I wanted to share a coaching session I provided to a client recently who brought to their coaching session a topic on how to support them in an up and coming bi-annual performance review. It was an interesting use of a coaching session and it got me thinking, why do we still carry out performance and staff reviews in methods created in the last century?
Employees the world over have been subject to the annual appraisal for as long as I can remember, I think I attended my first one back in the late 1970’s, I am not sure they have moved on much since then!
Back to my coaching session though. The coachee had suggested we look at areas such as how she could communicate a rich and powerful story that could describe many of the great things she had achieved since her last review and which were not captured by the standard KPI’s that everyone was measured against in the organisation. She wanted to include feedback on the things she had done since she had been promoted late last year, so her manager was aware of her growth. And she wanted to widen the theme, so the conversation did not major on merely what she had done this past month or so.
My client wanted to explore with me how to make less visible things visible; she wanted to include items such as being a team player, being seen as trustworthy by her staff, showing up to work with the best version of herself on offer and how this delivered on her being considerate and respectful of the team members. What she was eluding to was how to get the strengths in soft skills onto the agenda?
All too often the agenda that is set for the review is to meet the needs of the manager and that of the organisation, ticking off an event in the calendar and ensuring that key business drivers are being met. This is fair but also one sided and whilst it might support short term deliverables the business needs, it does not address the team members own career aspirations very well, neither does it address some of the harder challenges facing many organisations today in terms of recruiting, retaining and developing their workforce for the 21st Century challenges they face.
Two or three other areas we considered exploring were around the review process itself and how we might be able to keep key things top of mind continuously and not just at review time. How best to do this?
We considered the difference between performance reviews and development reviews? How can the attendee ensure both performance (an historic measure) and developmental conversations (taking a future perspective) take place within the meeting? We considered how to raise awareness of how the softer challenges were important in terms of reaching the organisational goals.
I was impressed with the approach my coachee had taken to preparing for the forthcoming meeting and that she had considered bringing this topic to coaching, she also mentioned how she had talked with her peers which in turn had added to the depth of information she was using to be able to best plan and approach the meeting. Clearly there was some deep thought from my client around how best to take advantage of the forth coming review. She acknowledged and accepted that the three key areas her company measured would need to be addressed but she wanted this to be a two-way process.
On reflection of the session I considered several things, firstly I wonder how well her manager was preparing for this meeting? I have had several coaching sessions with senior managers who have shared with me that whilst they always intend to approach the annual reviews with a greater level of planning, by the time review season hits, other dynamics have taken preference to the allocated planning time and so they end up with more of the same as last year.
I also considered the power of regular reviews; these are opportunities to learn and plan for both the manager and their employees. I am reminded of Bernard Marr description of why we measure from his fantastic book Managing and Delivering Performance ( p141) where he suggests we measure for three reasons, firstly because we do not trust our team will perform ( pretty negative), secondly because we have to (compliance) or thirdly, because we want to provide rich information that can help us improve. Of course, we all aspire to the third of Marr’s reasons, but I wonder how well we manage the review process as managers and how rich and varied is the quality of the data we use when carrying out such reviews?
It occurred to me too that most organisations offer reviews as a type of snapshot. There is nothing wrong with this in theory, and an annual review is better than no review at all. I noticed my client’s company were carrying out reviews twice a year and I know other organisations where I coach that do so each quarter. Each organisation uses a variety of tools to collect data that can be used during the review such as 360% surveys, performance impact data on internal and external customer satisfaction, team retention. But generally, this data is also provided as a snapshot. And yet, with the advances in technology and data integration it must be feasible to provide accurate and up to date information that each employee can use on a weekly or daily basis to help identify improvement areas. By providing up to date and regular data to our teams we can ensure the performance reviews are not the dominant process, or worse, continue to be the only way we support our employees. By providing data that our teams have regular access to, the employee can take ownership of their own development as part of their regular routine.
With the frightening statistic that 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work (Gallup 16) and considering that 50% of all millennials in the workplace are asking for more feedback and further, where many of the workforce in 2020 are working remotely and often with more flexibility with working hours, I wonder what your organisation is doing to support your workforce and helping them to feel included, invested in, ensuring they feel part of the future plans of the organisation and, most importantly, supported in being the best they possibly can within their respective roles?
I am interested to hear from you on processes your organisation is adopting to meet these people challenges, and what technology are you using, or considering using, to help support these challenges going forward.
It would be great to learn more.
And on a final note, one of the frustrating elements to a review is when the team member does not come prepared, here is one amusing example that springs to mind