed to be. Here are some reasons why it is time to ditch the annual review and ideas for replacing it.

Inaccurate Reviews

I one time got a call from a manager who was ready to fire an employee on the spot. He claimed that the employee regularly underperformed, was often late and was disrespectful toward coworkers. I did what most HR people would do and grabbed the employee’s file in order to look through the history of warnings and reviews. There were no warnings and all the reviews told the story of an excellent employee who did not have any problems. When I questioned the manager, he said, “Well, I didn’t want to give the employee a negative review because that might have made him ineligible for an increase.”

This story demonstrates a big risk with the review process. Whether it is concern about affecting an employee’s pay increase or fear of having to tell an employee they have many areas that need improvement, managers often struggle with using the annual review as a performance management tool. There is also a problem with inconsistencies between managers and even with reviews for employees working under the same person. Even if a manager was not trying to be discriminatory, inconsistencies may appear to be so.

The Paperwork Problem

Managing annual reviews can be a paperwork nightmare for HR. There are the notices to managers about reviews due, reminders as the deadline approaches, sending back reviews that are not quite up to snuff, sending out more reminders for late reviews and finally getting the signed review back to store in the employee’s file for all eternity. Even if your review system is mostly electronic, there is still quite a bit of paperwork flying around either virtually or in print.

Reviews also try to capture 12 months worth of work in a single document. When work and projects do not always run a 12-month course, the period covered by a review seems arbitrary. Employees would be better served with regular feedback or perhaps even a critique at the conclusion of a big project.

Performance Management As An Ongoing Process

When we make the decision to ditch the annual review, we can put our energy into making performance management an ongoing process. For HR, this means training managers on how to give effective feedback and how to document performance throughout the year rather than on an annual basis. Encourage managers to have one-on-one meetings with employees on a regular basis to help facilitate on ongoing approach to performance management.

The best time to give someone feedback is in the moment. If you have an employee who goes above and beyond with a customer, let them know that day that they have done a good job, and then note it in their file. If an employee’s communication with coworkers could use some improvement, coach them as soon as you learn about the issue and then follow up regularly.

Work performance is not a static thing that should be limited to an annual snapshot. Focusing on performance management as an ongoing process encourages managers to make a regular habit of encouraging and coaching their employees.

Image: bigstock

5 Steps to Stellar Year-End Reviews

It’s mid-year review time and if you’re like many people, you haven’t thought about goals in 5.5 months. Not a great moment for manager or team member, but it’s a common one. Mid-year reviews are a painful reminder of how far apart work and goals can drift and how little traditional performance management helps people perform at their best. Just 7% of employees understand their goals and what they need to do to achieve them. The disconnect creates a lot of anxiety: “How could that have happened?” “Why wasn’t I just more disciplined?” and “How will I make up the lost time?”

Then when you do look at the goals, frustration: “This has nothing to do with what our team has been focused on the last 3 months.” “Why didn’t we revise these when we changed strategy?” “How can I possible be measured on these things when they don’t matter anymore?!” and “What’s the point of this whole process — it’s so far removed from our real work.”

While it’s tempting to forget the goals, that thought is quickly followed by a reminder message from HR that you need to go through the motions by end of the month. Then there is the self-realization that it’s more fulfilling to aspire to something larger and that your performance and compensation are fundamentally intertwined.

The performance process doesn’t support great performance.

We live in an always-on world, but the typical approach to goals is “mostly off”. Chances are your company’s performance approach provides you little value and plays little or no role in how you manage. According to Deloitte, only 8% of companies believe their process is high value. Process and people fail when:

  • Your business changes faster than your goals.
  • Operational or business goals are divorced from individual goals and you focus on the former at the expense of the latter.
  • Your corporate performance system is for goal data entry — enter once, forget promptly.
  • You’re not as effective as you could be centering your week and your team on goal achievement so the day to day rush overwhelms bigger intentions.
  • You don’t have goals and no metrics for success exist.

Don’t leave your performance to chance (or somebody else)

Don’t leave your performance to chance (or somebody else).

Instead of setting and forgetting goals or relying on out-dated process, take control of your own career trajectory and support your team’s. Use a continuous performance process that includes setting smart objectives and empowering you and your team to achieve them. These five steps will help you be more successful and get more recognition:

1. Recognize the power of goals.
Goals are a pre-requisite to success. A goal is how you define what you’re striving for and what success looks like. They are powerful drivers of personal growth, which accelerate success over time. Think of it this way: You and your goals must be present to win. In fact, people with goals out-earn people without them by more than 10x over 10 years according to a Harvard study.

2. Understand the ROI of demonstrating achievement.
In addition to greater focus on achievement, people with goals earn more because they define then demonstrate success. It’s impossible to achieve a goal you’ve forgotten and difficult to win a debate about what “success” is after the fact. Make it easy for your boss to advocate for you by providing continuous performance facts about progress on agreed-upon goals. Facts make a huge difference in employee ranking and the pay and promotion pipeline – but very few managers are really disciplined about cataloguing them for their direct reports.

3. Design goals into your work week.
Change your process – not the company’s — to make goals a true part of your work and week. Goal-driven teams use Workboard to take ownership of their performance. Workboard supplements HR systems used to centrally manage company-wide goal setting with a “local” app to enable goal achievement. It brings business and individual goals together with tools to manage real-time priorities, actions and tasks on Web and mobile. Goals and work are always connected, wherever you or your team are.

4. Refresh goals when they’re stale.
If a goal is no longer worth pursuing, change it! It’s a huge disservice to you, your team and the company to be assessed against an irrelevant goal. You can only refresh goals when you realize there’s a gap; they need to be integrated into your weekly work to see when execution priorities and goals are misaligned then determine whether the goal or execution needs to change. By resetting and re-communicating goals upline and downline when change is necessary, you get the motivational and professional benefits.

5. Measure success more frequently.
There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of achievement, so set metrics and milestones in smaller increments to enjoy that satisfaction more often. If you’re a manager, driving toward goals will become habit much more quickly when they’re present in your work and you’re getting frequent satisfaction from progress. It’s just as powerful to recognize your team member’s progress and achievements every week – it’s a natural propellant. 83% of employees say recognition is more rewarding than cash!

You don’t go to work to fail, so get serious about success.

Define goals, objectives and metrics for success then bring them into focus in the work you do every week. You’ll enjoy more success, satisfaction and alignment, and you’ll enjoy the year-end review moment even more.

Want more info on setting inspiring goals and leading your team to great achievement? Check out this video and companion infographic.



4 Steps to Drive Performance Management

Performance management can be tricky; company leadership has to find the right balance between what works for the organization and what helps guide employees to improve performance. Currently, 88% of companies have a performance management strategy, but 71% agree their performance management system needs improvement. Only 17% of organizations are satisfied with their current performance management? That’s a pretty disheartening number. Here are 4 steps to drive performance management in your organization:

1.     Raise Individual Performance

Even with the evolution of performance reviews, 26% of companies see heavy challenges in changing their current ideology behind the performance appraisal from purely evaluative to developmental. Allowing employees to see the input of the work they’re doing now and the value of their future work increases employee involvement during performance reviews.

Gallup estimates that at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement is due to poor management skills from their supervisors. So, if you dedicate some training to helping managers develop their leadership skills early on, your employee engagement will increase, and subsequently, so will your employee performance.

2.     Link Performance To Company Goals

Helping employees see the connection between their individual responsibilities and the company’s objectives isn’t only a key driver of performance. When managers link the work of employees to company goals, they also drive organizational success. Joel Trammell (@TheAmericanCEO), CEO of Khorus, said:

“Leaders are judged on ‘performance,’ meaning their ability to promote positive results for their organization. One way to promote performance is to connect a big-picture strategy with individual tasks that employees can carry out on a regular basis. If the management team fails to do this, then the organization will become highly inefficient. Each individual or department will begin to act according to its own instincts, detached from the direction the executive is trying to establish.”

3.     Train Managers To Coach Their Teams

We’ve all had the performance appraisal that told us everything we did right. Fluff employee feathers enough, however, and when they make mistakes on the job, they will question their performance as a whole. This is not how managers should monitor or regulate employee performance.

Of course, even the best performance management system can’t help a poor manager effectively guide their team. In this sense, it’s not changing or removing the performance management system that’s in place that will help the team. Unfortunately, there are occasions when there just needs to be a change in management to better the performance management system.

One of the biggest challenges in performance management is training supervisors in the art of performance management. Developing managers to become successful performance coaches proves to be a top issue for 64% of companies.

4.     Ask Good Questions

You can’t expect to understand your employees enough to drive performance if you don’t ask the right questions from the beginning. Precise questions can help managers analyze cultural and employee missteps so they can solve them in the future. When you begin to change your performance management system, ask yourself these questions:

      Why do employees stay with or leave the company?

      Are there firm retention plans to keep HiPo talent?

      Is there a solid succession plan ready?

      Are managers ready to coach their employees?

If you ask questions that give you true insight into the performance workings of your organization, you’ll find ways to help managers become better performance coaches. The balance between organizational and individual goals relies on finding the link between the two, as well as the training managers to help employees see this. So, if you train your managers to be better coaches, ask the right workforce questions, link company objectives with employee goals, you’ll see a rise in individual employee performance and reinvent your performance management system.

Managing Underperformers

Underperformers can be some of the most frustrating employees. At some point in the employment relationship, you saw potential in the underperformer. That’s probably a big reason why you hired them. But for some reason they are no longer meeting your expectations. You have already invested a lot in this employee, so firing is not always the best solution. Turning to performance management can sometimes help turn a problem employee around. Here are some tips for managing your underperformers into being good employees.

Meet with the Employee

As soon as you notice a problem, address it. One of the worst ways to manage an underperformer is to ignore their performance issues. After a while, the performance issues become habit, and it is harder to justify suddenly firing an employee for an issue they have gotten away with for years without consequence.

Plan to meet with the employee in a private place that will be free of interruption. Gather your thoughts before the meeting, and be prepared to provide specific examples of the issues. For example, do not just say, “You are bad with customers.” Instead, tell the employee about a specific time their customer service skills were lacking, such as, “Earlier today a customer asked for help finding an item, and you told her you were too busy to help her find it.”

Set Clear Goals

After you explain the specific issues, discuss your expectations for improvement and how quickly you expect to see improvement. Document your conversation with the employee as well as the expectations for improvement and goals. In the case of the employee with bad customer service skills, the expectation would be that they make assisting customers top priority, and they would need to show improvement as soon as they are back on the floor interacting with customers. Most performance problems should have the expectation that change happens as soon as the employee leaves your office.

The exception to an immediate change in behavior would be an issue that requires some form of training in order for improvement to happen. For example, if you have an employee who is struggling with a computer system, the expectation may be that they attend a class for additional training. Your goals for the employee should specify the timeframe for completing the class.

Be Aware of Possible Causes of Performance Problems

Sometimes an issue may go beyond setting goals and communicating expectations. One time I got a call from a frustrated retail manager who had an employee who was regularly late to work despite repeated counseling and warnings. When I met with the employee and manager, the employee admitted that she was recently diagnosed with ADD, which was contributing to her inability to get to work on time. The employee stating that she had a disability was enough to trigger the interactive process.

Through the interactive process, we were able to determine that giving the employee a flexible start time would help her with the tardiness issue. If you ever find yourself in this situation, the Job Accommodation Network is an excellent resource on how to accommodate a variety of disabilities in the workplace.

Follow Up

Do not forget to follow up with the employee after the meeting to see if they are improving. This may mean observing an employee, closely monitoring an employee’s attendance and meeting with the employee to discuss how they are doing. If the problems persist, then you may want to proceed with a written warning; however, if an employee is doing well, give them positive feedback to reinforce the good behavior. Document your follow up.

About the Author

Stephanie Hammerwold, PHR, is the owner of Hammerwold & Pershing Consulting and specializes in small business HR support. Stephanie is a regular contributor at Blogging4Jobs and The HR Gazette, and she gives presentations on a variety of job search and workplace topics. She specializes in training, employee relations, women’s issues and writing employment policy. Connect with Stephanie on Twitter.

Three Steps To Better Staff Development

Staff development is vital to a healthy business. Yet the way we approach it is still rooted in the models of fifty years ago. Despite a world of rapid change we expect objectives to be relevant for a year, when many will be out of date within months. Millenials used to swift, relevant feedback from a communications-obsessed world instead find appraisals occasional and slow. Few organizations take account of the growing number of emergent cross-department teams.

While every modern organization has a performance management system to support staff development, only 14% are happy with those systems.

How can we do better?

Focus on relationships

The old world was built on hierarchies. The new one, filled with social media, contingent workers and flattened organizational structures, is built on relationships. Building good relationships, and encouraging staff to do so, is therefore a vital part of development.

Managers should work on knowing and understanding those working for them, not just their peers. Get out into the workplace. Listen to the concerns of the people you manage. Spread your values and aims directly through these conversations – in the era of Twitter, when even the most famous are a key tap away, people expect this informal communication, and will take more away from it.

Work together with employees on challenges to show how they can tackle them, and to show that you understand their work. Take the opportunity to provide instant feedback.

But make sure that these exercises aren’t about showing yourself off. Humility inspires loyalty and improves teamwork, so apply it yourself in conversations and make sure that it appears in your leadership training program – it will lead to better relationships all around.

Keep things simple

The world is increasingly complex and we are overwhelmed with choices. This applies in work as well as beyond it. Which task to tackle first? Which email to answer next? What questions to raise in the short time available for a meeting?

You can make things simpler. Have a clear set of values that are simple and enduring, timeless goals that will remain relevant in a changing market. Build development plans around them, and remind staff that, when in doubt, they can always turn back to those values. Rather than cluttering everyone’s thinking with a dozen different directives, give everyone a direction and trust them to steer the right path in their own work.

Performance manage your performance management

With your values and purpose firmly in place, evaluate your performance management system to see how well it achieves those goals. Too many companies keep using the same old approach they always have, just adding another objective here and there, tweaking rather than fixing, adding to the complexity you’re now trying to avoid.

Compare every part of the performance management system with the values you are building staff development around. Does each part support those goals? Do any contradict them?

Don’t just trust to instincts – that’s how these systems got to be such a mess. Get feedback from staff on how they use the system and what difference it makes for them. Collect data on actual behavior. Has customer feedback improved since you added those objectives about better telephone manners, or has it just become another box to tick?

A good system is about more than just looking at individuals; it should help you to identify patterns. Is unnoticed and unintentional gender bias holding your female employees back? Are you failing to develop middle managers for promotion? Turn your performance management system into a way to develop your organization.

Staff development has fallen behind the times, tinkered with rather than fully reformed. Take the bull by the horns and see your organization improve.

photo credit: kevinspencer via photopin cc

#TChat Preview: People, Performance And Building Legendary Teams

The TalentCulture #TChat Show is back live on Wednesday, September 3, 2014, from 7-8 pm ET (4-5 pm PT). The #TChat radio portion runs the first 30 minutes from 7-7:30 pm ET, followed by the #TChat Twitter chat from 7:30-8 pm ET.

Last week we talked about why HR pros need to support each other and help each other thrive, and this week we’re going to talk about people, performance and building legendary teams.

In two months’ time, we’ll be cheering for our favorite players and teams during the baseball Fall Classic, these will be legendary teams that have been performance focused to drive winning outcomes.

In business, the same is true. Focusing on people and their performance is what drives better outcomes for business.

When your people win, they feel more capable and confident, translating into happy people. They are then more likely to be candid in communicating and advancing the business and driving innovation.

Businesses have three primary customers, but leading companies always focus on their employee-customer first. Allowing employees to reach their potential as they drive results for any and all shareholders, and of course, their paying customers.

Join TalentCulture #TChat Shows co-creators and co-hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman as we learn more about people, performance and building legendary teams with this week’s guest: Patrick Antrim, an author, speaker, entrepreneur, leadership coach and CEO. Patrick is also a pro baseball mentor and a former New York Yankee, and his leadership & coaching firm,, is focused on winning in life and business.

Sneak Peak


We hope you’ll join the #TChat conversation this week and share your questions, opinions and ideas with our guests and the TalentCulture Community.

#TChat Events: People, Performance And Building Legendary Teams

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio — Wed, September 3 — 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show with our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, as they talk with our guests 

Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter Chat — Wed, September 3 — 7:30 pm ET / 4:30 pm PT Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and our guests will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: What does it mean to have a “legendary team” in the world of work? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q2: Who are the most important business “customers” today and why? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q3: What three things should business leadership do to improve their people potential? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, and in our new TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!!

photo credit: 드림포유 via photopin cc

How To Skip The Negative Feedback “Sandwich”

I’ve never fully understood the logic behind the “sandwich” method of delivering performance feedback. (I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept: Open a discussion on a positive note, then insert a negative piece of news, followed by another positive.) We like to think that we’re softening the blow by offering several of bits of positive feedback around a central negative message. However, we’re doing no such thing.

Actually, this approach may be a disservice to both categories of information — each of which plays a unique and highly valuable role in shaping performance. Overall, we need to pay close attention to the “cascade” of emotions and behavior that we initiate when delivering feedback, but also be careful to retain the value of the message.

Performance Feedback: Open Dialogue

Processing negative performance feedback is quite challenging for most of us — even though on a very basic level, we realize that accepting “where to improve” is critical to our careers. While positive feedback serves to motivate and energize our work lives (we all need this on a regular basis), the “negatives” can also provide useful information about where we should direct our attention. To remain competitive, we certainly require both categories of information — and I am not debating the value of either. Rather, I’d like to open a discussion about how negative information can be presented and approached, to afford the most progress possible.

When considering negative feedback, we must acknowledge core human characteristics; including self-efficacy (the belief that individuals can actually impact their situation) and goal orientation (some individuals focus on learning, others focus on demonstrating competence, and others focus upon avoiding negative judgement). To properly deliver negative feedback, we should carefully consider and frame the delivery, so potential damage to an individual’s psyche is minimized and progress is emphasized.

Developing A Constructive Approach

There’s truly an art to presenting information about performance deficits of any kind. When managers practice the sandwich method, I fear that once the “meat” of the sandwich is delivered — the “downside” of performance — we really don’t remember much of anything that follows. (Attempting to “hide” the information doesn’t address the issues.) We can certainly do a better job of moving the conversation to more neutral ground, where performance improvement can follow. But how? Here are some ideas:

3 Behavioral Considerations

1) How humans are “wired” to perceive bad news. We are likely predisposed to pay more attention to negative information, possibly a leftover evolutionary survival mechanism. As a result, we’re likely to become hyper-focused on the negatives. This clouds our “lens.”
2) We sorely need the positives. We should all be allowed to absorb what we are doing well at work. That’s not possible when information about our successes is delivered in conjunction with information about shortcomings.
3) We “digest” slowly. It takes time to process negative information properly. Initially, when you hear information you might not not want to hear, negative thoughts can spiral, leading to responses such as panic and denial. There are stages in this process that cannot be skipped.

5 Ways To Avoid “The Sandwich”

1) Build resiliency. Performance management should never be a once a year, “live or die” event. Ultimately, it’s a continuous process. Provide positive feedback concerning small successes along the way to provide balance. This helps difficult information become easier to absorb.
2) Address self-efficacy. Some individuals have the tendency to believe they cannot impact their performance or build a needed skill set. Explore this predisposition, to encourage a more hopeful perspective.
3) Focus on learning. Research has shown that in contrast to performance goals, learning goals can increase problem solving in relation to performance problems, possibly limiting the “sting” of negative feedback. Setting the tone to “learn from failure” can prove more effective in motivating and directing behavior.
4) Never “drop a bomb.” It’s wise to address negative feedback when it is delivered. Allow enough time to help control anxiety, and at least begin to discuss a plan for improvement.
5) Support the digestion process. After sharing negative feedback, be sure to provide plenty of support. Be highly accessible as an employee works through the information and begins to take logical steps forward.

How do you present negative performance feedback? What are your “best practice” strategies? How have these strategies helped you develop others in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Kitsa Sakurako/Flickr

How To Skip The Negative Feedback "Sandwich"

I’ve never fully understood the logic behind the “sandwich” method of delivering performance feedback. (I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept: Open a discussion on a positive note, then insert a negative piece of news, followed by another positive.) We like to think that we’re softening the blow by offering several of bits of positive feedback around a central negative message. However, we’re doing no such thing.

Actually, this approach may be a disservice to both categories of information — each of which plays a unique and highly valuable role in shaping performance. Overall, we need to pay close attention to the “cascade” of emotions and behavior that we initiate when delivering feedback, but also be careful to retain the value of the message.

Performance Feedback: Open Dialogue

Processing negative performance feedback is quite challenging for most of us — even though on a very basic level, we realize that accepting “where to improve” is critical to our careers. While positive feedback serves to motivate and energize our work lives (we all need this on a regular basis), the “negatives” can also provide useful information about where we should direct our attention. To remain competitive, we certainly require both categories of information — and I am not debating the value of either. Rather, I’d like to open a discussion about how negative information can be presented and approached, to afford the most progress possible.

When considering negative feedback, we must acknowledge core human characteristics; including self-efficacy (the belief that individuals can actually impact their situation) and goal orientation (some individuals focus on learning, others focus on demonstrating competence, and others focus upon avoiding negative judgement). To properly deliver negative feedback, we should carefully consider and frame the delivery, so potential damage to an individual’s psyche is minimized and progress is emphasized.

Developing A Constructive Approach

There’s truly an art to presenting information about performance deficits of any kind. When managers practice the sandwich method, I fear that once the “meat” of the sandwich is delivered — the “downside” of performance — we really don’t remember much of anything that follows. (Attempting to “hide” the information doesn’t address the issues.) We can certainly do a better job of moving the conversation to more neutral ground, where performance improvement can follow. But how? Here are some ideas:

3 Behavioral Considerations

1) How humans are “wired” to perceive bad news. We are likely predisposed to pay more attention to negative information, possibly a leftover evolutionary survival mechanism. As a result, we’re likely to become hyper-focused on the negatives. This clouds our “lens.”
2) We sorely need the positives. We should all be allowed to absorb what we are doing well at work. That’s not possible when information about our successes is delivered in conjunction with information about shortcomings.
3) We “digest” slowly. It takes time to process negative information properly. Initially, when you hear information you might not not want to hear, negative thoughts can spiral, leading to responses such as panic and denial. There are stages in this process that cannot be skipped.

5 Ways To Avoid “The Sandwich”

1) Build resiliency. Performance management should never be a once a year, “live or die” event. Ultimately, it’s a continuous process. Provide positive feedback concerning small successes along the way to provide balance. This helps difficult information become easier to absorb.
2) Address self-efficacy. Some individuals have the tendency to believe they cannot impact their performance or build a needed skill set. Explore this predisposition, to encourage a more hopeful perspective.
3) Focus on learning. Research has shown that in contrast to performance goals, learning goals can increase problem solving in relation to performance problems, possibly limiting the “sting” of negative feedback. Setting the tone to “learn from failure” can prove more effective in motivating and directing behavior.
4) Never “drop a bomb.” It’s wise to address negative feedback when it is delivered. Allow enough time to help control anxiety, and at least begin to discuss a plan for improvement.
5) Support the digestion process. After sharing negative feedback, be sure to provide plenty of support. Be highly accessible as an employee works through the information and begins to take logical steps forward.

How do you present negative performance feedback? What are your “best practice” strategies? How have these strategies helped you develop others in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Kitsa Sakurako/Flickr

Brain Surgery, Corporate Culture & Leadership Consistency

My husband, the love of my life, had brain surgery a few weeks ago.

The anticipation, wondering if it was benign or cancerous (it was benign), praying that the neurosurgeon would not suddenly get the shakes, being in a hospital away from home and having no family nearby all added up to make this one of the most stressful experiences I’ve gone through in a long time.

And while we were in the hospital, waiting for Marco to be admitted, something occurred to me.  This was a great opportunity to observe corporate culture.

  • First, I would experience it from the perspective of a customer (instead of as an corporate leader or HR pro or business coach).
  • Second, we would be exposed to all levels of employees: janitors, nurse’s assistants, charge nurses (responsible for all the activities in their unit during their shift), staff supervisors and doctors.
  • Third, we were going to be there for three nights and four days, 24/7.

It was the perfect incubator for observation. Would the corporate culture the hospital spent thousands of dollars and many man hours to create, translate into a consistent experience?


In the ICU unit, we had a nurse named Megan who explained everything to us. I’m not overstating this. From how each medication was going to help Marco heal, to showing me how to unfold the sleeper chair and set the locks on it so it wouldn’t roll away and everything in between. She made sure we were as knowledgeable about Marco’s situation as she was.

When she met us, she wrote her name and hospital cell phone number on the wipe-board so we would know who she was and how to get in touch with her.

She apologized for having to wake Marco up every hour.

When I asked her where the soda machine was, she asked me what I wanted, left the room and brought a Diet Coke back to me so I wouldn’t have to pay.

She lovingly patted my husband’s head when he was in pain and couldn’t have more pain killers.

She made sure we both understood that he was not to blow his nose for a month.

She brought extra blankets and pillows without us asking for them.

Watching Megan attend to my husband left me feeling comforted, safe and reassured. That was because of two things: She knew what she was doing and she genuinely cared about my soul mate.

Toni & Company

Toni was our nurse when we transferred from ICU to a regular floor.

In her first introduction to us, she wrote her name on the wipe board while explaining this was not her regular floor and that she was on loan from another floor. She didn’t write down her phone number.

We were transferred right around lunch time and my husband was ravenous. I asked Toni when we could expect lunch and her answer was “soon.” 45 minutes later, lunch had not arrived. I went to find her at the nurse’s station and inquired again. Her answer was, “It’s probably up on the ICU floor.” Another 30 minutes later, I left my husband to find her again and asked when his lunch was going to arrive. She sighed at me, asked all the other nurses where my husband’s lunch was and finally said, “I suppose I’ll have to go to ICU to get his lunch.” More time passed before we finally got his cold lunch.

Megan from ICU told us that if Marco got thirsty, extremely thirsty, we needed to call the neurosurgeon right away; it meant danger. The thirst happened during Toni’s shift. We told her five times over three hours what was happening, we told her the neurosurgeon wanted to be paged immediately if it happened. Each time I went to look for her (she didn’t come to us) she said, “Oh. Okay. I’ll call the doctor.” Finally, after 3.5 hours I went to the ICU floor, looked for Megan and told her what was happening. She immediately broke all protocol by leaving her floor to see Marco. She asked him a bunch of questions, her face got red and she said she was going to page the doctor right then. Five minutes later a sheepish Toni walked into the room ready to take care of him. She also told us that the neurosurgeon yelled at her on the phone.

It wasn’t just Toni either. None of the nurses on that floor wrote down their hospital cell phone numbers. When Marco got extremely thirsty he asked for Gatorade and another nurse said, “I’m sorry we don’t have any on this floor.” We weren’t asking for champagne for Pete’s sake! I asked several people if I could have a sleeper chair and the consistent answer was an apathetic, “I’ll try.”

Being on the ICU floor was like being at a Ritz Carlton. The last three days of his stay was like being at a charge-by-the-hour motel.

Organizational Consistency

What happened?  It was the same hospital system.  Each floor had the same motivational employee bulletin boards which reinforced the “competency of the month.”  The processes for responding to patients was the same on each floor.  And I’m sure they were operating from the same employee handbook.

Shouldn’t every employee take patient care seriously?

Obviously, the answer is yes. Yet I think one of the hardest things for organizations to nail down is consistency across their enterprise.  What happened last week reinforced three things every leader needs to understand and do something about:

  • An organization can have all the technical tools in place to create an incredible customer experience, but that is no guarantee that employees will use them.
  • Leaders, Recruiters and HR pros need to continue to focus their recruiting efforts on the technical and behavioral skills candidates present. One without the other is disastrous.
  • Great tools and employees with phenomenal technical/behavioral skills are lost without front line supervisors who know how and have the courage to hold their employees accountable.

It’s a three legged stool. Or is it? What other factors should be considered in creating a consistent experience? Why do you think there was such a stark contrast between ICU and the regular floor?