Category Archives: Engagement

Three steps to hiring for the culture you want to create

assessments for recruiting

Have you ever tried to change the culture of your organisation? Wouldn’t hiring for cultural fit in the first place be better?

Some of the consulting work we do centres around changing an organisation’s culture – something which is ingrained and difficult to budge.

But what if you could set the culture from the moment you hire somebody?

If culture is ‘the way we do things around here’, then it’s not beyond your power to design it for your organisation.

One place to start is with your hiring and selection processes.

Technical ability and soft skills usually take pride of place when we hire.

While I don’t dispute these are basic and important, ignoring cultural fit can be where the seemingly perfect match comes unstuck. How can you avoid this trap?

1. Know what culture you want to create

What’s important to you in your work and your dealings with colleagues, clients and suppliers? How do you want the world to see your organisation?

There are as many answers to these questions as there are organisations!

One may focus on delivering their product or service as efficiently and inexpensively as possible.

Another may highlight the importance of staff engagement to deliver the best client and financial outcomes.

At Balance at Work, for example, we pride ourselves on how much we care about our clients and are known for going ‘above and beyond’ to help them achieve their objectives.

This attitude is the foundation of our culture and helps us identify who we want to attract, employ and work with daily.

2. Have a strategy for finding the right people

Once you’ve defined the culture you seek, it’s time to ensure you are seeking staff who align with your culture.

There are several parts of the recruitment and selection process that give you the opportunity to make decisions related to getting the best cultural fit:

  • The advertisement: Make it reflective of your culture, not a cookie-cutter generic ad. Also, be honest. Only use the phrase ‘fun place to work’ if it actually is.
  • Screening resumes: Look for experience, interests and skills that indicate a good fit, including those outside their employment. For example, if it’s important in your culture to help others, then look for volunteering. If teamwork is important, what have they done that shows it’s important to them too?
  • Interview: The interview is your big chance to describe the culture and to ask questions specifically aimed at finding out more about cultural fit. Make sure you are using behavioural questions that give the candidate an opportunity to describe how they work.
  • Objective assessments: Using psychometric surveys that cover values and motivations will help you see how well the candidate’s views align with your culture.
  • Reference checking: Get in the habit of asking referees to describe the culture in the candidate’s previous or current workplace(s). Tip: you also need to ask the candidate why they wanted to leave. Often it’s the culture that has driven them away. If your culture is different, you now have a great way to attract them to work for you if they meet all your other selection criteria.

3. Get help

You can easily get feedback on your culture, what works and what doesn’t, from your existing staff and other stakeholders.

They’re also well-placed to help you identify what you need (and don’t need) in your new hires to build your desired culture. Some questions you could ask:

  • How would you describe our culture to someone who doesn’t know our organisation?
  • What are the qualities you think a person needs to be an excellent fit for our culture?

Armed with this information, you can then fine-tune your recruitment and selection processes to screen for cultural fit.

Want to create the culture of your dreams? It all starts with the right people.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

Find Your Joy at Work – Relate to Your Boss

Relate to your boss

You know the saying, you can choose your friends but not your family. The same can be said for business, where you meet and interact with all types of people. Being able to work effectively with them is important to getting on with the job and creating a positive work environment. You don’t have to be Richard Branson to know the secrets to career success and job satisfaction are significantly related to the quality of your work relationships. Particularly how you relate to your boss.

It’s a bit like dealing with your significant other or maybe even the kids. It depends on trust, respect, support, guidance and you really need to pick your battles wisely. Keep in mind, however, your boss is in a position of power, influence and status. This is regardless of your own assessment of their experience and wisdom.

Your boss may be brand new, all knowing, micromanaging, a buddy, intimidating, indecisive, apathetic, a workaholic, she may even be working in another location. Whatever characteristics or situations are in play, it is in your best interest to make the relationship work for you and the business. I have experienced a number of bosses and have had an interesting time navigating the personalities with some successes and career limiting failures.

Seek mutual support, trust and respect to relate to your boss

‘Managing up’ is a technique commonly bandied round online and was advice given to me for a new and inexperienced manager. In theory, it sounds OK. In practice, however, it can appear manipulative and self-promoting, and might even label you as a ‘crawler’, or ‘groveler’, if you spend too much time managing only your boss. Instead try focusing on mutual support, trust and respect with a communication strategy that skilfully ensures these are achieved.

A number of years ago I recall getting quite frustrated with my boss, I felt we were having some communication problems. By the way, he is male and I am female. I did wonder if the Mars and Venus cliche was operating at work. If I mentioned an issue he had to fix it when all I was doing was just getting it off my chest. Then there were times I wanted to run a couple of things by him and was keen to get his opinion.

We decided we needed help to clarify our needs so we devised the jelly bean strategy. If I wanted to just chat I grabbed the green jelly bean. If I needed some advice I grabbed the red. It was a bit of fun but just discussing the problem and deciding on a mutual fix improved our respect and reduced misunderstanding.

There will always be differences at work in the ways men and women, manager and team member communicate, solve problems, react to stress, earn respect, and ask for what they want.

Understanding yourself and what makes you different can help you to relate to your boss constructively to reduce conflict and frustration. Then you can develop a working relationship that will be good for the business, but more importantly healthy for you.*

We help our clients work better together with a range of tools and resources. Call us today on 1300 785 150 to find out how!

*Provided you don’t eat too many jelly beans!

We’re all in this together

succession

Some new business owners struggle with how to treat their ‘competition’.  Do you research what they’re doing? Do you try to beat them on price? Do you even try to undermine their integrity? What if collaboration is a better option?

It can be difficult when you’re in start-up mode not to have a negative view of your competitors. They are already established, they already have the clients you would like to have and they may the staff and infrastructure you can only dream of at this stage.

Here’s why:

  1. They already know the market and they’re talking to your potential clients;
  2. They’ve made mistakes you can avoid if you know about them; and
  3. Most people want to help you because it makes them feel good.

Learning from what your competitors do well, and tapping into what and who they know, can be a real short-cut to getting your business off the ground.

Getting to know your competitors (and I don’t mean spying on them!) will be one of the best steps you can take towards having a successful business. Ask yourself: How can I help them? What expertise, tools and experience can I offer that will support their success?

A friend of mine calls this ‘coopetition’. I’ve built my business on close relationships with other businesses that outsiders would see as my competition.

If you are still hesitating about picking up the phone and having that first conversation, give us a call first. We are always open to opportunities for collaboration and happy to help with tips to start you on your ‘coopetition’ journey.

Culture: How do you assess fit?

This article is by Dan Harrison, Founder and CEO of Harrison Assessments International and was first published on 2 March 2017. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us.

High performing organizations can be quite obsessive about their culture as both a market differentiator and as a guiding force for decision-making. These organizations tend to be extremely careful to bring new people in who match the culture well.

By “culture”, we can use this definition: “the organization’s vital Purpose, its distinctive and enduring Philosophy and its strategic Priorities”  – the 3 P’s, according to Sheila Margolis [1]. A strong culture will endure and thrive if employees’ own beliefs and values align well with the organizational culture. If there is poor alignment, then the culture degrades and competitive edge may be lost.

Job-Fit vs. Culture-Fit

In the employee-selection world, professional Talent Management staff often focus on understanding the job in question by conducting a Job Analysis (JA). JA typically involves identifying the tasks, duties and responsibilities performed on the job as well as the specific knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA’s) that lead to success. Once the KSA’s are identified, a selection plan can be devised to “test” for these competencies and a “score” or predictor of potential success in the job is derived. The test can include a online assessment to determine probable job-fit. Certainly job-fit is critical to determine to ensure that the candidate both CAN do the job and WILL do the job (i.e. is motivated to perform).

Certainly, ensuring that a candidate has the technical skills, know-how, background, education and even “soft” or people-skills to be successful is critical. What many organizations fail to do, however, is assess for culture-fit. That is, applying assessment strategies to measure the extent to which a individual’s values, beliefs and priorities align with and complement those of the organization. In many cases, culture-fit is is just as important as Job-fit, if not more so.

What is Culture-Fit?

Person-Organization, or Culture-Fit is the congruence of an individual’s beliefs and values with the culture, norms, and values of an organization. Entrepreneur Magazine says that culture is, “the personality of an organization from the employee perspective, and includes the company’s mission, expectations and work atmosphere.” [2]

Employers are now competing hotly for the best and the brightest younger workers. We know from recent research on younger workers that they highly value People and Culture Fit above all else. They want to be comfortable with like-minded people in an environment that matches their own passions, interests and personal and professional values. If the employer can get their culture right, defined and clearly articulated then they are in a much better position to match the employer’s needs with younger workers expectations – a win-win proposition!

What Does it Matter?

Research consistently shows that employees who understand the company culture and are aligned with it outperform the competition by a three-fold factor. Aligned employees:

  • Are happier
  • More satisfied
  • Stay longer
  • Are committed
  • Provide better service

Person-Job vs. Person-Organization Fit

If we accept the idea that job fit is critical AND that culture-fit also plays a role in an individual’s potential success, then how are these two ideas related? The chart right attempts to address this question. Person-job fit can be determined using skills tests, competency analysis, behavioral interviewing and even resume/application review. Person-organization fit requires asking and getting answers to different questions – mostly about what is most important to an individual both in terms of their engagement as well as their priorities and core values.

Can One Assessment Do Both?

Certainly, multiple assessment methods can accomplish job and organization fit; for example, using one assessment for competency assessment and another one for values and engagement factors could work. This approach is time-consuming, expensive and cumbersome, not to mention a possible “turn-off” to candidates. In a perfect world, we could use one assessment to give us all the information we need in a short amount of time. In fact, such an assessment exists – the Harrison Assessment.

How can the Harrison Assessment Accomplish Both Goals?

Because the Harrison Assessment (HA) is preference-based, and uses forced-ranking as a method, it collects very detailed information about an individual’s work-related preferences in a very short amount of time (less than 30 minutes). Everyone takes the same questionnaire. What changes is the filter, or Success Formula, that is applied to the individual’s data set. In terms of Person-Job Fit, there are thousands of Job Success Formulas in the system that are specific to the demands of unque jobs. In terms of Person-Organization Fit, the system can be set up to filter for core values, engagement factors and motivational triggers. This filter can be applied to the same data.

Culture Mapping and Assessment Example

Let’s apply this process to a real-world example. Consider Company X that has 5 Core Values that they want to make sure new employees have the propensity for and embrace at a personal level. The first of those Core Values is shown below and is called Innovative Ideas and Approaches. The document below shows how this value and its definition was mapped to HA. This work was performed by a trained HA consultant. This was done for all 5 of the Core Values, though only one is shown here for the purposes of this example.

Example Core Value and Mapping to the Harrison Assessment with rationale included.

This “culture template” was created in the HA system and could then be run for any or all finalists or new employees to show how much their own personal preferences and priorities stacked up against the ideal. In the partial report shown below, you can see the individual’s match-up against this customized cultural filter (note that this report ran several pages; this is just the first page). The hiring manager, and/or interviewer could use these results to probe areas that may have been weaker for this person, or “out-of-sync” with respect to the cultural values. The report also includes traits-to-avoid that can possibly de-rail success.

In this way, organizations can use the same dataset collected by one questionnaire in multiple ways; First, to assess fit for the job itself; second, to look at culture fit. It is true that some set-up needs to be done to do the customization work to create the cultural, or values filter, but once set-up, this is a very efficient, effective, time-saver that is also inexpensive.

Visit our website to find out more about both Job-fit and Culture-fit

_________________________________

[1] Sheila Margolis, Defining Organizational Culture Questions (https://sheilamargolis.com/consulting/organizational-culture-change-initiatives/organizational-culture-assessment-questions/)

[2] “It Really Pays to have a Rich Company Culture”, Entrepreneur Magazine, 10/21/14, (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/238640)

Advice your client is waiting to hear

ask for help

As a trusted adviser you may find yourself helping your client in areas other than your field of expertise. How you deal with that situation could make or break your reputation.

By recognising the need for your client to connect with another professional – and then connecting them with the appropriate expertise – you can retain and strengthen your role as a central adviser.

The important thing is to know when to use others’ expertise and how it can help deliver your client value that you can’t promise.

However, many advisers don’t consider referring a client to another party for a variety of reasons – and that harms both the client and the adviser in the long run.

These reasons include:

Assuming you know all about all businesses because you run one yourself

This is like parents thinking they know how a school should run because they spent a lot of time there when they were kids.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know all about business because everyone is different.

Remedy: As an experienced professional, you know each client has different challenges, and their experience won’t be the same as yours. Keep this in mind and assume nothing.

Limited business networks

You will enhance your reputation as a trusted adviser by the company you keep. Unless you have built relationships and a deep understanding of how other professionals can help your clients, it will be hard to refer them to the best people.

Remedy: Network – and keep in mind the purpose of this networking is not to sell your services or to get referrals. A pile of business cards from the latest business networking function is not a network. It’s about identifying the people you’d like to work with to deliver to your clients the advice they need.

Fear of your client getting advice that conflicts with your advice

What if you send your client to another professional and they receive advice you think is wrong?

Remedy: Do your research! Take the time to get to know potential advice partners, their services and how they work with clients. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a poor match – remember you are doing this research on behalf of your clients.

So when would you need to refer a client to another party?

When you may need to refer a client to somebody else

When they need proactive strategies to minimise tax

While you understand and can advise on ways to minimise tax, your client may need to be referred to other professionals as part of the implementation of strategies.

When clients need to seek legal advice

Help the client recognise when the stakes are high and a situation or concern calls for legal advice from a professional. Then provide recommendations of lawyers with the right expertise to help them.

When they need a business coach or strategic partner

Your knowledge of a client’s financial situation gives you a unique insight into any areas where they may lack specific skills, such as business planning or marketing.

When they need financial planning advice

As you know, there are limitations on the advice you can give if you do not have the legal right to do so.

Your clients will value a referral to a professional, independent financial planner when they need to manage their superannuation, life insurance and related affairs.

When they need to prepare for succession, retirement, or sale of a business

Many consultants specialise in these areas but lack the financial expertise you can offer.

When you identify the need for these next steps in a business, it’s time to call on the professionals in your network who can fill in the gaps such as people management, business broking and legal.

The result

Your clients trust you for your values and ethics, and they will get the best results with other advisers who also share those values.

Focus on finding the best possible source of advice for your clients, and you will minimise any risk in referring them outside your business.

Your good advice — in sending them someone who works with them as well as you do — will be rewarded by strengthening your position as an adviser who gives their clients the advice they’ve been waiting to hear.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

Workplace Giving With Meaning

What comes to mind when you hear about workplace giving? Charitable donations? Team-building volunteering opportunities? Secret Santa? In this article, I’d like to explore some other ideas.

In the season of giving, let’s take the time to recognise and appreciate the ways we give to each other at work every day, not just on special occasions. For some people, giving is what you are paid to do. While for others, it sits outside your job description but I believe it’s still a vital attitude for all of us to have in order to work effectively and to find our joy at work.

Here are some reflections on giving at work, not just for the Christmas season:

1. Everyday giving

.

We already possess them. What’s more, their supply is unlimited. Think about the times you have given freely the following.

  • Your attention
  • Autonomy and empowerment
  • Sincere praise and recognition
  • Constructive feedback and guidance

2. Giving gives meaning

You may not always appreciate it, but each of the items listed above is a gift to the other person in the work context. That’s because it benefits both the giver and the recipient. You don’t have to give the gift, but you can choose to do so.

How does this giving make you feel? Could you get more of that feeling?

3. Appreciate that you can give

Being able to give is a gift in itself. Think about the ways you share your gifts and talents in the workplace. Then be grateful for those who give you the opportunity.

4. Real giving is different from ‘giving to get’

Giving your time, attention or praise is meaningful only if you do it without the expectation of receiving something in return. If you would like to give more, seek out Adam Grant’s book ‘Give and Take’ for inspiration.

5. You can give too much

We sometimes see people who always seem to be giving without looking after themselves. I’m sure you know people like this. It may even describe you.

A typical workplace example of this phenomenon is the team leader who loves to dive in and help the team to solve issues and get their work done. This is admirable up to the point where the leader is taking from their team opportunities to learn and to gain a sense of empowerment. The leader is also sacrificing their ability to get their own work done. In extreme cases, we may see this leader exhibiting atypical dominating behaviour when under stress because continually giving in this way is not sustainable.

In the Harrison Assessments Paradox report, this dynamic is illustrated by the ‘Power’ pairing of the traits Helpful (the tendency to respond to others’ needs and to assist or support others to reach their goals) and Assertive (the tendency to put forward personal wants and needs). To find out more about Harrison Assessments and the Paradox report that covers 12 pairs of traits, click here or contact us.

What do you think?

How and what do you give at work? Why is giving important to you?

There is something worse than rejection. It’s uncertainty.

When was the last time you experienced rejection? Was it following a job application? Perhaps you put forward a brilliant idea that was ignored or discounted by someone else.

Rejection feels dreadful and most people will do whatever they can to avoid it.

You know the feeling. You are so demoralised and discouraged you don’t want to do anything. Remember? Could anything be worse?

As humans, we are programmed to avoid rejection at all costs. Rejection from the family or the tribe meant almost certain death to our distant ancestors. We have evolved to avoid rejection as a very natural survival mechanism.

How does rejection feel for you?

When we fear public speaking, we fear rejection. When we don’t want to make a sales call, it’s because we are afraid the answer will be ‘no’. Rejection again.  As are the times when we don’t follow up on a job application because while we don’t know the answer, we can convince ourselves it might be ‘yes’.

When was the last time you stopped yourself from putting forward your ideas in a meeting because you weren’t sure they’d be welcome? A classic and typical business example of avoiding the discomfort of rejection.

What could be worse than rejection?

We all know how rejection feels. We don’t want to experience it. We also – usually – don’t want others to experience it. In fact, sometimes we go to the extent of lying so we don’t impose rejection on others.

We want the world to see us as friendly, kind people. Within that hope lies fear of rejection. So instead of telling the truth, we choose to generate some uncertainty.

Here’s a scenario familiar to many of us: You apply for a job, you are interviewed and it goes well. The people seem friendly and they say they’ll let you know. You really want that job and you are feeling good about it. There are other jobs you could be applying for but there was something about this one that makes you hold off on going for the others.

A couple of weeks later, you still haven’t heard, so you call. Only then do you find out that the job has gone to an internal candidate. Your application and interview were great, they say, but you just didn’t have the level of experience of the other person.

What would be your preference now? Would you rather have had a clear ‘no’ immediately, or hear it now? What could you have achieved in the meantime, instead of hanging on thinking the job just might be yours?

This post is a plea for us all to be more honest. With those close to us, with team members, with anyone trying to sell us something.

How to handle rejection

When you have to give an answer to the question of employing someone, buying their product or trying their ideas, there are only three possible responses:

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Later

By being honest about your intentions, early, everyone can move on. The first two options are fairly clear. Use option three only if you mean it. In that case, give the other person a set date when you will be ready to provide a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

From dealing with the latest telemarketer to management to parenting, this principle will save time and pain all round.

What do you think?

Do you agree we could all be more happy and productive if we were a little more honest with each other? Next time someone tries to sell you an idea, product or service, will you be able to override your fear rejection and give them an honest answer?

Need some help? Dealing with rejection – from both sides – is a key leadership skill. Click here to see how we can help you understand and develop your leadership strengths.

Employee engagement is “everything money can’t buy”

employee engagement

The inspiration for this post on employee engagement came from an unlikely source – a drive in the country. We visited the beautiful Wolgan Valley west of Sydney and historical Newnes. Although there’s no longer a town, there’s a sign that says Newnes, followed by the tagline: ‘Everything money can’t buy’.

When someone works for you, you exchange your money for their labour. That’s the basic economics of labour. There’s nothing about that transaction that imposes a duty on your employee to feel engaged, excited or enthusiastic about their work. They bring their skills, training and experience to work to produce goods or services you sell for profit. That’s the part of the employee engagement equation money can buy.

Doing things that increase employee engagement can certainly cost money, but engagement itself usually can’t be bought.

People want to feel the work they do is making a difference. Making a difference means different things to different people – and this is where many attempts at employee engagement have run off the rails. Answers to the question ‘How do you know your work is making a difference?’ will include answers as diverse as these:

“I know my company always acts ethically”

“The work we do here helps society”

“I have opportunities to contribute to the direction of the organisation”

“I’m learning new skills that will give me a hand in my career and that I can pass on to others”

“My work matters”

Can you tell me where you can buy that sort of employee engagement?

Employee engagement is much more than an annual survey or a new workshop. Employee engagement requires managers to find out what money can’t buy for each person on their team. What can you do to employ their heart and not just their head and hands?

Surveys and workshops, while valuable, are also generic by nature because they don’t tap into individual engagement ‘drivers’. There are many engagement factors to consider. Each person has their unique combination of things that money can’t buy. How do you find out what will employ their heart and not just their head and hands?

A valuable starting point in any employee engagement exercise is to do a serious analysis of employee expectations. With the Harrison Assessments Engagement and Retention Analysis, we examine these expectations in eight categories:

  1. Development
  2. Appreciation
  3. Remuneration
  4. Communication
  5. Authority
  6. Personal
  7. Social
  8. Balance

Here’s a small part of an individual Engagement and Retention Analysis report, to give you a taste of what’s possible:

Employee engagement indiv

We can also analyse the expectations fo any size group. Here’s a tiny snippet of the information you’ll get in a group Engagement and Retention Analysis report:

Employee engagement group

Beyond the colourful graphs, the detailed narrative in each report can help you improve your business results by showing how to increase employee engagement. You will know what people want, how important different factors are to them and how to address those needs to create better performance.

If you would like to experience our unique approach to employee engagement, get in touch!

Employee engagement: 5 ways to kill it

Employee engagement is a favourite topic with employers and staff alike. The annual employee engagement survey always has some interesting results!

With this level of interest and investment in engagement, you’d think we’d be finding people are happier at work. Instead, research shows in survey after survey that overall job satisfaction is remarkably stable with ‘x%’ ready to leave their jobs and move on at any time.

How do good organisations kill employee engagement?

Here are just some of the less obvious ways we’ve seen managers get it wrong – even when they thought they were working on employee engagement.

1. Scrimping on essential resources

A computer system that works is an example of a basic requirement for anyone working in an office environment these days. Unfortunately, that can’t always be assumed to exist. When glitches aren’t fixed promptly, employees waste time and energy on expensive workarounds.

2. Having processes that don’t make sense

The carefully designed process may have made a lot of sense in the meeting that developed it. How much time was spent consulting the people who will have to use it?

3. Taking away employees’ autonomy

Employees want feedback on their work – especially if it’s given in a timely and constructive way. The rest of the time, they like to feel trusted to do a good job in the work you employed them to do. By micromanaging, you remove their sense of autonomy and, ultimately, their engagement and productivity.

4. Failing to invest in career development and training

You hired your staff for specific skills, qualifications, and experience. They probably spent a lot of time and money to get to the point where you could benefit from their investment. Now it’s your turn to make them even more valuable.

5. Expecting staff to compete not collaborate

While you can motivate some employees by having an in-house rivalry, others will feel completely disengaged if they are forced to compete against their colleagues. Can you identify who fits into which group on your team? Or do you just treat them all the same?

What if there was a way to find out how to improve your employee engagement?

The good news is that there are lots of ways. The simplest place to start is asking your staff. You might be surprised by what they tell you – and you’ll know more than you knew before!

Aside from the annual engagement surveys, you can access a range of tools to solve the employee engagement puzzle. Here are a few to consider:

1.  Engagement and Retention Analysis (ERA)

Available from the Harrison Assessments suite of reports, with the data collected in one online short questionnaire, ERA reports are available for individuals and any group size. Click on the images below to see samples.

ERA teamERA report

2.  Weekly targetted check-ins

If you’re super efficient at meetings, then you could do this face to face. A more productive and useful approach could be to use a tool like 15Five that allows you to ask the questions you want to ask. And get the answers you need to take action.

3.  360 degree feedback

Employee engagement is mostly in the hands of your managers and team leaders. Sadly they may not always be delivering the basics you expect. It can take you months or years to find this out if you’re not proactive about getting feedback from staff. We can help you set up a feedback survey tailored for your situation.

Not sure where to start with employee engagement?

We’d love to help you navigate the most efficient and economical way to improve your employee engagement. Find out more or get in touch!

Performance reviews no more? 3 things to consider!

When I first heard of big name companies like Deloitte and Accenture ditching their annual performance reviews, I have to say I became a bit excited! Anyone who has worked in HR or line management – no, let’s make that anyone who’s worked – knows what a pain they can be.

Not only is it the people management task managers often have the most trouble completing. Often to produce results that are at best meaningless. At worst, performance reviews can be destructive, demoralising and unlikely to produce better performance.

Can you tell I’m not a big fan of the traditional performance review?

Yes, that would be true when the emphasis is on ‘traditional’. You know the one I mean. It comes around every 6 or 12 months, it’s 5 pages long, it contains rating scores and there’s a collective groan when it arrives. You complete the form first, then negotiate with your manager about the ratings you’ve given yourself. This negotiation can be high stakes if the results also determine your salary.

Instead of the process above, I’ve long thought that in a perfect world, feedback would be continuous. Then the performance reviews, if they had to happen, would be more of a formality, codifying what is already known. No energy-draining difficult conversations and no surprises!

In most places I’ve worked, this would amount to a very idealistic world view. And it’s a view I’m prepared to adjust on my reading of recent research into performance reviews.

What you could miss if you drop performance reviews

There are several risks an organisation takes if management decides to drop performance ratings or reviews. Most of them relate to removing the mandated conversation that has to happen between a manager and his staff. By cutting back on the performance reviews, you could miss out due to:

  • Lost opportunity for discussions beyond day-to-day task management and reporting
  • Less engagement with employees as managers retreat to doing what’s essential for their immediate KPIs
  • Lower productivity from high performing employees because they aren’t getting positive feedback on their performance

How do you get the best of both worlds?

More than most, I understand the desire to ditch the traditional performance review. That could work as long as other processes are in place to avoid the risks listed above. In my experience, the organisations who have successfully done so are rare – and well-resourced. My hybrid solution would combine the following with a scaled-back performance review process.

  • Creating opportunities (and motivation) for regular feedback for all team members
  • Asking the right questions, focussed on what is important to both greater employee engagement and delivery of the strategic plan
  • Consistent, regular and effective feedback (in both directions)

Implementing these changes will be easier with the right tools. We recommend using 15Five to create opportunities, asking the right questions and being consistent.

Get your free trial of 15Five now to see how it can change your approach to performance reviews.

What do you think?

Please share your view below. Have you tried new approaches already? What has worked for you?

Are you ready to try something new but don’t know where to start? We’d love to help you sort it out if you get in touch!

Postscript:

Following the publication of this post, the Australian Financial Review published a related article the next day about GE replacing performance reviews with regular check-ins. If you’re exploring doing the same, here’s the first step in your research.

Timely feedback leads to better performance

Many high-performing companies, especially in the startup and tech sectors, are happily dropping the traditional performance review.

Instead, they favour giving and requesting feedback when it can have the most impact on performance — both at the individual and business level.

(If you have children or a dog, you have no doubt already discovered this!)

The business benefits of more timely feedback

As external markets, including the labour market, change rapidly, the one sustainable competitive advantage a business can rely on is its staff.

To unlock value, employers need to engage their employees. We are fortunate today to have employees who are more educated, more mobile and who expect to apply their skills. They want to be involved, recognised and developed at work.

Implementing timely feedback builds engagement, grows skills and enhances productivity, which leads to better overall business performance.

What about your business?

Even if your business is not a fast-growing startup, in some instances you’d probably like to raise certain issues or topics well before the next round of performance reviews or staff surveys.

For example:

  • There’s something in your systems and processes that is frustrating for clients and staff.
  • One of your staff has an idea that could revolutionise your business.
  • You have a manager who is acting as a bottleneck for their team.

In situations, a timely feedback approach could pick up early signs so you can take appropriate action. At the same time, the organisation is showing employees that someone is listening. Both outcomes allow your business to become more agile and productive while engaging employees.

How can a business have timely feedback with minimal effort and maximum effect?

In the past five years, a completely new category of apps and online programs has emerged for this purpose.

If you already use a software package for performance appraisals or staff engagement surveys, it’s possible your provider also has a simplified feedback tool in their catalogue.

With more options coming onto the market all the time, you can find one that precisely suits your needs – if you know what you’re after. A few points to consider are:

  • What’s your purpose?
    If you are looking for a continuous feedback tool to replace your traditional performance appraisals, you might look at WIRL and similar apps. On the other hand, if you are looking for a replacement for a suggestion box or staff survey, you might investigate 15Five. If the primary motivation is to increase engagement, look at hppy or Tap My Back and similar tools. Most of the apps mentioned here perform multiple tasks, so it’s possible to find a good match to your needs.
  • Simple questions or a survey?
    Some systems allow you to customise and schedule specific questions on a weekly basis, while others may provide a set of questions that you can distribute as a survey and less frequently. Think about how much control you would like to have and how much data you want to collect. Keep in mind that more information usually means more work, at least in the short term.
  • Anonymous or identified?
    This depends on your current culture and levels of trust in the organisation. If answers are anonymous, people may be more open but you will likely get more noise in your system. When feedback is not anonymous, employees need to know they will not be penalised in any way for a controversial opinion. The advantage to having respondents identified is that you will be able to show your appreciation for their individual contributions, seek further clarification if needed, and work with them on ideas and solutions.
  • Frequency and timing
    Quality feedback is more likely if your app is easy to use, doesn’t take more than a few minutes to complete and will work on mobile devices. The most efficient and effective will simply become a regular part of your workflows, just like a weekly staff meeting — only shorter and more productive!
  • What happens to the data?
    This point should be both first and last, because it is so important. Just as you wouldn’t introduce a new CRM without knowing its features and how you plan to use it, starting to use a feedback app without a plan for how you’ll treat the results would be a waste of time. Don’t start until you can articulate why you’re doing this and how you’ll use the data. The same applies if you’re not ready to acknowledge and act on the feedback.

A word of caution

Time spent with your staff setting ground rules and training at all levels will make your feedback system much more meaningful and productive.

To feel confident using the new feedback process, every user must be clear about the expected feedback standards. They also need to believe someone will appreciate their opinions and ideas and take action based on them. With the most advanced — or most simple — feedback process, covering the basics first is the key to uncovering better performance through timely feedback.

Now’s a good time to consider what you could gain through timely feedback. Would you want to risk losing people because they feel their input is rarely required and mostly ignored, but will be valued by one of your competitors? Alternatively, would you prefer to tap into the knowledge, skills, experience and creativity of your staff through timely feedback?

The choice is yours.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

What’s going to happen when you lift that rock?

Have you ever lifted a rock and found an ants’ nest underneath? How did the ants react?

I bet they ran around like crazy!

A conversation I had today reminded me of this experience. I was talking to someone who is managing a team where the previous manager micro-managed everything the team members did. They had no authority to make even minor decisions on their own and being corrected, coerced and cajoled was part of their everyday working life.

The previous manager was the rock, sitting hard on top of the team. Keeping them in check and letting them know exactly where they stood – and where they couldn’t go.

Enter the new manager. A manager who expects the team to take responsibility for their own work. A manager who is not interested in the minutiae of what that work entails. A manager who won’t give direction on every task. A manager who expects them to think for themselves.

The rock has been lifted and the team has gone a little off the rails…

When they’re not used to having any freedom or responsibility, it’s not hard to imagine how that might happen. It may even be frightening for them. They may be feeling as if things are spiralling out of control.

How do you remove the rock without creating chaos?

  • Be clear about the expectations
  • Let the team know they have your support
  • Be there for them as they adjust to the new world they live in (the air, the light!)

There may be one or two who get lost along the way but be assured an ant colony can rebuild at a remarkable rate. Human teams can be equally surprising in how quickly they reform and perform.

 

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

SUBSCRIBE