“Today’s leaders achieve far more engagement and credibility when they take part in genuine conversations with the people who work for and with them.” 1
Our recent Connected Conversations event was about thinking differently. It’s all too easy to do things because that’s what we’ve always done. Every now and then it takes a little lateral thinking to produce a fundamental shift in our outlook and approach.
In recent years HR professionals have been rethinking the performance review as a measurement of effectiveness. When did you last hear anyone say they were looking forward to their annual appraisal? Everyone dreads them, both manager and those managed and our view at 10Eighty is that we need a more employee-centred approach.
Traditional appraisal uses a carrot and stick approach, which can work in a task-orientated culture, but it’s not appropriate in most jobs in our new work environment. There is evidence that the traditional approach is demotivating and decreases levels of performance. Many successful organisations have dropped the annual appraisal in favour of periodic feedback – Deloitte, Accenture, Microsoft, Gap and Adobe among them.
People not process
The idea of ‘scientific management’ became popular because it enabled managers to treat staff like widgets, a ‘one size fits all’ approach. But in the modern workplace that approach is counter-productive. Making the most of the values and skills of the team is more like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle to build a great team that works collaboratively and is committed to the aims and values of the organisation.
An annual appraisal that reduces a person’s whole year performance to a number or a rating on a form, is often an artificial, subjective and usually retrospective process. That’s not particularly useful as a basis for future planning. We need to use performance conversations that are based on what matters to the employee and what motivates them to do a good job.
A real career conversation starts with what is important to an employee, in terms of their personal and work values. Alignment between one’s values and the values of the organisation is at issue here. Without that alignment then engagement and job satisfaction are compromised and the likelihood of success in the role is much reduced. Someone with a need for social interaction at work won’t be happy alone in the office all day and, a person who needs a level of autonomy will be unhappy working for someone who tries to micro-manage them.
It’s also important to look at skills and strengths. What do team members love doing, how proficient or competent they are, where they want to improve – and what do they hope to achieve? To manage people well you need to understand what makes them tick, in order to make the connection between how the organisation can help them to achieve and develop as part of a high-performance team. This is a much more positive experience than the average performance review.
These connected career conversations are no soft option. They can be challenging. Sometimes there is no alignment of values – and it may be better for a disengaged employee to move on. Line managers need to be trained in using such conversations to address motivation and engagement with team members and ensure optimum deployment of resources.
A connected conversation centres on the employee as this gives their manager clarity around how to build engagement and optimise their potential. A better understanding of employee values, skills and preferences allows the construction of a framework for sculpting jobs around the right employees in the right roles.
As our recent work with DS Smith shows, if you can initiate connected conversations with all the members of the team, with all the people in the organisation, just think about the huge impact that can have on overall levels of engagement and performance.