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5 ‘HR’ metrics CEOs actually care about

How HR can link workforce metrics to business outcomes 

Unfortunately, most of the people metrics HR leaders track as often as their FitBit score don’t grab the attention of the C Suite the way they’d like. And, as a result, the metrics that are reported to CEOs and the executive committee result in no positive action being taken.

So, if your HR metrics don’t directly and unambiguously cover strategic goals like increasing productivity (thereby increasing revenue) and innovation, or contributing factors like quality of talent and turnover of high performers, they simply won’t drive executives to act.

While it might be impossible to capture performance of a division, function, manager or even employee in one single metric, a suite of metrics like these carefully chosen for your context, can help you give your CEOs the value they’re looking for.

1. Productivity index

Why they care:

Most organizations are moving towards a project or mission-focused structure so they can deliver on specific objectives or goals (such as a new feature release) in shorter cycles.

This means that setting goals well and achieving them on time is paramount. The productivity index should help you evaluate how productive a certain demographic within your organization (such as a function or a manager’s team).

If goals or projects are being tagged against strategic objectives, you can also track productivity against each strategic objective to see which ones you’re doing well against and which ones you’re lagging behind on.

How to measure it:

How you define projects / goals / work allocation might differ between organizations and functions and will require careful consideration. Keep in mind the average duration of your goals while evaluating this metric as well, if the larger goal seems to span beyond 6 months make sure you’re breaking it down into small milestones that can be tracked not only for monitoring progress, but also measuring productivity.

For those following a standard goal and target setting methodology:

(Number of goals met on time in review period / Number of goals set for review period) * 100

For those following a project scope methodology:

1. Identify the scope, final deadline and midway milestones for a particular project

2. Identify # of milestones met on time or the volume of work completed and the amount of time that has passed

3. Extrapolate percentage completion by due date basis current scenario e.g. if things continued at current pace we would achieve 90% completion on due date

2. Engagement level and eNPS

Why they care:

While both pulse and engagement surveys capture employee sentiment at a moment in time, they’re also valuable for forecasting employee behavior. Engagement is one of the most reliable predictors of attrition or turnover. Given that the cost of losing a great employee can be 2X their salary, it’s no surprise CEOs find value in this metric.

How to measure it: 

While most organizations will include an employee net promoter score or eNPS in their engagement survey, we highly recommend capturing deeper feedback around the employee experience via directed questions around specific engagement drivers. Such as: relationship with reporting manager, opportunities for growth, work environment, nature of work, etc.

Once you’ve arrived at your survey, the most common way to arrive at this score is by generating the mean scores for the series of questions relating to an engagement driver.

3. Attrition or turnover of high performers

Why they care:

The power law or long tail distribution of the quality of performers in an organization shows the importance of ‘hyper’ performers. Depending on your industry and context, the contribution of hyper performers could be anywhere between 2.5x to 10x  that of an average performer. Hence to take any good decisions about retaining talent, understanding reasons behind turnover of their top talent is important for the leadership.

How to measure it:

(Number of high performers who resigned in a time frame / Total number of high performers at start of time frame) * 100

4. Employee utilization variance

Why they care:

For organizations following a project or goal oriented work structure, it is critical to ensure there is optimal utilization of the workforce in delivering output to avoid over-staffing or under-utilization of staff so as to maximise profitability.

Before taking this data point to the leadership, HR could also contribute by proactively speaking with business leaders to identify reasons and solutions for under-utilization, over-staffing and over-utilization (which can lead to burnout).

How to measure it:

(Total person hours allocated to active projects or goals by individual in a time frame / Total person hours available in the time frame) * 100

Depending upon how your organization allocates hours / days to projects, the same calculation can be run based on days as well. E.g.: Top talent in marketing was only utilized for 17 days of the month, i.e., under-utilized by 22%

5. Hire success or quality of hire

Why they care:

The faster new hires can achieve average or more than average productivity on the job, the faster the overall productivity will improve and hence profitability will improve.

If you can also prove the quality of your talent search and acquisition efforts via this metric, it’s a win-win for HR. Especially at a time of economic uncertainty like now, any investments made in talent in the last 6 months are critical.

How to measure it:

The measurement of this metric depends on how you follow goal setting or project allocation.  

For those following a standard goal and target setting methodology:

In an ideal scenario, you would want your new hires to achieve 100% of their allocated goals on time. Hence:

(Number of goals met on time in review period by new hire / Number of goals set for review period for new hire) * 100

For those measuring monetary contribution by a role such as roles in sales, collections or call centers:

(Average monetary contribution of the new hire in a time frame / Average monetary contribution of a top performer in the time frame) * 100

By comparing performance to that of top performers, it might seem like you’re setting an unrealistic target at first but you also show your commitment to bringing in top talent who will make a higher than average contribution to the bottom line. For organizations with more advanced data analytics capabilities, HR could also work with the CFO to estimate the total revenue or profit increase as a result of better performing new hires.

Any people metric is only as strong as the quality of data being recorded in the first place. Tools like Mesh help HR capture all these data points and more in real time, and by important demographics like manager, level, location, etc. so that you can deep dive and generate actionable insights for business managers and leadership alike.

To learn more about how Mesh could help you bring value to your CEO, write in to us today at contactus@thepeoplemesh.com

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Holding your midyear reviews like a (great) boss

Things you should and should not be doing

As this surreal year’s half-way mark passes us by, many organizations with formal performance evaluation processes would have launched or be in the midst of completing their mid-year performance reviews and meetings (virtually of course!). However crazy this year may have been, expectations for productivity, innovation and resilience have been higher than ever before. Whether your organization carries out formal reviews annually or offers on-going feedback informally, we highly encourage managers to take it upon themselves to check in with their teams in order to recharge and regroup for the second half of the year. Why?

“ It never hurts to remind managers and employees that midyear is a good time to discuss their goals, performance and development”

–         Blakeley Hartfelder, Gartner

This is an excellent opportunity to formally sit down with your team and:

  • review accomplishments and progress against goals
  • review goals themselves to see if they’re still relevant
  • check-in on the general mental state of employees and how they are doing in their roles
  • seek upward feedback on what is/isn’t working and what support or resources they need to deliver on expectations
  • discuss development opportunities above and beyond the day to day role

But HOW managers approach mid-year review meetings can make or break everything. Just going through the motions and ‘winging it’ is not enough to ensure employees are on track and receiving the proper feedback and support they need to succeed.


4 steps to acing the midyear performance reviews

1. Plan:

Ineffective managers:  wait for HR or team members to ask or skips midyear reviews altogether

Most managers: book meetings a few days in advance but provide little to no agenda in advance

Great managers: are consistent with their check-ins and formal midyear meetings and provide team members with clear meeting objectives in advance

How to plan like a pro:

  • Book the mid-year review meeting at least 2-3 days in advance with a formal meeting invitation. It should be clear this is more than just a casual weekly check-in.
  • Communicate the purpose so the employee understands the objectives of the meeting and can come prepared (including any self-evaluation forms if needed)

2. Prep:

Ineffective managers: try to ‘wing-it’ on the spot

Most managers: take 10-15 minutes before the meeting to skim individual goals and make notes

Great managers: understand the importance of showing how invested they are in coaching and developing their team. Prepare in advance by collecting peer input, reviewing notes from 1:1s of the last 6 months, and planning discussion points to structure the meeting constructively. 

How to prep like a pro:

  • Review the employee’s goal accomplishment till now – have they been slow / on track / beating targets? This could say a lot about how you set goals as well
  • Review action plans from any 1:1s you’ve held till now (if you haven’t already, use our guide to start holding effective 1:1s today!) to make sure neither of you have dropped the ball on anything
  • Examine any 360 degree feedback, social feedback, peer inputs etc. to identify trends, strengths and opportunities that should be discussed for the future
  • If you follow a rating scale, determine the extent to which the employee is performing in line with expectations – come up with a few action items to help them continue as-is or improve if need be
  • Plan questions you’d like the employee to open up about – their development needs, training opportunities, etc.

 3.   Powwow

Ineffective managers: do most of the talking or waste time in extensive small talk. Employees leave meetings taken by surprise if constructive feedback is shared at all

Most managers: do most of the talking, provide feedback but don’t plan for the next 5-6 months. Yearend ratings then take employees by surprise

Great managers: keep at least a 60/40 split with the focus on employee input. Appreciate accomplishments and strengths but also share constructive feedback for the future. Employees leave the meeting inspired with an action plan on what they need to deliver in the next 5-6 months.

How to hold your midyear powwow like a pro:

  • Ensure your devices are on a DND mode. As reviews are probably held virtually, make sure you connect via video and give your undivided attention
  • Pull up the agenda on a shared screen so both parties have it top of mind
  • Ask the employee to start with how they think the past 6 months went. If you’re faced with silence, nudge them by asking questions like “What did you think of…”, “Do you want to tell me more about…”
  • If you prepared your pointers in advance, make sure you cover:
    • any key points from the self-evaluation
    • strengths or positive observations (use examples or feedback received from others)
    • progress against goals and any 1:1 action plans
    • add or alter any new goals
    • expectations for the future and action items to improve performance
    • mid or long term development plan
  • Make sure you both leave the meeting with a clear action plan / follow-up items needed to be done by both of you after the meeting. Bonus points if you schedule your next 1:1!

4.   Pursue

Ineffective managers: rarely follow up after the midyear review on action items discussed

Most managers: follow up after the midyear review once or twice but fail to deliver their end of the bargain or motivate employees to do more

Great managers: understand that maintaining the feedback loop is key and bring up action items in the following 1:1s 

How to pursue after the midyear review like a pro:

  • Record a summary of the discussion and all action items discussed on your 1:1 tool (like Mesh), offline form or over an email
  • Do your best to deliver your end of the bargain and act promptly if the employee follows up
  • Follow up with the employee to help them accomplish their goals and discuss their progress in your next 1:1

As you hold your midyear reviews, consider how more frequent and regular performance discussions could benefit your team and organization as a whole. Yes, a continuous performance management philosophy requires some time and change in perspective as first, but knowing you’re building a high-performing community ready to handle the challenges of today and tomorrow will be well worth the effort!

Could use some help rocking your midyear reviews? Check out Mesh’s easy to use platform with handy features like a social recognition feed, strengths recorded against hashtags for easy analysis, 1:1 notes, goal cards, task progress tracking and all in one team hub.

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What great managers ask their team Part II

The only question library for 1:1s you’ll ever need 

In continuation to “What great managers ask their team Part I” we bring you a second set of questions to choose from as you advance in your journey as a team leader and your 1:1s become more consistent and well planned. 

If the first stage of 1:1s is to authentically build trust and provide effective feedback, the next stage is to become a better coach and focus on larger development of your direct and skip level reportees. As a bonus, we’ve added some contextual questions directed towards making the remote work experience as productive as possible.

If you (or your team) are still not getting value from your 1:1s, and need a little more guidance on how to build the habit of continuous and effective communication with your team, get your hands on a free trial of Mesh today.  

1. Questions to talk about growth and development

While not necessary to bring up in every 1:1, make sure you circle back to this topic at least once every 4-6 months to show your commitment to the long term growth of your talent. According to a study by PWC, opportunities for growth and development are some of the most attractive aspects of an employer, and these 1:1s are a great time to figure out exactly what your team members have in mind. 

    • What work are you doing here that you feel is most in line with your long term goals? What’s one thing we could do today to help you with this further?

    • What do you want to be doing in 5 years? 3 years?

    • Do you feel challenged at work? Do you feel you’re learning new things every month?

    • Who do you really admire? What do you admire about them? 

    • What area of the company would you like to learn more about?

    • Who in the company would you like to learn from? What do you want to learn?

    • What additional training or education would you like to help grow your skills?

    • Are there any roles in the company you’d like to learn more about?

    • If you’re at the start of the year: What do you think are the key skills you need to be successful in achieving your goals? How would you rate yourself for each of them today? What skills would you like to develop further this year?

It is a well established fact that people who get to work on their strengths are more engaged at work. If you’re using a strengths based recognition tool like Mesh, crowd-sourced feedback in your data bank will help you and your team uncover these strengths, so you can then work together on leveraging them further. 

2. Questions to become a better coach

According to Gallup, “Companies are shifting from traditional performance management practices to a new approach that focuses on performance development.” Managers are no longer expected to just manage team performance, but also coach team members on an on-going basis to improve their performance and help them succeed. 

    • What skills would you like to work on this month? How will these help you achieve your stretch goals, project commitments, etc.?

    • How do you like to receive feedback? (In 1:1s, as-it-happens, etc.)

    • How do you prefer to receive recognition? (most prefer recognition socially and Mesh helps with that!)

    • When do you like to work on developing new skills? Do you have a routine for it?

    • When do you typically read? What are you reading these days?

    • What frustrates you or makes it much harder for you to learn? 

3. Questions to become a better function leader

Often ignored but incredibly beneficial, are 1:1s with your skip level reportees. Occasionally connecting with them shows them you’re invested in their growth, are committed to building a great work culture, get inputs on manager performance, and gain frontline insights. If you haven’t done these before, start by focusing more of your time on building trust and rapport so they’re not intimidated by you. Once you build that sense of comfort, choose 1 or more of these questions to obtain valuable feedback. 

    • When was the last time you had a conversation with your manager about your career? How did it go?

    • Are you happy with your career progress here? Why/why not?

    • Do you feel your manager is approachable? Why/why not?

    • What is a recent situation you feel like your manager did a great job?

    • What is a recent situation you wish your manager handled differently?

    • Do you feel we properly recognize people here? Why / why not?

    • Do you want to tell me about a recent project you really enjoyed working on? What was your role in it? 

    • What is the greatest strength of your team? What does your team need to improve upon? What are you doing about it currently?

4. Questions to improve the remote work experience

While remote work might have become the new normal for most of us, remote employees still face some challenges as they settle into the new dynamic. Difficulties in ‘connecting’ with team members and ‘disconnecting’ with work at the end of the day are some of the top struggles as per Buffer’s State of Remote Report 2020.

Pick a few of these questions for your next 1:1 or even team check-in to stay attuned to your team’s engagement level. 

    • What’s your favorite part about working remotely? What’s your least favorite part?

    • What do you do to recharge each day?

    • What’s your setup like for working? Is there anything you feel you’re missing?

    • How could we improve our remote work daily / weekly schedule? Is there anything we could do to improve our team check-ins?

    • Do you feel like we have enough opportunities to connect with the team outside of work? Any ideas for starting some ‘water cooler’ or ‘happy hour’ type of discussions?

    • Do you feel you get ample support when you reach out for help remotely? 

    • What’s most challenging for you in your daily work routine?

    • How do you manage distractions during the day? Is it a challenge for you?

    • Do you get my attention when you want to share any creative ideas you have? Have I dropped the ball on anything recently? 

Like most things in life, your 1:1s will get better with practice as long as you’re committed to them. Leverage these and you (and your team) will find purpose and value at work not found in any other way before. 

For maximum impact sign up for Mesh today and initiate, structure, and record notes for your 1:1s plus much more, all in one easy to use platform.

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What great managers ask their team Part I

The only question library for 1:1s you’ll ever need

In “1:1s simplified”, we shared with you some ideas on how effective managers approach their 1:1s, including tips on things to do before, during and after your next session.

We’ve seen many managers beginning to realize the importance of regular 1:1s in the ongoing development of their team members, but more often than not, these meetings are ineffective and can feel like a waste of time. Pointless status updates on progress you could be recording asynchronously (tools like Mesh were designed for this), extended small talk about “how things are going”, and frequent cancellations are just a few of the symptoms of ineffective 1:1s.

What NOT to say in your 1:1!

Has this happened to you before? Why is such an important tool so poorly used, even in the rare instances it is used at all?

If you (or your team) are still not getting value from your 1:1s, and need a little more coaching on how to structure your next conversation, this library of questions on key must-cover topics just might be the thing you need.  

1. Questions to build trust and rapport

The foundation of any good manager and team member relationship is implicit trust and rapport. If your team doesn’t feel like you care about them as individuals, they’re unlikely to be inspired by you.

This chart from Gallup powerfully summarizes that fact:

In our introduction to 1:1s, we shared how the first 5-10 minutes are usually spent in an informal catch up. While some may brush this off as small talk, using this time to ask 1 or more of these thoughtful and directed questions can help you build a deeper emotional bond, especially so when everyone is working remotely. 

    • How are you? How is life outside of work?
    • How do you feel your work/life balance is right now?
    • What’s one thing we could change about work for you that would improve your personal life?If entering / coming out of a weekend: any plans for the weekend / did you do anything fun this weekend?
    • If around a holiday: What did you do to celebrate [Holiday]? How was it?
    • How are your parents/grandparents?
    • If they have children: How is [name of child] doing? (Ask something related to their age like starting school, playing sports, or other interests.)
    • What did you do for fun in the past that you haven’t had as much time for lately?
    • For the seasoned coaches: What is your rhythm? (A great lesson from Marissa Mayer)

The next 15-20 minutes should usually be employee led, i.e., your only responsibility is to listen open mindedly without judgement and ask relevant, clarifying questions if need be. If you find your employees coming short of talking points for this duration, you might not be doing enough to co-create an agenda (learn about agenda-starters here) or have enough savings in your ‘trust bank’ for them to be ready to open up to you. Don’t fret, luckily these things become easier with practice, so just remember to be consistent with your 1:1s and proactively work on creating the right environment for your team members.

The third section of your 1:1 gives you the opportunity to share your notes and inputs. You might like to use this time to ask:

2. Questions to share feedback

We shared with you the undeniable importance and power of continuous feedback in today’s world of work. If you haven’t taken the time to share feedback yet, this would be a great time to start. For feedback to be effective, it has to be delivered in the right way. Try out 1 or more of these questions to help you get the ball rolling. 

    • Do you feel you’re getting enough feedback? Why/why not?
    • What’s a recent situation you wish you handled differently? What would you change?
    • What’s an area of your work you want to improve?
    • What aspect of your job would you like more help or coaching on?
    • How many hours a day do you feel you’re productive? How could I help you be more productive?
    • If you’re nearing a mid-year or year-end review: How has the feedback I shared with you in the past few months helped you improve? Are there areas you feel we haven’t addressed? 
    • For pros: tie feedback to areas they’d like to improve, such as amping up their attention to detail / scripting their presentation storyboard if they want to improve their presentation skills / get more opportunities to present to clients. 

While this 1:1 session is about the individual, don’t discount the importance of asking for upward feedback as well. 

3. Questions to improve your team dynamics 

You will be surprised by the number of invaluable insights you could get about improving team engagement, culture and even performance by just taking the time to ask! By involving your team in your efforts to improve team culture, you’re not only building a greater sense of ownership and belonging but also ensuring you’re being inclusive and minimising your subconscious biases by respecting diverse perspectives. Here are some questions to get you started.

    • How could we change our team meetings to be more effective?
    • Do you feel you have too much on your plate / are under-worked / or have just the right workload?
    • Do you feel like you’re on the same page with the team? How often do you think you need meetings to ensure you stay that way?
    • Are there any meetings or discussions you feel you should be a part of that you’re not? 
    • Who would you like to work more often with? Why?
    • What do you like most about working on our team?
    • Do you help other members of the team? Do others help you when you need it?
    • Are you uncomfortable giving any of your peers constructive feedback? If so, why?
    • What’s 1 thing we could do to improve our virtual work environment for the team?

4. Must-ask questions to build an accountability loop

While these questions might sound great on paper (or your laptop!), frequent 1:1s are pointless if not balanced with action between the conversations as well. No matter which of these questions above you picked for your next conversation, make sure you end the conversation by asking:

What will you do to take action on what we talked about today?

What can I do to help you make progress on what we talked about today?

Like most things in life, your 1:1s will get better with practice as long as you’re committed to them. Leverage these and you (and your team) will find purpose and value at work not found in any other way before. 

For maximum impact sign up for Mesh today and initiate, structure, and record notes for your 1:1s plus much more, all in one easy to use platform.

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Is your performance management system future-ready?

Part 2 of our coverage on performance management systems for business and HR leaders

Today’s business climate and world at work require a fresh perspective towards how we take on performance management and people development. 

In any given organization over the course of an annual performance cycle, strategies evolve, goals shift, and employees often switch between multiple projects under various team leaders. The workforce today also actively seeks real time information on performance that informs them about their progress and motivates them to do better. Given this dynamic, it is hardly surprising that 70% of the organizations surveyed by Deloitte stated that they are either currently evaluating or have reviewed and updated their performance management process in the last 18 months.

In a world where employee retention and workforce capability are significant indicators of business success, the performance management process should focus on continuous coaching and forward looking development, rather than retrospective and competitive evaluation.

In this note, we try to unpack a few determining components of a future ready performance management system.

1. It builds transparency and enables visibility

Employees need to feel there is a connection between their day to day effort and the needs of the business. According to a recent talent survey by Ceridian, 92% of respondents who feel their work makes a business impact are happy with their jobs and more likely to apply high levels of effort towards meeting purposeful goals.  

While setting and communicating goals, key job expectations and responsibilities should act as the main guide and reference. Goals should not only address what is expected, but also how it will be achieved and why it’s important. The ‘what’ covers quality or quantity expected, deadlines to be met, cost to deliver, etc. The ‘how’ refers to the behavior to be demonstrated to achieve these outcomes, for example, ‘how’ to focus on customer service. The ‘why’ explains the link between individual goals and the organization’s strategic priorities, for example, becoming leaders in a certain market segment.  In addition, some organizations choose to include competencies or core values within performance expectations, to reinforce the link to desired organizational culture and values.

2. It allows for evolution and adjustment of goals

Organizations where employees review their personal goals quarterly—or even more often—were nearly four times more likely to score at the top of Bersin by Deloitte’s Total Performance Index.

Some goals, like your desired customer NPS, might remain steadfast. However more often than not, fluctuations in the business environment will call for goals to be revisited and adapted in line with the current scenario. Employees in agile and dynamic teams also often find themselves being allocated new projects and tasks that can’t be attributed to the goals they set at the start of the year.

Successful organizations allow for goals to be changed and targets to be altered if the assumptions used to set them change unexpectedly. This helps ensure employees actually have relevant goals they are working towards every day, and all their contributions are duly accounted for in any performance related decisions.

3. It enables employees to receive timely feedback and promotes honest dialogue

According to PwC, nearly 60% of survey respondents reported that they would like feedback on a daily or weekly basis—a number that increased to 72% for employees under age of 30. Successful organizations focus on on-going feedback provided informally in the natural flow of work and rapid feedback loops that give people specific and actionable inputs to implement in real time, learn from and course correct before it is too late.

Leading players like Accenture, Adobe and Deloitte have reported that regular, organic and multi-directional conversations between managers and their team members in the form of informal team check-ins have led to more meaningful discussions, deeper insights and greater employee satisfaction. Adopting this practise requires performance management processes to also include building skills in managers to not only give better feedback themselves but also promote a culture of authentic feedback without a fear of conflict within their teams. When upgrading your performance management system, look for ways to support your managers and enable practises like ongoing team check-ins and manager 1:1s.

4. It leverages the power of social recognition and celebrating small wins

Social recognition has been known to improve employee productivity by over 60%. Mozilla, like many other leading organizations, discovered the power of social performance management early on. Debbie Cohen, VP HR once stated “Mozilla was experiencing large, global growth. We needed iterative, ongoing dialogue on the impact of contributions. At the same time, we wanted to build community and recognition.” By allowing employees to socially recognize a job well done, a helping hand, someone going above and beyond, or even company values demonstrated in the moment, organizations can promote a culture of collaboration, improve engagement, increase job satisfaction and motivate employees to improve performance.

Additionally, social recognition also promotes building on one’s strengths rather than highlighting one’s weaknesses. A Gallup study found that teams with managers who received recognition on their strengths showed 12.5% greater productivity than teams with managers who received no recognition. Good for the employees AND good for the business? Sounds like a win-win to us.

5. It unbundles performance development and compensation

People development is simply too important a subject to let compensation bury it. More often than not, when compensation, bonuses and increments come into play, authentic feedback and action planning around performance improvement takes a backseat. In addition, when employees are competing for their share of the bonus pool or chasing the highest individual rating, teamwork and collaboration gets significantly hampered. When you review performance, the focus must be purely on what the employee did and how he or she can do it better next time. Whether you call this a performance review, a 1:1, or a check-in, it doesn’t matter. The key is to have an open and frank discussion where everyone involved listens and exchanges views.

While shifting focus to performance development, it’s also important to make sure employees understand how bonuses and increments are calculated. The more objective and transparent something is, the more accepting employees will be towards any decisions made in this regard.

Let fairness, sharing and transparency be your key values, and your people will reciprocate.

6. It bids adieu to old ‘bells’ and whistles

Research has shown that the distribution of employee performance more often follows the ‘long tail’ rather than the traditional ‘bell curve’ especially at talent-intensive companies that thrive on expertise and innovation. In other words, a small population of employees are top performers or ‘hyper achievers’, a small population of employees are low performers, while the large majority work at the middle level of performance. In industries such as software, a top performer can often outperform a mid-level performer by as much as tenfold.

Hence, your performance management system should be equipped to identify and treat high performers very well, while encouraging mid-level employees to improve through coaching and development. At Adobe, the new performance management system focuses on both ends of the performance curve—keeping high performers happy and offering practical advice for lower performers looking to improve. The results have been profound: Since rolling out the new approach worldwide, Adobe experienced a 30% reduction in voluntary turnover in a highly competitive talent environment.

Effective performance management for today’s (and tomorrow’s) world of work is both an art and science. It requires careful attention to both the intangible human aspects of performance development like coaching, ongoing feedback and social recognition, and the more tangible aspects of performance management like decisions around role changes, training and compensation. But the need to pay attention has never been more pressing.

Luckily, help is on the way. Mesh is a social performance management platform designed for today’s workforce, keeping these trends and needs in mind. Mesh makes it easy for employees to manage goals, track tasks, ask for feedback, share recognition, run team check-ins and 1:1s, all in the flow of work. It simplifies performance and project management processes and replaces the need for up to 4 different management tools with one daily social network for work.

Do you have any other tips or advise for managers to be better at leading teams? We’d love to hear from you. Write to us at contactus@peoplemesh.com.

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Why your performance management system is broken (and how to fix it)

Part 1 of our coverage on performance management systems for business and HR leaders 

Traditional performance management systems (and the HRMS tools that come along) cost a lot of time and money, but give back very little. 

Most PMS systems, especially those built around annual forms, are outdated, laborious, ineffective and fail to produce an accurate picture of performance. In a public survey conducted by Deloitte, 58% of the executives believed their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance. What’s more, according to CEB, only 14% of organizations are actually happy with their performance management system as it stands and nearly 90% of HR leaders say the process doesn’t even yield accurate information.

They, and we, are in need of something nimbler, real-time, and more individualized—something squarely focused on fueling performance in the future rather than assessing it in the past. The future of work has brought about extraordinary changes in the modern workplace, be it the competitive market, innovation in technology, overwhelming information flow, or even the psychological needs of the workforce. Employees today are demanding more from their companies, they are asking for meaningful work and managers who care about them as people. They want a rich purpose, clear work expectations, accountability, opportunities to learn and especially want on-going feedback and coaching.

All of this requires extreme alignment and harmony in how organizations manage performance and develop their people. Bluntly, what we’ve been accustomed to; such as the process based PMS module your HRMS most likely uses; no longer works. It probably never did. And the need to dramatically change our ways couldn’t be more urgent. Still not convinced? Here are 8 reasons why you need to reengineer your performance management system.

1. There is a weak link between evolving organizational priorities and individual effort

According to Gallup, only 44% of employees strongly agree that they can connect their own goals to the goals of their organization. For an organisation to meet its strategic objectives, whether it follows a top-down cascade, bottom-up, or hybrid approach towards goal setting, at the end the entire workforce must feel their goals are personally meaningful and tied to the larger picture.

Additionally, our constantly evolving landscape requires organizations to be agile and revisit their strategic priorities accordingly. What you thought you needed a department or individual to achieve at the start of the year, might not hold true three months from then, much less at the end of the year. Thus, failing to revisit goals throughout the year, or not accounting for additional goals / projects added through the year in one’s performance review can lead to demotivation and disengagement. It is alarming then, that even today most performance management systems do not factor in updates to individual and team goals.

2. It is tainted by human bias and subjectivity

If you’ve followed the work of Marcus Buckingham, you might have come across this term – ‘Idiosyncratic rater effect’. Big term, but it simply means that humans are by nature biased and unreliable raters of other human beings.

When we give a numerical rating to someone on a form, over 60% of that rating reflects us and our internal biases and preferences instead of an objective measure of the individual’s performance. Therefore, appraisal form ratings generate bad data. Which is a big problem, because we are paying, promoting, training, and deploying employees based on this rating – which doesn’t really reflect much about them anyway.

Hence ratings are a terrible performance measurement tool, because they claim to measure one thing but actually measure another.

3. It does not support continuous communication and limits honest dialogue

More often than not, individuals failing to see the link between their effort and the organisation’s strategic objectives isn’t an awareness problem, but a communication problem. Most managers are unable to help employees understand the impact their work has on the business as a whole. To make matters worse, rating biases like the idiosyncratic rater effect and recency effect, and the fear of implications on one’s compensation and future opportunities taint the process and limit honest dialogue around performance improvement.

Carrying out honest dialogue requires continuous and clear communication that is not supported in any way or form by current performance management systems. It’s troubling to realise that current performance management systems do not enable or even require managers to hold frequent conversations around goals, individual performance and progress.

4. It is merely an HR driven compliance activity

Traditionally, in most organisations the performance management cycle is heavily led by HR instead of managers who are truly responsible for managing and developing employee performance. A typical cycle goes like this – HR sounds the alarm when it is time for goal setting, sounds another alarm when it is time for the mid-year and year-end review, and a chain of frustrating reminders later, spends weeks collating the information across levels/ functions/ locations to arrive at data that could be used to lead the bell curve or final rating discussions. Irrespective of whether this is done via a new-age HR tech tool or offline forms, most of the performance management process is driven as a retrospective compliance activity by HR rather than a proactive people development initiative by managers on the ground. 

5. Today’s HR tools are administrative and don’t add any value 

Most HRIS / PMS tools today do not use the full extent of technology available today to aid individual development or improve performance, they merely bring the appraisal form online (albeit with rules to route the flow of the form for completion and sign offs).

Traditional performance management systems have become a form filling exercise, and a time and energy consuming one at that. Some organisations are beginning to count the time and cost involved, and it’s a LOT. Before Deloitte revamped their performance management system, they discovered that over 2 million hours were spent on their traditional performance management system across 65,000 employees.  This is a total of more than 300 hours per person per year. Given how much we invest in our HR tools, shouldn’t they be doing more to make this process more efficient? 

6. It doesn’t enable timely feedback that can actually drive results

Annual, quarterly and perhaps even monthly feedback is only retrospective in nature and does nothing to improve performance and drive results in real time. Feedback that is centred around filling an appraisal form and arriving at a numerical rating at the end also takes away from what performance management has really been about all along – a means to provide feedback to improve performance before making any people related decisions.

As a result, the performance management process has become so far detached from how work actually happens on the ground, that year end ratings leave employees feeling judged, competitive and dissatisfied. And numbers don’t lie – according to Gallup, only 26% of employees strongly agree that the frequency and nature of feedback they receive helps them do better work.

7. Real life performance doesn’t follow a bell curve 

Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of traditional performance management is grading by the curve or forced ranking of employees. It assumes that your organization will be made up of a small portion of high and low performers, with a large chunk of your employee population being just ‘average’. This process, widely known as ‘rank and yank’ has been abolished by many leading organizations such as Microsoft, Google, Accenture, IBM, HCL, Cisco, Adobe etc. because it does more harm than good. 

A forced bell curve diminishes the value of the top performers and pushes many mid-level performers into the bottom. In the process, it inadequately limits you from recognizing your top performers and fails to motivate middle-of-the-road employees.

What’s more, research proves that the real world doesn’t really work this way. 

In 2011 Ernest O’Boyle Jr. and Herman Aguinis found that performance at work actually falls into what is called a ‘Power-Law’ or long tail distribution.  This accounts for a much wider variation in performance among the employee population, with a small number being ‘hyper high performers’, a large number being ‘good performers’ and a much smaller number being ‘low performers’.

8. It was not built for remote work

Lastly, and perhaps of most relevance today, the traditional performance management system was not built for remote work. Especially remote work in the post COVID world.

You will struggle to find a single organization that hasn’t had to change the way it defines strategic priorities, sets goals, assigns work and tracks progress since the global Covid-19 pandemic.  For most of them, remote work or a flexible work arrangement (for some or all of their workforce) is here to stay.

It can be argued that remote work requires greater visibility, agility, flexibility, communication, and recognition than its traditional ‘brick and mortar’ counterpart. If our performance management systems were failing us before, they will certainly be ineffective against these newer and more challenging demands.

For all these reasons and probably many more, traditional performance management systems are well on their way to becoming defunct and dysfunctional. How does your performance management system fare against these limitations?  If it’s inadequate, how long has it been that way, with no consequences? Should you let your system languish another few years, hoping it will improve? Or is it time to get ready for a radical improvement?

Lucky for you, we’ve got a few ideas. Stay tuned to hear our thoughts on how fixing performance management doesn’t need thousands of hours, effort, or rocket scientists. 

Do you have any other tips or advise for managers to be better at leading teams? We’d love to hear from you. Write to us at contactus@peoplemesh.com.

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Upward feedback: how to ask for it and act on it

Building a culture of trust and accountability in your team

A Gallup survey found that 45% of actively disengaged employees in Germany would fire their supervisor on the spot if they could. Psychologist Michelle McQuaid’s survey found that 65% of employees in the US would prefer a better boss to a pay raise. A global study by Development Dimensions International revealed that 60% of employees surveyed said their boss had damaged their self-esteem. Another study by Monster.com reported that 84% of respondents thought they would do a better job than their manager. Lastly, a Harvard Business Review and Cornell study showed 42% of respondents withholding feedback when they feel they simply have nothing to gain (or something to lose) by sharing what’s on their minds. 

Sounds extreme? Before you assume this couldn’t be the case in your organization, think about the last time you asked your team for feedback on your performance as their leader / manager. Poor communication between managers and employees is one of the leading causes of declining job satisfaction and higher employee turnover rates. Gallup’s report on management in the US revealed that employees whose managers were not approachable were 65% more likely to be actively disengaged. If the last time you asked your employees for feedback was more than a month ago, it’s time to rethink your managerial habits.

Even if you are now motivated to receive constructive feedback from your team, chances are they’re exactly lining up to give it to you. To help you get the authentic feedback you need, we’ve outlined a few easy habits you can build into your work life.  

1. Schedule regular 1:1 sessions to build feedback into the flow of work

Scheduling regular 1:1 sessions with your team is a good way to get them comfortable with giving you feedback. If they become accustomed to having casual monthly or weekly discussions with you about their performance, they’ll be more likely to feel comfortable giving you honest constructive feedback. Additionally, a Gallup management report found that employees who have regular meetings with their managers are three times more likely to be engaged than employees who do not. See our blog for further reading on how to run effective 1:1s.

When your team does start opening up, make sure to proactively demonstrate how you’re implementing their feedback in future 1:1s. Seeing you take steps to follow their suggestions will encourage them to be more open.

2. Ask the right questions, and do something about the answers you receive

Most employees, especially in high context cultures like Asia, will still feel uncomfortable giving their managers constructive feedback. Asking them directed and specific questions will help you get them to open up. If you want your employee’s straightforward opinion on an issue, try asking them an action oriented question, and follow up with clarifying questions if need be. Asking an open-ended “How can I provide you more opportunities to develop your project management skills?” will get a far better response than a yes-no “Am I providing you enough opportunities to develop your project management skills?”

When you do receive some valuable inputs, try to fashion them into an action plan for yourself. State what you can do in the future and what you will need from your team to be held accountable to it. For example,

“I’ll try to review all presentations 24 hours in advance so we have ample time to discuss review comments and make revisions collaboratively. To do this, I’ll need you to help me by getting reports to me at least 1.5 days in advance.” 

3. Display emotional intelligence and role-model the right attitude towards feedback

It might go without saying, but the most important element of opening up channels of upward feedback is to keep your emotions in check. Constructive feedback can leave the best of us feeling defensive, even more so when it’s coming from someone below us in the old-fashioned sense of hierarchy. However, if we want to build trust in our team and have our team members be accepting of our feedback, we must role-model the desired behavior and accept feedback with an open mind.  

4. Put yourself in their shoes

If what you’re hearing as feedback doesn’t resonate with your intentions, try to see things from your team’s perspective. While you might be trying to help them out by giving them tried and tested answers from your experience, your team might be perceiving your inputs to be autocratic.  

In some cases, the feedback you receive may need you to accept you need to change your behavior. Even if your actions are merely misinterpreted (which is most often the case), what matters is that you realize how it affects your team and find ways to alter your behavior accordingly. Some common remedies may include adjusting your tone of voice, being more insistent on demanding employee opinions, making yourself available for coaching more often, being mindful of employee interests and strengths when assigning tasks, and spending more time ensuring your instructions are clear.

Your team will also expect you to address major issues in the workplace and encourage a positive atmosphere in the office. For example, if one of your employees is consistently causing discord with a poor work ethic, your team will look to you to point this out and set clear expectations to maintain harmony. 

Key take-aways

While nurturing a culture of upward feedback might be a slow process, it goes a long way in building a positive work environment and driving employee engagement. If employees are known for leaving their bosses not their companies, they’re also known for performing better and being loyal when supported by a great manager. Building these habits will not only make your team more effective, but also help you become a better leader. 

Do you have any other tips or advise for managers to be better at leading teams? We’d love to hear from you. Write to us at contactus@peoplemesh.com.

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Difficult feedback conversations: why they’re important and how to ace them

Must-read insights for managers looking to share feedback effectively

Research has time and again found that while beginners prefer positive feedback as it motivates them to do more, once people become experienced in an area of work, they actually prefer negative feedback so as to step up their game. 

In one Harvard Business Review survey, nearly 6 in 10 survey respondents prefered corrective feedback over straight praise,. A Gallup study also showed that employees also prefer receiving negative feedback over no feedback at all. 

When constructive feedback is so actively sought after by employees, why is it so hard for managers to hold difficult conversations and communicate constructive feedback in a timely manner? Our conversations and experience with leaders and managers bring up a clear pattern behind this hesitation – anticipating hurting someone’s feelings, having a defensive reaction, or being unliked afterward. While these are valid fears, managers often discover these fears are more to do with their own thought patterns than actual employee reactions. 

Hence, we’ve tried to take insights from the best feedback conversations and jot down some tips for managers looking for ways to deliver constructive feedback effectively.

1. Focus on behavior, not personality

It’s way easier to change an action you do than to change who you are.

For example, if you have an assertive / outgoing / confident employee that is a star performer but doesn’t put too much effort into building up junior team members / considering alternate point of views, you could try framing your feedback like this:

“I could tell you’re very excited about the project. You also know a lot about this field which is a major plus. But sometimes, when you get excited and start sharing your ideas, you don’t leave room for others to voice their ideas. In particular, I noticed that our junior analyst Emily was trying to share her idea but it got shot down pretty quickly. Did you notice this too?”

2. Be specific

Zoom in on a certain problematic area instead of creating negativity around their general work. You want to come out of this having helped them find a way to improve, not leave them feeling disheartened and unproductive. 

For example, if you find yourself chasing an employee for deliverable or constantly having to remind them for updates, try saying this:

“I can’t help but notice this is the third deadline that’s been difficult for you this month. I appreciate you let me know in advance that you’re running behind, but I’m wondering if I can be of any help in getting you up to speed. Let’s take a look at everything that’s on your plate right now and how you’re spending your time — maybe we can figure out a solution together.”

3. Be inclusive

People are more accepting of corrective feedback if they feel that it’s a two-way conversation rather than a reprimand by someone talking down to them. A good way to do this is to encourage employees to give themselves feedback on their own work. Ask them something like this: 

“I’ve told you before it’s great that you think big-picture, but in the last two projects some important details were missed, like X and Y. Ultimately that set us back as we had to do A and B. Do you think there is anything you could do differently for next time?”

Be approachable

Show your team it’s okay to make mistakes as long as we’re willing to learn from them, and fast. If feedback comes with a sense of ‘holier than thou’, it can be difficult for team members to open up and feel comfortable in voicing their challenges before it’s too late. A good way to fix this is to make a personal connection. When giving feedback to an employee, try saying something like:

 “I remember when I had to do that, I was so bad at my first attempt. (Include a relevant incident) But I learnt the hard way that you have to do X and it doubled my results…”

4. Be a good listener

The more your employees feel heard, the more they feel you care, and greater the amount of trust they place in you. If you have developed a transparent, trust-based relationship with your team, then they will know that you have their best interests at heart and that the feedback, be it good or bad, is for their own benefit. Even if you feel you have the answers, instead of telling your employees where they need to improve, start by asking them how they feel about a certain situation. For example:

“I wanted to discuss your last sales pitch. How do you feel it went?”

Employees generally know when their work isn’t strong and giving them the opportunity to own up to it and offer insights into their own mistakes is a way to make the negative feedback more productive. Let it come from them, then respectfully agree and guide them with solutions.

5. Most importantly, be supportive

When ending the conversation, review the discussion’s essence and try to avoid the feedback’s negative aspects but focus on action points. Make sure to emphasize on what the employee could do differently and end by sharing that you’re confident of his/her ability to solve the issue.

Lastly, remember that negative feedback is only constructive if shared at the right moment, which is almost always ASAP. People aren’t perfect, and will be less likely to get offended / defensive if you share actionable insights in real time when they have the opportunity to better themselves rather than a mid-year or year end review when it’s too late. 

Delivering feedback effectively is a key management skill and extremely crucial to building a high performing team. So look at each exchange with your employees as a development opportunity for both them and yourself!

Do you have any other tips or advise for managers to be better at leading teams? We’d love to hear from you. Write to us at contactus@peoplemesh.com.

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1 on 1s simplified: what every manager needs to know

Today’s world of work calls for frequent, forward-looking feedback all around

Continuous 1 on 1 coaching is essential to ensuring ongoing development, improving employee performance, and driving agile teamwork. Yet, most managers struggle to make time for them, and even when they do, it’s one of the toughest things to get right.

According to Harvard Business Review, 1 on 1s are a productivity tool with two fundamental purposes:

  • A time to ask strategic questions such as – ‘are we focused on the right things?’ or ‘what do I need to do to grow professionally?’
  • A way to show employees you value them and care about them as people

No pressure, right? 

So how can managers equip themselves to make these 1 on 1s not only a regular habit but actually beneficial? We’ve got some ideas…

1. Work on your timing

In today’s fast-paced world, employees don’t want to wait till the end of the year (or even end of the month) for constructive feedback. It’s important for managers to establish ongoing conversations, and create dedicated moments for delivering feedback. 

Set up a recurring calendar invite for each and every member of your team. This shows employees you care, and helps them come to these conversations fully prepared. 

2. Set up an agenda

Approximately 24 hours before, remind your employee about the discussion, and feel free to share your agenda / invite them to share theirs in advance. When building the agenda, keep in mind that it should be future focused, rather than retrospective. Planning for a better tomorrow is more likely to help employees generate constructive ideas around challenges and be more receptive when you share some ideas of your own. 

Having said that, don’t feel hesitant in sharing truly constructive feedback about past actions if need be. 

Here are some agenda starters you might like to ask your employees to think about beforehand: 

  • How they think they can contribute to team goals in the next month
  • What they need from you as a manager to help them achieve their goals 
  • Things they would like to accomplish on a professional or personal level this year

3. Give good feedback

You’re now in the middle of your 1 on 1, and determined to make it meaningful. Keep in mind the following basics about what constitutes good feedback, and what does not: 

4. Keep track

1 on 1s can sometimes feel too casual or even forced, if the employee isn’t really opening up in the conversation. Typically these conversations should last 40-60 minutes, and we’ve even broken down what they should look like:                                                                                                                             

5. Seek as much as you offer

It’s important to remember these conversations are meant to be a two-way street. So if the employee doesn’t feel comfortable sharing feedback about you at first, make sure you seek it yourself. High context cultures like India’s can sometimes make it hard for young professionals to give direct feedback to their seniors at work. The easier you make it for them to do so, the more you’ll benefit from the exchange as well.  

A great way to lead by example and build a strong feedback culture in your team is by asking specific questions, such as – ‘I’d like to work on my ability to (xyz), is there any feedback you can give me that might help me improve?’

6. Check for a common understanding

While talking through the employee’s inputs and your own, make sure you go over what was discussed in the last 1 on 1, and any commitments you both made to each other. 

Similarly, towards the end of your action planning, make sure you both make a note of things the employee will do and needs from you. Share these notes after the meeting and keep them somewhere easily accessible so that you actually make it a habit to refer to these outside of the 1 on 1s as well. 


Tip: Make sure you have these sensitive conversations in a private setting where employees feel safe to express themselves. For example, Mesh provides a safe space where you can prepare for and store your 1 on 1 notes. This in-tool space can only be viewed by you and the individual you are meeting with. It keeps a confidential record of talking points and action items, so you’re sure you never forget a crucial point of discussion —without having to create notes, emails, and minutes of meetings.


1 on 1s don’t need to be complicated, compliance driven or mentally tiring. When we begin to see them differently, they can help both parties build on their strengths, develop new skills and stay engaged at work. So make time for 1 on 1s, and approach them with empathy, purpose and a commitment to bettering both your team and yourself. 

Do you have any tips on how to run effective 1 on 1s? We’d love to hear from you. Write to us @ contactus@thepeoplemesh.com

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How to run team check-ins like a (great) boss

Things you don’t want to miss in your next team check-in

Have you heard the saying – ‘people don’t leave their company, they leave their manager’?

The (not so) hidden impact of managers

A Gallup poll of more 1 million employed U.S. workers concluded that the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor. If you’ve ever held a job, you’d agree that our relationship with our manager is extremely critical to shaping our work experience.

Then what, as managers, can we do to give it our best? Like in any relationship outside of work, communication and trust are key here as well. But building a strong and trusting relationship with your team isn’t as simple as having an open-door policy. It takes guided effort, consistency, and some time to build.

When it comes to building and nurturing team relationships, one major contributing factor is how managers run their team check-ins or stand-ups.  

Running value-adding team check-ins requires a significant mindset shit. These are no longer just for project status management, but also an extremely crucial building block of both performance development and team collaboration.  

Start off with having a set rhythm to your daily / weekly team check-ins. As a leader, it is your responsibility to keep these check-ins purposeful and streamlined. No one wants to be wasting an hour on a team call they only got 5 useful minutes out of!

Next, have a strong grasp on what goals you’re gunning after, what the progress till now has been, and what you want your team to do next. It’s totally alright to be the policeman and steer the call back on course if you feel someone is getting distracted from the agenda. No one wants to be wasting an hour on a team call they only get 5 useful minutes out of!

One challenge you might face is putting a hard stop to your old habits as an individual worker. Your initial instinct might be to jump into the work alongside your team, give too many directions or even want to fix what they’ve done to reach goals on time. You’ll quickly realize that this isn’t sustainable. Ultimately, what it means to be a manager is not to micromanage but to guide a team to reach goals so they can run autonomously.

Here are some handy tips you could try in your next team check-in:

  1. Have a set rhythm or frequency and try to hold one at least every two weeks if not every week
  2. Focus on ‘what’ the deliverables are, and by ‘when’ they need to be completed. Leave the details of ‘how’ that gets done up to each person
  3. Ask, don’t tell. Encourage them to think and make decisive calls rather than follow your directions if you really want them to learn  
  4. Think ahead. Anticipate challenges, roadblocks and expectations down the line. Mould your questions accordingly
  5. Sow seeds of new ideas / ‘thought starters’ that will inspire everyone to do more individually and collectively
  6. Do a quick mindset check at the start to see if anyone’s feeling overwhelmed or could use a helping hand. To really build trust, share your own vulnerabilities first! It could be anything from a tough call with a client to a fast approaching timeline
  7. Remember that your job is isn’t just to get the job done but to help them grow by letting them test, learn and fail without fear

Lastly, don’t forget that there’s no one size fits all method to being a great manager. Just make time for your team and approach these exchanges with care, empathy, and a commitment to bettering both your team members and yourself.

Do you have any other tips or advise for managers to be better at leading teams? We’d love to hear from you. Write to us at contactus@peoplemesh.com.