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employees and great culture

Attention HR: What You Need to Focus on to Facilitate a Healthy Company Culture

In my last blog, I talked about how culture is no longer an HR thing, it is a business thing. This means that every owner, executive, and manager needs to make culture a priority and make decisions that support the desired culture. But this is not to say that HR doesn’t play a critical role in culture. HR owns many of the mechanisms that influence the employee experience, and is an important part of facilitating the company culture. So, what does HR need to do to ensure a healthy company culture? Here are my top suggestions:

Reinforce Your Message: Employees are barraged with mounds of information each day, causing them to lose focus on what’s important. HR is responsible for socializing employees to the company’s purpose and values so they understand how to act and interact within the organization. I recommend using a variety of mediums to achieve this—paintings or posters in the employee areas, screen savers, desk decorations, daily pre-shift cards–you get the picture. Younger employees, having grown up in the YouTube era, are more likely to respond to a short video so consider how to bring your purpose and values to life in a fun and entertaining way. When you put this information front and center, it becomes prominent in the minds of your employees. Capitalize on every opportunity to reinforce your company’s philosophy.

Support Managers in Delivering a Great Employee Experience: Whatever process you are currently using to recruit, select, train, communicate and manage performance, stop and consider how this can be made simpler and more efficient. Managers are often so bogged down running the operation that the thought of engaging in an extensive HR task makes them shudder. In turn, they usually end up avoiding the task or taking short cuts. These shortcuts often lead to long-term issues–bad hires, untrained employees, lack of communication, zero performance management. So instead of beating the current process into the managers, consider how this can be re-worked so you get to the desired result in a more efficient way. Use technology to streamline processes, reduce paperwork, and support collaboration with your managers.

Implement a Useful Performance Management Tool: Managing performance is undoubtedly important, but the traditional performance review is no longer effective. In fact, less than half of employees feel that performance reviews help their performance, and organizations feel the same. Clearly, something needs to change. Create a feedback process that is frequent, meaningful, and focused on the right things (i.e., company values). Provide a tool, whether digital or traditional, that forces managers to look at performance and have regular coaching conversations with their employees.  Then, provide training and coaching to managers on how to have informal and formal coaching conversations. When done right, consistent feedback delivered the right way is a manager’s most important leadership tool.

Ensure New Employees Start Out Right: Despite the evidence that orientation is a critical part of a new employee’s experience, many companies still have a boring, lifeless orientation that focuses on rules and regulations and neglects to excite and inspire. HR owns orientation, which means you set the tone for the new employee’s experience. So, stop with the drudgery of endless policies and generic videos—employees can read the handbook later. Deliver an experience that your new employees will remember. Focus on making orientation interesting and engaging around the brand, culture, and customers. Give employees the information that is most important to their success with the company and in such a way that will get them excited about being a part of the company. Remember that your work is not done with orientation. Work with managers to ensure they have a well thought out onboarding plan following orientation. Nothing is worse than handing over an employee who is pumped up about the company, only for that employee to get thrown into the deep end with no training or guidance.

Develop Leaders at All Levels: Leadership development is a crucial focus for the HR team and that focus should begin a lot sooner than most companies are prepared to do. Employees want and need to be developed, yet companies still neglect to provide informative and inspiring training and development programs at all levels of the organization. This is especially true of supervisors, who are often thrown into their new role without much coaching or training on how to lead employees. Invest in a comprehensive training program that starts developing leaders well before they have their first title.

Get Connected With the Operation: I see too many HR departments that are completely disconnected from the departments they serve. Get connected with the operation by having regular conversations with managers about their challenges and needs. Immerse yourself into the operation so you can provide feedback to managers and help coach performance at all levels. HR should be a partner and a coach for the Operations team, rather than an inconvenience. HR must provide value through keeping departments well informed about important changes that affect their employees, as well as providing guidance for managers on how to lead their teams. HR must also learn to analyze and present data around the company culture and employee engagement in such a way that it can be easily understood and then worked on by the front-line leaders.

Culture is created in all areas of an organization, from line level employees to the C-suite, however HR plays a fundamental role in making employee experience exceptional. Implement the type of employee experience that drives results and emotionally connects your people to your brand and business.

Come see me at ACE 2018 to learn more about how you can reprogram your employee experience to improve customer service, retention, and performance.

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Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author
Shane GreenA world-renowned keynote speaker, author of Culture Hacker, and television personality, Shane Green is a business magnate who consults global Fortune 500 leaders on customer experience and organizational culture. Shane draws upon his foundation at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and work in multiple industries to transform employee mindsets, habits, and skills to improve customer experiences and interactions. As the President & Founder of SGEi, Shane leads a team of professionals who inspire brands like the NBA, Westfield, Foot Locker, NetJets, Cisco Systems, and BMW to reprogram their employee experiences to create loyal customers and raving fans. Visit www.ShaneGreen.com to learn more.

About SGEi
At SGEi, we help executive teams develop a cultural transformation strategy and plan. We enable and coach your management team to own the continuous development of your company and people. And we design and deliver the training and communications necessary to shift mindsets and habits to meet the objectives of the company. Please connect@sgeinternational.com to learn more about how we can assist you with your transformation needs.

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Develop Employees

How Neglecting Employee Development Affects Your ROI

When businesses need to balance the books, they tend to cut corners in areas where they find it difficult to prove a return on investment. For this reason, employee development is often an aspect that gets hit – if not by outright budget cuts, then by general neglect and a lack of increased investment.

While a ROI on employee development programs can sometimes be difficult to prove, making increased investment tough to justify, it is an area where businesses get out what they put in. Below, we take a look at how neglecting your employee development programs can negatively impact your ROI.

The Value of Employee Development

The primary reason for investing in employee development programs for your employees is to provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to carry out their tasks. However, there are many ripple effects as well, ranging from improved productivity amongst those who are well-trained, to a competitive advantage over your rivals.

Of course, the value of employee development also extends to the customer as well. Generally speaking, organizations that invest in comprehensive development programs can expect to see a higher number of sales, as well as improvements to customer retention resulting from superior service.

When people think about staff development, they often view it as a synonym for training, but continuous coaching also has a role to play. Indeed, the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study found that formal and dynamic coaching processes improved sales reps’ quota attainment by as much as 10 percent.

Impact on Employee Retention

One of the biggest effects of neglecting the development of your employees comes in the form of staff turnover. There is a direct link between the amount of time and money you invest in development, and the likelihood of staff members choosing to leave your organization.

For example, businesses on the Fortune 100 “Best Companies to Work For” list provide almost double the number of training hours for full-time employees compared to companies that aren’t on the list. Those Fortune 100 organizations saw their ROI manifested in increased employee retention; they had 65 percent lower staff turnover than other businesses in the same sector.

In the CSO Insights 2015 Sales Compensation & Performance Management Study, it is revealed that turnover is five times higher among sales employees than the US national average. This is problematic, because a single salesperson leaving an organization has the capacity to disrupt that organization for up to a year.

Essentially, what this shows is that neglecting your development programs decreases your overall return on investment, while investing fully in development programs results in a much greater ROI.

The Consequences of Neglect

Crucially, however, it is not simply investment that wins the day. Continuous employee development is a vital part of talent management, meaning that development programs must be in a constant state of evolution, adapting as products, services, business practices and market conditions change.

Neglecting employee development by failing to update procedures, can result in outdated product knowledge, longer ramp up times and a competitive disadvantage when compared to other businesses in the same industry. Worse still, neglecting development by putting it off completely can result in poor morale and unskilled staff.

“Developing employees is the classic example of a management function that’s both highly valued and highly neglected,” says Victor Lipman, writing for Forbes. “For busy managers, generally with too much to do in too little time, it’s a very easy task to put off to some indefinite point in the future.”

Finally, it is crucial that investment in employee development extends beyond new hires, to experienced staff members. According to the 2017 CSO Insights Sales Manager Enablement Report, those who spend more than $5,000 per year on developing sales managers see increased quota and revenue attainment, and improved win rates. Nevertheless, sales managers are three times more likely to receive no training at all than salespeople are.

Important Takeaways

Staff development programs require significant investment, both in terms of time and money, as they must be high in quality and evolve along with business practices and market conditions. However, employee development is also an area where it can be difficult to prove a clear ROI, which is why it is often neglected.

While the most obvious form of neglect is the reduction or removal of development services, it can also manifest as a lack of increased investment when it is needed to meet business demands. Yet, high-quality coaching and training have clear benefits when it comes to improving win rates, as well as revenue and quota attainment.

The consequences of neglecting employee development are numerous and include lower levels of customer retention, out-dated product knowledge and poor quality customer service. Additionally, there is a direct correlation between training provisions and staff turnover, with neglect resulting in more employees leaving a company.

For these reasons, neglecting employee development has a detrimental impact on your ROI. The only way to generate the right level of return from your employee development program is to invest sufficiently, spend ample time on development practices and ensure development is continuous, rather than being targeted exclusively to new hires.

To learn more about employee retention, check out this fun infographic 6 Stats That Speak to Employee Retention

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About the Author  
Monika Götzmann is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global employee development and sales training firm. It helps organizations develop effective talent management strategies through talent ready assessment. She enjoys sharing her insight and thoughts on talent management strategies and best practices.

 

Execute Great Performance Management

Building Blocks of Great Performance Management: 3 Common Goals

Before we hit that reboot button on our performance management programs, let’s be absolutely clear on what performance management actually is, and why we should be doing it. As diverse as organizations are (and as diverse as their PM solutions should be) it is helpful to anchor our thinking within a basic framework. This framework represents the universal outcomes of strong performance programs— outcomes that I’ve come to recognize as indicators of great organizational performance. Think of these three interrelated goals as the essence of all performance programs and the basis from which each organization’s unique differences evolve. More simply, consider them the fundamental building blocks for the design project ahead of you.

In my experience, every high performing organization is ultimately using its performance management program to:

  1. Develop people’s skills and capabilities
  2. Reward all employees equitably
  3. Drive overall organizational performance

How these goals are prioritized or emphasized—what “good” looks like related to each goal—will differ from organization to organization. So too will the way each organization sets about making those goals a reality. But any high-performing organization will have some combination of these three ingredients in its performance management recipe.

Now let’s get familiar with our ingredients.

Goal #1: Develop People

It seems obvious that the development of employees should be a key outcome of any performance solution. After all, isn’t that what performance reviews and career discussions are all about? Well, yes, they should be. But as we discussed earlier, this objective is often the one that loses out. And things get especially muddled when we get hung up on our rewards and ratings processes. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

So let’s think about what a strong performance management solution that’s truly focused on developing people might look like. First, it should provide in-the-moment coaching, helping individuals to understand what went well and what could be enhanced the next time around. We all know this intuitively, but many of us are so used to stockpiling this feedback for the annual review that we don’t do this for our employees. Further, in-the-moment coaching provides suggestions to support their growth in an environment that allows them to absorb this feedback without feeling threatened or having something at risk (like their pay raise).

Next, individuals should have information at their disposal that provides insight into what is expected in their current role and any future roles to which they hope to advance. Resources for development might include mentors or coaches who are their advocates within the organization. There should also be self-assessment and training tools that would link to their development plan, providing ideas and resources to support their unique goals.

Goal #2: Reward Equitably

First, let’s be clear on what the word really means. ‘Equitable’ is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as ‘fair and impartial.’ It’s important to note that ‘equally’ and ‘equitably’ are not the same thing. For example, let’s say you worked for three weeks writing a strategy for a new business unit, and your peer had proofread it and tuned it up for you. I’d sure hope you’d want your peer to receive some recognition for her support, but I doubt you’d be happy if her reward and recognition was equal to yours. Instead, you’d want the recognition to be equitable, meaning each of you would get as much credit as you deserve.

When organizations speak of differentiated pay and rewards, they are looking for those rewards to be distributed in an equitable manner—fairly, unbiased, and consistent with the level of contribution or impact. It’s also important to note that rewarding equitably is not just about pay. We’re talking about total rewards: compensation, formal and informal recognition, benefits, promotions, project assignments, you name it.

It’s also important to remember that, from an employee’s perspective, equity is all about fairness. While extrinsic rewards are rarely a driver of human behavior, the belief that a system is unfair or biased is a significant driver for dissatisfaction. In other words, confidence that the system is equitable makes for happy and engaged employees. In order to achieve that sense of fairness, you need to get a clear view of what reward equitably means to your organization and how you can best achieve that goal in your unique environment.

Goal #3: Drive Organizational Performance

There’s been plenty of research that has demonstrated the correlation between an employee’s connectedness to the mission and vision of his or her company and the measurable performance of that organization. We now understand how important it is to assure that teams and individuals are fully aligned to the goals of the company.

I’m talking about individuals and teams feeling an emotional connection to the purpose of the organization. That means they understand the vision, they believe in it, they want to be a part of it, and they see how their work and roles contribute to the broader goal. Remember, however, that this connection must also translate into a framework that helps each employee make good decisions and focus on the right work, day in and day out.

Driving organizational performance might sound like it has more to do with the organization than the employee, but it doesn’t. Sure, organizations want their teams and employees aligned, doing the right work, and not wasting time on efforts that are off-strategy. But we have to recognize that, as humans, we also crave the feeling of being a part of something. Most people want to feel like the work they are doing is important and purposeful. This connectedness is a vital part of an employee’s career satisfaction and overall performance, and considering that career satisfaction is of value to both the organization and the individual, we must find ways to make sure it happens.

As I’ve said, each organization is unique, with differing levels of maturity, mixtures of employee demographics, and diverse cultures and values. You will—and should—interpret and emphasize the Three Common Goals in a way that makes the most sense for you and your strategic goals. But make sure you think long and hard about each as you’re building your new solution. Ignore these important building blocks at your peril!

For more information on how to accurately measure key business objectives like performance, check out Achievers’ eBook Four Places to Start Measuring What Matters.

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About the Author
Tamra Chandler
Tamra Chandler is a bona fide people maven. She’s spent the majority of her career thinking about people, researching how they’re motivated, and developing new and effective ways for organizations to achieve the ultimate win-win: inspired people driving inspiring performance. She’s also the CEO and co-founder of PeopleFirm, one of Washington State’s fastest-growing businesses and most successful women-owned firms. An award-winning leader in her field (she’s been recognized by Consulting Magazine twice as one of the top consultants in the U.S.), she is the author of How Performance Management is Killing Performance — and What to Do About It.

 

 

 

 

Improve Work Culture

Using HR Tech to Strengthen vs. Separate Your Company Culture

How many of us have ever been out to dinner and looked around to see that every person at the table is on a mobile device? Or observed a group of young people hanging out “together” while barely lifting their eyes from a screen? When we see technology being used this way (or are guilty of too much screen time ourselves) it can be easy to assume technology is pushing human beings apart.

And while internet addiction is a real thing (as one psychologist put it, we’re “carrying around a portable dopamine pump”) there is little evidence proving that technology as a whole is hurting our ability to communicate or empathize. In fact, when used correctly, it can improve these qualities.

In our personal lives, the proper use of technology can give us greater exposure to different perspectives and ways of expressing ourselves. In the workplace, HR tech can strengthen company culture by providing more avenues to engagement and socializing, while increasing productivity.

Here are five ways you can use HR technology to strengthen your company’s culture:

  1. Make Communication Comfortable (and Fun)

Many HR tech platforms include social feeds that allow employees to chat as a group, in smaller channels, or one-on-one. These channels are constantly adding fun features like emojis, reward badges, and GIFs that make using chat applications similar to how employees communicate with friends outside of work.

Far from making it less likely that employees engage with each other face-to-face, internal social channels enhance communication. They allow employees to connect, collaborate, and share a laugh, even during busy periods. They also create the freedom for employees who are introverted or not comfortable in a live, large group setting to be involved. And they create opportunities for employee recognition, particularly for remote teams.

  1. Create Transparency

Transparency is a bit of a buzzword in the modern workplace. It’s important to company culture because it implies trust, which is the basis of any strong relationship. But transparency can be hard to facilitate. First, leadership and managers across the organization must agree on what transparency means to your company. Next, a company must ensure that transparency is equitable. Is your CMO sharing profitability data with his team while your CTO is failing to share the same with hers?

HR tech can revolutionize the way you approach transparency. You can use social feeds to ensure the same messages are going company-wide, create universal trainings in your learning management system, and democratize access to your company leadership. You can also compile and share data on company culture itself, so employees can monitor progress.

  1. Prove the ROI of Culture Initiatives

When budgets are tight, it’s often employee-focused expenses such as team outings or performance awards that get the boot. These costs have long been considered as “nice-to-haves” that may bring out the smiles, but won’t bring in the revenue.

Using HR tech, you can disprove this line of thinking by tying real analytics to your company’s culture initiatives. After each culture effort, you can track real-time data to see how both performance and engagement have been affected. You can then use that data to discuss the ROI of these initiatives with your leadership. Happy employees impact the bottom line in a couple of ways. First, they are more productive. Second, they are less likely to leave (or even be absent) which means less money needs to be spent recruiting, hiring, and training replacements.

  1. Increase Benefit Engagement

HR teams spend vast quantities of time researching and implementing employee benefits that they believe will strengthen company culture. However, many employees aren’t taking advantage of those benefits from employer 401k matching to health and wellness to time off.

Often, lack of engagement with benefits is due to a lack of knowledge — the options, setup, or fine print are confusing; vacation days aren’t properly tracked; the right channels don’t exist to answer questions. HR tech can make benefits more approachable upfront and manageable in the long-term. You can use them to house benefits training opportunities, to make set-up simple, and to make it easy for employees to monitor their own usage. You can also automate reminders to both employees and managers, so that everyone knows, for example, when you need to push someone to take a vacation day.

  1. Revamp Employee Recognition

In our high-speed lives, it can be difficult to find time for “niceties” like employee recognition. And with only so much bandwidth available to focus on their teams, managers often turn their attention to employees who need extra support to succeed, assuming their top-performers are just fine on their own. While those people may be independent operators, it’s still vital that they’re acknowledged for their work. Recognition for a job well done is a huge component of employee satisfaction. In fact, 93% of employees hope to be recognized at least quarterly, if not more.

HR tech can automate both the reminders for and the process of recognizing employees. It can also track these efforts so you know if some employees are being accidently left out.

HR tech is no longer just about payroll and performance management, it’s about people. When you shift your thinking of HR tech as a help, rather than a hindrance, to communication and connectivity, you’ll see your company culture shift as well.

To learn more about the evolution of HR technology, check out Achievers’ blog post A Brief History and Future of HR Technology.

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About the Author
Taylor Burke is a contributor for TechnologyAdvice.com. She’s passionate about great company cultures. When she’s not in front of her screen, you can find Taylor reading, cooking, running, or hanging with her dog—but rarely all four at once. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

Performance Management Reboot

It’s a Small (but diverse) World: Performance Management for the Global Organization

I’m not going to lie to you: rebooting your performance management to effectively drive organizational performance, develop people, and reward equitably requires a good deal of serious thought. Managing performance at a global level, however, warrants serious thought on steroids. You must have a solid understanding of the legislative and regulatory issues, demographic trends, and labor laws from every jurisdiction in which you’ve got people. Hard enough. But the most critical global consideration for rebooting your performance management is to understand the cultural differences in your workforce. 

If we were to take a peek at what organizations have historically done to recognize these differences, we’d see that the tactics range dramatically from barely a nod (bad) to localized approaches custom-designed for each unique culture (excellent). Sadly, ‘barely a nod’ tends to prevail. And so many global organizations continue to struggle to optimize their talent management processes in the ever-expanding global market.

What is the right approach for implementing a performance management program for a global workforce? Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But if you agree with me that culture is the most important factor, then you’ll be sure to put a respectable amount of effort into understanding those cultural differences and how they will weigh into your solution design. And you’ll make sure your leadership is aligned with how you plan to manage various global employee groups differently from one another.

If you want to gain an appreciation for what will and won’t work here, I recommend turning to the extensive research conducted by Geert Hofsted on cultures in the workforce. In his research, Hofsted found five fundamental value dimensions that can be used to explain cultural diversity in the world. The “5 Dimensional Model”1 is one of the only models that’s based on rigorous cultural research, rather than opinion (which is why I like it). The five dimensions are:

  1. Power Distance (PDI): The degree to which people accept that power is distributed unevenly within a group or society.
  2. Individualism (IDV): The degree to which taking responsibility for oneself is more valued than belonging to a group that will look after its people in exchange for loyalty.
  3. Masculinity (MAS): The degree to which people value performance and the status that derives from it, rather than quality of life and caring for others.
  4. Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI): The degree to which people develop mechanisms to avoid uncertainty.
  5. Long-Term Orientation (LTO): The degree to which people value long-term goals and have a pragmatic approach, rather than being normative and short-term oriented.

What does this all mean for designing performance management systems? Let’s have a look at the traditional review process. The annual review is a widely accepted practice in countries like the US and the UK. In the US (and other countries with similar cultures) we score low on power distance (the degree to which people accept that power is distributed unevenly within a group or society) and high in individualism (the degree to which taking responsibility for yourself is valued more highly than belonging to a group that will look after its people in exchange for loyalty). With those defining cultural factors, we find it easy to accept the idea that very direct feedback is “the right way” to improve performance. This notion falls flat in high power distance countries, such as Japan. In fact, very direct feedback in these cultures is likely to be seen as dishonorable and disrespectful. This means that we have to take a different approach that fits these cultural norms and expectations.

Another interesting dimension to consider is how your planning horizon may vary from culture to culture. When I was at Hitachi Consulting, I learned to appreciate the very real impact of working within an organization heavily influenced by Japanese leadership. One of the most notable differences was the manner in which the Japanese leaders thought about the short and the long view. In the US we had a much shorter planning horizon in contrast to our Japanese peers. This difference in focus radically influenced how each group defined what ‘good’ looked like in both the short and long terms. At times this created conflict and stress when setting targets and measuring success.

When putting together your team to build your new global performance management solution, remember to include individuals who can help you understand cultural differences.

Rewarding equitably can be another tricky area as you navigate from culture to culture. The cash-is-king individual performance bonuses that we default to in countries like the US and UK are not a good fit in cultures that focus on greater responsibility, larger spans of control, and wider territories. Again, this showed up in my experience at Hitachi. The Japanese executives were quite surprised by our vice president’s bonus model, while the US leaders were struck by their Japanese counterparts’ lavish spending allowances. As they say, different strokes for different folks (or in this case, different cultures, different expectations). In some cultures cash rewards may even be perceived as petty. The headline? Tread carefully in this arena. If you’re planning a bonus program, be sure to consider which cultures value and expect bonuses, how you should measure them if you use them, and whether team or individual incentives would work best.

Beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed? Let me reinforce a few ideas that may help keep you grounded. First, when putting together your team to build your new performance management solution, remember to include individuals who can help you understand these cultural differences. They can be a voice for what will work and what is likely to fall flat. Get comfortable with allowing for differences across cultures. Your goal should be finding balance between meeting your desire for consistency and creating great experiences for your global team. Also, before you roll out your solution, test it in different geographies and cultures — not just the solution itself, but also the supporting content, since some degree of localization is likely to be needed on that as well.

In the end, keep humanity at the forefront of your design, and never forget that this is about your people, not the process!

If you want to learn more about performance management, join me at Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) 2017 September 12-13 where I will be speaking on How Performance Management Is Killing Performance – And What to Do About It. Check out details of my speaking session and the event here.

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About the Author

Tamra ChandlerTamra Chandler is a bona fide people maven. She’s spent the majority of her career thinking about people, researching how they’re motivated, and developing new and effective ways for organizations to achieve the ultimate win-win: inspired people driving inspiring performance. She’s also the CEO and co-founder of PeopleFirm, one of Washington State’s fastest-growing businesses and most successful women-owned firms. An award-winning leader in her field (she’s been recognized by Consulting Magazine twice as one of the top consultants in the U.S.), she is the author of How Performance Management is Killing Performance — and What to Do About It.

 

Source:
1. Geert Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations Across Nations (London, UK: Sage Publications, 2003).

STEM Talent

Competing for Tricky STEM Talent and What Performance Management Has to do With It

It seems like nearly every company I’ve worked with is struggling to attract and retain strong technical resources, whether their organization competes in the technology space or not. We can chalk up the demand to the advancement of science and technology’s role in nearly every industry, service, and product out there—combined with a shortage of the necessary STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) talent to support those needs. And while there’s a lot of literature available on how to meet the needs and expectations of this audience, it seems worth adding a few words on this tricky employee group, specifically in regards to performance strategies.

Let’s start with the employee’s point of view. While acknowledging that no two people will ever want or care about the exact same things, some macro themes come up again and again that resonate with STEM-oriented personalities. First, this group cares a great deal about their skills, knowledge, and experiences. They want to be current in their field, work with the latest and greatest in technology or science, and rub elbows with the best and brightest. Second, they like to be recognized for that mastery. This recognition can come in many forms, such as awards and certifications, patents, published works, or speaking at conferences—or simply being recognized by their peers as a ‘rock star’ in their space. They also care deeply about having the freedom to invent, build, design, explore, and play in their field. After all, how can you ever be a master if you don’t have the time and space to practice your craft?

Now let’s look at what the organization needs from this group. Clearly, the aforementioned mastery skills are important to organizations. Yet many companies struggle to give STEM talent the tools, training, and experiences needed to stay on the cutting edge of their field of practice. The more the performance solution you build for them can focus on identifying and aligning your best technical talent to the ‘coolest’ work, the better.

Another common tension organizations face is wanting all that STEM brain power aimed at the right work, rather than being distracted by other things. While we definitely want to put more focus on directing that talent to the best work, we also need to balance that with this groups’ desire for time and space to do their own thing. I get it: when you’re short on critical technical talent, it’s hard not to fully dedicate the talent you do have to your priority agenda items. However, you need to be a little more flexible to keep this very agile group happy. Google and other forward-thinking companies have proven that letting your people use some percentage of their time on their own pet projects pays big dividends down the line.

So how should the desires and interests of both employee and employer influence your performance design? I recommend focusing on what both care about – in other words, the win/win. Here are some ideas on how to do that:

  1. Keep your approach simple. Why? This group tends to hate formality and bureaucracy, so do you really want to irritate them with the process? Also, this is a valuable resource, so optimizing their time is essential.
  2. Push as much authority and ownership as you can down the ranks. STEM folks don’t like hierarchy any more than they like bureaucracy. The flatter your structure, the better. Create more opportunities that allow them to work in networked teams with control over their own resources. This also means more employee-driven and peer-based approaches. Let them be the rock star in their crowd.
  3. Invest in building clear technical career paths, and in creating the content necessary for enabling and communicating those paths. Share information on how they can build their mastery within your organization, and provide them with resources outside the walls as well.
  4. Build a model where you can assess the technical skills, knowledge, and capabilities that are housed within your organization. A strong technical competency/capability model will do this. It will also help to have the technical career path agenda mentioned above.
  5. Ensure that your talent review processes prioritize mobility. In other words, keep your STEM talent moving across the org to increase collaboration, the sharing of knowledge, and to enhance their growth, experiences, and learnings.
  6. Celebrate their brilliance (often). Find ways to highlight progress, solutions, invention, things of beauty, and innovation. This may be at a team level as much as it is at the individual level. Recognition can be as simple as a toast at the Friday happy hour or as formal and highly visible as company-wide recognition like displaying patents or other awards prominently in the office halls, or granting annual innovation awards internally.

And remember, always connect your investments and their rewards to the things they care about: building their mastery, recognition of that mastery, and the time and freedom to play.

If you want to learn more about performance management, join me at Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) 2017 September 12-13 where I will be speaking on How Performance Management Is Killing Performance – And What to Do About It. Check out details of my speaking session and the event here.

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About the Author
Tamra ChandlerTamra Chandler is a bona fide people maven. She’s spent the majority of her career thinking about people, researching how they’re motivated, and developing new and effective ways for organizations to achieve the ultimate win-win: inspired people driving inspiring performance. She’s also the CEO and co-founder of PeopleFirm, one of Washington State’s fastest-growing businesses and most successful women-owned firms. An award-winning leader in her field (she’s been recognized by Consulting Magazine twice as one of the top consultants in the U.S.), she is the author of How Performance Management is Killing Performance — and What to Do About It.

 

 

 

revamp performance management

Your Performance Management Is Not Fine: Defending Against the Naysayers

One busy Friday, I met with a West Coast client in the morning and then returned to my office to take a call from one of my East Coast clients in the afternoon. In the span of a few scant hours, both of my clients used the exact same phrase to describe their current performance management programs: “Our performance management program is fine.”

All weekend that phrase was stuck in my brain like an annoying popcorn hull wedged between my teeth. I pondered what those words meant to each of them and what ugly truths might lurk beneath an innocuous word like “fine.” I think that phrase spoke loudly to me because I’d heard it so many times before.

So, what do people mean when they tell me that their performance program is fine? Perhaps it’s this:

Performance Management FINE Chart

The low expectations expressed in the phrase “Our performance management is fine” are indicative of how much we’ve lost sight of our people. We seem perfectly happy to settle for “fine” on their behalf. But if our intentions for investing in performance management are to connect our teams to our strategies and goals, to recognize outstanding contributions, and to enhance the development of each individual’s capabilities, how can we possibly continue to tolerate “fine”?

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re someone who is already at least partially on board with the idea of rebooting your performance management. But no matter how comfortable you are with the idea of throwing everything out to start over (or not – after all, I’m advocating a custom approach that’s tailored to the needs of your business, and yours might not need a thorough overhaul), one of the biggest stumbling blocks you’re likely to encounter is doubt, skepticism, and downright antagonism from the old schoolers in your organization.

When I have a debate with someone who is defending the traditional performance management approach or with someone who is fearful of making changes to such a deeply rooted process (and trust me, I have many such debates), I always hear the same counterarguments. So much so, in fact, that it’s worthwhile to prepare you to answer those same objections in your own organization. Do any of the phrases below sound familiar?

“My boss will never buy it.”

It is always wise to pay special attention to “the boss.” Engage, educate, and bring him or her with you. Of course, you can’t expect this to happen overnight, especially if the boss in question leans more toward the PM traditionalist mind-set. Meet leaders where they are, build a plan, pace your progress, and maintain your resolve. Find out what they really care about, then connect your case to that theme. Be diplomatic and creative, and make sure they understand the real costs (both soft and hard costs) to your business of continuing with the old way — in terms they understand.

“We can’t trust our managers.”

Other than getting leaders on board, this is the second most common concern I hear from people, and it’s a legitimate one. Since I’m advocating implementing a design that relies heavily on good, or preferably great, managers, this problem often stops teams in their tracks. It’s not a simple issue, either. It’s cluttered with questions of structure, role definition, and manager expectations. Many organizations suffer from being over-managed and under-led. This happens because we often promote managers for technical or functional expertise and not for their people or managerial skills, and because most organizations have historically underinvested in building great leaders.

If this resonates with you, I’d encourage you to use it as motivation to address the bigger problem (i.e., the fact that you don’t trust your managers). Start by peeling your own onion to get at the root of your manager concern. Do you have too many managers or too many levels? Are they not the right people? Are their goals out of alignment with what’s valued by your organization as a whole? I’m not saying that these issues can be fixed quickly or easily; in fact, this may create a completely new agenda item for you. But the fact that you don’t trust the capability of your managers has much more far-reaching consequences than its impact on your performance management. It’s something that you’re going to need to address, no matter what.

“Legal will have a fit!”

We know we need a paper trail to document behavior and performance problems, and we think our annual review cycle does that for us. Too often, though, it doesn’t. We’re human: we tend to rate people too leniently, and to downplay or completely gloss over potentially awkward issues. This is one reason why the reviews of underperformers and good performers often read very much the same. The problem then is that if a legal issue does arise, or we simply want to take action in response to an employee’s behavior or performance, we’re caught in a bind between what we really know about that employee’s history and a series of reviews that don’t appear all that bad. This can lead to a messy situation. It’s better to avoid this potential pitfall by documenting issues as they arise. Then the issues will be fresh and more accurately recorded—giving you better legal footing and a more actionable position overall.

“Why change? Everyone else does it this way!”

While the majority of organizations still use a traditional system, the tide is definitely turning. Today we’re seeing respected and forward-thinking organizations trying to drive organizational performance, develop people, and reward equitably in new and innovative ways. These pioneers have received significant positive exposure for their innovative programs. And that attention certainly doesn’t hurt their employer brand (a measure of how positively prospective employees view you compared with your competitors). You have a decision to make here: Are you ready to be out front, or would you prefer to wait until your competition has passed you by before you take action?

Maybe you have to wait because you feel you have bigger issues to tackle. Or maybe you’re simply going to procrastinate until you’re finally dragged kicking and screaming into the new world of performance management at some point in the future. But like it or not, the world is changing, and our old accepted practices will eventually crumble under the weight of the research and the evolving expectations of our employees.

Lead or follow—the choice is yours.

If you want to learn more about performance management, join me at Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) 2017 September 12-13 where I will be speaking on How Performance Management Is Killing Performance – And What to Do About It. Check out details of my speaking session and the event here.

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About the Author
Tamra Chandler
M. Tamra Chandler is a bona fide people maven. She’s spent the majority of her career thinking about people, researching how they’re motivated, and developing new and effective ways for organizations to achieve the ultimate win-win: inspired people driving inspiring performance. She’s also the CEO and co-founder of PeopleFirm, one of Washington State’s fastest-growing businesses and most successful women-owned firms. An award-winning leader in her field (she’s been recognized by Consulting Magazine twice as one of the top consultants in the U.S.), she is the author of How Performance Management is Killing Performance — and What to Do About It.

 

 

 

Employee Evaluations

5 Elements of a Healthy Performance Review Process

Before you start defining the elements of a healthy performance review process, it’s worth investigating how or where your process went wrong. Historically, performance reviews were created with the best of intentions and remained unchanged for centuries.

The idea that people are motivated by knowing where they stand within an organization gave birth to the “rank and yank” method of ranking employees into top, average, and poor performing tiers (and eliminating those at the bottom). This was popularized by Jack Welch, former CEO and Chairman of General Electric (1980-2001).

As with many common business practices, the millennial generation is challenging the way performance reviews work. Not only have forced ranking and merit-based raises been found ineffective, leaders and human resources professionals have reported performance reviews to be a significant waste of time.

While performance management is sometimes a necessary evil, thankfully, the delivery system and the value it provides is trending in a healthier direction. Let’s have a look at five elements of a healthy performance review process.

1. Regularity

The traditional performance review that takes place once or twice a year tends to be an anxiety-inducing event in which employees are sometimes blindsided by their supervisor’s perception of their performance. To be effective, performance feedback should be delivered on a regularly scheduled basis so it becomes less stressful and includes more than an overview of how they have performed over the last twelve months.

Employees will have a better chance to grow, improve, and possibly change their approach to work if they’re receiving timely, specific feedback rather than waiting several months to a year after the fact to hear about their performance.

2. A Strong Focus on Goals

A healthy performance review process includes more than just feedback, it’s a great opportunity to establish goals and expectations. This is another reason the review process should be done more regularly. As soon as current goals are met or exceeded, you can put new ones in place, rather than waiting until a formal review to adjust strategy. This will help keep your team members from growing bored or frustrated and keep them focused on imperative business objectives.

Meeting to discuss an employee’s performance, as well as their goals, helps you as a leader understand the direction they’re heading and how you can guide them, as well as how you can align their strengths and interests toward the shared goals of your team. If you have a learning management system in place, you can also pair some of these performance goals with specific learning or training objectives and track progress in real time.

3. Two-Way Conversations

“Talking at,” your employees can make them feel intimidated, or worse, annoyed. The lack of two-way communication is one of the many reasons the traditional performance review is ineffective — more than anything, the employee just wants it to end as they might be feeling belittled, unimportant, or unheard.

Instead, use the designated review time to have a two-way conversation. Spend time discussing how your employee feels about their own performance and how they feel about your performance as a leader. Ask for their thoughts on the company’s current mission and goals. Encourage them to be decisive, and solicit their ideas. Where possible, put what they tell you into action, so they know that your interest in their opinion isn’t perfunctory. This method of communication is more aligned with the modern workforce; today’s employees, especially the millennial generation, prefer coaches to managers.

4. Balanced Feedback

You already know that going into a performance review with only negative feedback can discourage an employee from making the corrective behavior necessary to get on track. A poor performer still needs to understand how their skills are valuable to the organization, the areas they are making strides in, and where you see potential for improvement.

Similarly, providing only positive feedback (even to an outstanding performer) isn’t helpful either. A healthy review should balance both positive and negative feedback. Growth only comes from pushing people past what they thought they were capable of, and an ambitious employee will look for a manager willing to do just that. Your job as a leader is to do the pushing; by acknowledging areas of improvement, and establishing new goals.

5. Performance-Based Incentives

A system of goals and evaluation criteria is a step in the right direction if you’re hoping to boost performance. But your employees will never feel intrinsically motivated to improve unless there is some benefit or reward tied to success. If they know the only reward for above-average work is the approval of their manager, you won’t see much growth.

Make sure your performance reviews are connected to a tangible reward or incentive for each employee. How you reward the employee should be individualized, and is dependent on available budget, but it could be anything from a restaurant gift card to a quarterly bonus, or even a permanent raise for the highest performing employees. Don’t let your most valuable employees feel unappreciated, demonstrate their value to them with tangible assets–verbal affirmation is nice, but it doesn’t pay the electric bill.

When you do away with forced rankings and outdated goals and start having meaningful conversations with your team, you can soften the cutthroat atmosphere at work and engage your employees as individuals. This in turn will create a culture of trust, allowing for constructive criticism and healthy performance reviews that include regular, balanced feedback, goal-setting, and an opportunity for a two-way conversation. Furthermore, a healthy review process tied to measurable incentives will not only result in higher performance, but happier employees as well.

To learn more, check out 6 Tips to Tackle Performance Reviews for Managers and Employees.

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About the Author
Jessica Barrett Halcom is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com, with specializations in human resources, healthcare, and transportation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and currently lives in Nashville, TN.

 

Measuring Employee Performance

5 Performance Measurement Myths

The question of how to measure employee performance represents one of the last vestiges of old-school HR methodology. Today’s workforce is digitally transformed, highly social and mobile, made up of multiple generations, and collaborating across virtual and global locations. There has been a profound shift in the workforce away from hierarchical, top-down organizations towards teams and collaboration, where having a culture of recognition can drive engagement and results far more effectively than infrequent reviews handed down from on high by management.

We all want the best hires and to lure the top talent. But once on board, they’re part of the organization, and now making sure that they’re fully engaged becomes the challenge. But how do we know if they are working up to their potential? Old-school approaches to performance management, which view a single employee outside of the context of today’s team-based, networked workplace, no longer ring true. Indeed some would argue that many of these approaches were myths to begin with – and I’d have to agree.

Here are five assumptions about measuring employee performance that need to be retired:

Myth #1 – Individuals should be judged solely on their own performance.

The idea that we perform as an island may apply to an isolated few, but it doesn’t fit the majority of workplaces — either today or yesterday. The investment made in working out how to evaluate individuals may be better spent evaluating the quality of their team or business unit’s output. What targets have been hit? What goals have been reached?

Perhaps we should be evaluating employees not only on their performance, but on their level of engagement and on their ability to thrive in team-based environment. Highly engaged employees are more likely to give the kind of discretionary effort that all bosses are looking for, and that have a tangible effect on a company’s bottom line. In fact, Aon Hewitt has reported that for every incremental one-point increase in employee engagement organizations saw a 0.6% increase in sales. For a company with sales of $100 million, this translates to a $6 million windfall! And in companies with the most engaged employees, revenue growth was 2.5 times greater than competitors with lower levels of engagement.

Myth #2 – Good employees just do the job, they don’t need a reason or added meaning.

Is the better employee really the one that doesn’t need to understand how their work aligns with company’s mission and values? Performance stems from engagement. And being engaged stems, in large part, from feeling aligned to — and invested in — the company purpose. Motivation and meaning go hand in hand.

Even if a task is performed well, accomplishing it inside a vacuum is going to create a gap somewhere along the line. Employees deserve to know why they’re there. They’ll participate more fully, and are more likely to push to reach targets and goals if they are invested in the rationale behind the effort.

Myth #3 – An employee that’s good this year will be good next year.

When a team of researchers dove into six years of performance review data from a large U.S. corporation, they found that only a third of high-scoring employees scored as high in subsequent years. And they found no evidence that high-performing employees always perform highly, or that poor performing employees perform poorly. Today’s workforce is continually being met with innovations that require new learning and new skills, so what’s “good” today may not be an accurate measure of what’s desirable tomorrow.

When a company uses trackable learning platforms, they have a means of measuring growth and development. To drive engagement and retention they can extend from onboarding programs, demonstrating a commitment to an employee’s growth from the moment of hire. 84% of employees want to learn, and keep learning. When you align an employee’s learning with the company’s business goals, that’s a win for all.

Myth #4 – Past performance is indicative of future results.

In 2015, a number of Fortune 500 companies announced that they were doing away with old school performance reviews. Accenture, the Gap, Adobe and General Electric all veered away from the annual or quarterly review ritual in favor of building a stronger culture based on continuous feedback and frequent recognition.

What’s happening instead is that many companies are moving to a system where employees and managers can give and receive social feedback and track the history of recognitions given and received. This new approach – measuring the frequency of peer-to-peer, intra-team and team recognitions within a powerful digital and social recognition program – provides better quality insights and has the potential to foster a far more positive, and productive, work culture.

Myth #5 – The best way to measure performance is when no one’s expecting it.

Spot checks, random and unexpected, are still recommended by some HR stalwarts, who assert that it’s a way to motivate employees to give a consistent performance. But it conveys an atmosphere of mistrust that may be more of a de-motivator.

Trust is critical to employee engagement, but it’s still in short supply: a recent survey of nearly 10,000 workers from India to Germany to the U.S. found that only 49% had “a great deal of trust” in those working above and alongside them. Contrast that with study findings showing that organizations are extremely concerned with driving engagement and promoting a workplace culture that is based on transparency and meaningful work. You can’t have both.

That we’re still having this conversation is in part because we may lack the imagination to see our way to a new starting point. But the real drive to perform comes from within.  We are motivated by purpose, and by being appreciated for what we do.

Employees today want to be engaged, we want to know what higher purpose our efforts are contributing to, we want to excel and to grow. Employers should start with that knowledge and measure their employees accordingly.

Make sure to check out the other series of guest blogs from Meghan Biro, starting with her first guest blog post For Recognition To Have An Impact, Make It Strategic.

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About the Author
meghan biroMeghan M. Biro is a globally recognized Talent Management and HR Tech brand strategist, analyst, digital catalyst, author and speaker. As founder and CEO of TalentCulture, she has worked with hundreds of companies, from early-stage ventures to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google, helping them recruit and empower stellar talent. Meghan has been a guest on numerous radio shows and online forums, and has been a featured speaker at global conferences. She is a regular contributor at Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and several other media outlets. Meghan regularly serves on advisory boards for leading HR and technology brands. Meghan has been voted one of the Top 100 Social Media Power Influencers in 2015 by StatSocial and Forbes, Top 50 Most Valuable Social Media Influencers by General Sentiment, Top 100 on Twitter Business, Leadership, and Tech by Huffington Post, and Top 25 HR Trendsetters by HR Examiner.

 

Performance Review

3 Ways to Make a Performance Review More Meaningful for the Modern Workforce

It seems as though the same negative terms are frequently used to describe Millennials: dependent, self-centered, unfocused. This perspective is not only detrimental to businesses whose workforces will soon be occupied by more than 50% of these future leaders, but it’s also untrue. Millennials are eager, driven and inspired to achieve goals – provided that their workplaces are motivating them with a fresh engagement strategy.

Millennials want to make a difference in their organizations, but they need to have access to the knowledge and tools to do so. In the modern workforce, the traditional annual review isn’t enough for Millennials – they want frequent feedback and recognition that will allow them to grow and succeed in their roles. Here are three reasons why replacing performance reviews with an engagement strategy will help your organization equip its future leaders to succeed. Read more →

The best managers are great coaches

Why the best managers are great coaches

Are you watching the 2014 winter Olympics? Everyone can get behind their country’s favorite medal winners, but what really creates exceptional athletes is phenomenal coaching. The same principle applies to how managers inspire successful employees. Read more →