Performance Management in 2017

Companies Must Become Active and Responsive – interacting with everyone working in their company.

Today’s workers expect change. Constantly. And feedback. Specifically, they expect to have the ability to change their goals as business and their own needs change. They also expect to make changes using technology. And any technology solution should mirror the experience they have in their personal lives – it should be intuitive, responsive, relevant, and immediate.

Not only should any technology be up-to-date, it needs to provide immediate feedback.

For example, when you deposit a cheque using your banking app, it tells you immediately whether that transaction was successful. Same when you purchase something using your tablet.

The modern workforce wants that type of feedback about their performance because they have choices to make about their careers and they know it.

Regular performance feedback isn’t a Millennial thing. Every employee wants to know where they stand; what their future is; if you rate them and what for; what the niggles and opportunities and challenges are. Don’t wait until they have resigned to tell them you saw them as a future Director. It will ring hollow no matter how sincere.

Likewise any feedback does not and should not exclude contractors, consultants and other individuals working with the company.  Today’s workforce is flexible moving very between employment and self employment to suit them. Don’t miss out on interacting with everyone that is working for you.

Active Performance Management enhances the Modern Workplace

Any Active Performance Management solution should take the best of the traditional performance management process and combine it with the needs of today’s workforce. It provides a structure that managers and employees want so the process remains fair. It can also include the documentation aspect necessary to support job changes and promotions.

By making the process technology driven, it can take the traditional performance management one step further and facilitate real-time feedback conversations that employees want to move to the forefront. It can also utilise downtime.

Real-time feedback piece is so important to everyone that wants and values it. Waiting once a year (for a performance review) doesn’t work. It’s time to move to real-time system for performance, with frequent touch points between the manager/client and employee or worker.

5 Key Elements of Active Performance Management (APM)

2017 is the right time to introduce active performance management. There are four key elements to changing current performance management processes.

  • Regular performance conversations. Most organisations have some mechanism in place requiring managers and employees to meet once or twice a year. With active performance management, employees and managers meet more often. The timeliness of performance feedback helps the employee perform at a higher level.
  • Peer-based feedback. In addition to increased manager feedback, employees learn how to provide each other with performance feedback. This can be just as valuable – if not more so – than manager feedback. Employees collaborate with different colleagues every day and need positive working relationships with their peers.
  • Focus on current and future projects. More frequent performance conversations mean less time is spent rehashing old behaviour. Workers and managers already know what happened in the past. The conversations are spent on future performance, talking about how to accomplish goals.
  • Development at every level. Every worker becomes skilled in delivering performance-related feedback. This helps them take ownership of their career development.
  • Looking to the future – The elephant in the room is often that both sides know that to truly realise ambitions the individual may not stay in the same place until retirement. Working in a new way means such ambitions can be captured and companies can stay in touch with their future talent even if they aren’t currently working for them.

When you implement active performance management into an organisation you may wish to phase-in different key elements.

Phased implementations can be very successful and embed ways of working firmly. Performance Management facilitated by technology will allow the flexibility to introduce the entire process or each piece separately.

Active Performance Management Leads to Talent Activation

Organisations must create processes that result in having the best talent in the right positions. Those processes need to include creating an environment where all their workers (current, future and past) feel empowered to ask for and give feedback and that any training/development they need to be available in a timely manner.

When employees are engaged with their work, their performance improves and organisations begin to set the pace rather than react to the pace of the market.

We all understand the opportunity cost of not being agile in business. Think of companies like Uber, Airbnb, and the new Amazon app-based grocery stores. These companies shouldn’t have been able to disrupt the way that they did had “legacy” brands kept up with or innovated within their respective spaces. Increased agility enables organizations to increase the speed at which they conduct business and innovate, which improves the bottom-line.


Does the C-suite know what good people practices look like?

One of the million dollar questions in every business is whether the CEO and the senior management team know what good looks like. Because if they don’t, how will they set standards and manage upwards to achieve better results? To compete? To grow? To survive…

There are some areas of the business that they will feel confident, are the main areas to focus on:

Product development

Customer service

Finances and financial performance

IT systems and core infrastructure

Marketing and PR.

But often it is the area of people management, HR, recruitment, the workers, the workforce and the future of work that they will feel less sure about.

In the Harvard Business Review, July-August 2015 edition, Peter Cappelli wrote about “Why we love to hate HR…and what HR can do about it” and observed that “CEO’s and operating executives are rarely experts on workplace issues”.

Many companies say to us that what they have in their HR function is OK or fine or adequate. Many HR professionals talk to us privately about clear areas that could be improved and express frustration that the business doesn’t agree.

In the above mentioned HBR article Cappelli mentioned a Head of HR at a leading corporation who had survived lots of restructurings and was asked about the key to his success. His response was “I do whatever the CEO wants”.

That can happen to HR professionals. HR can become a function more adept at being defensive than inspiring. They go into survival mode and don’t energetically tackle key issues that need their drive. Issues around culture, investment in cutting edge technology, the changing face of the workforce, identifying the workers of tomorrow and ditching the employment practices of yesteryear.

Appraisals are a fine example of an HR practice that we’d say most HR professionals know don’t work. Can you imagine colleagues in Marketing or Finance persevering with such a practice? Especially if it costs great amounts of time and money and critically, damaged their internal brand?

Individuals go into HR because they have vision, insight, energy and enthusiasm about the workplace and people practices. Many have transformational skills in the areas of coaching, recruitment, listening and reflecting that the business they work in doesn’t notice or value.

It is the job of any CEO to make sure they nurture and develop their HR team and if they need external support to help them identify what good looks like then that is a priority. The one thing the C-suite will be united on is the importance of people, innovation and competitive advantage.

Often the HR department is the last place they look or a function that is pared down to the bone, dramatically under invested in compared to other functions (that they understand better) or focusing on the wrong priorities.

Making that re-connection between HR and the business; helping develop business cases for progress and change. Re-energising that relationship by running workshops for the C-suite and HR to define what good looks like is part of what gets us out of bed every morning.


How fashionable is HR?

Roksanda Ilincic
Roksanda Ilincic

Monday I was delighted to be invited to the Roksanda SS16 show. I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited before and it is such a privilege. Well once you have got past the what should I wear question (neutral and black). I can’t image there were many other HR professionals in the audience and it made me reflect on how the skills of HR are so important in every type of fast growing business.

Amelore have been working with Roksanda and her business for a few years now and seen it change in that time growing from strength to strength.

The key thing for every ambitious business is to ensure that everything you are introducing, including the people you hire, is scalable and relevant for your business. If it works for you now be mindful that you may be quickly outgrow it. Don’t be afraid to be different or bold. Remember that behavior was what got you to where you are now.

In the time we have been working with fast growing businesses we have come up with these key areas to focus on.

  1. Never stop recruiting – if you are a founder you will learn about what skills and roles you need in your business by meeting candidates. You will also unearth critical talent that could be goal changing for your company. It’s OK to completely redesign your structure to accommodate someone amazing. Trust me on that one. Recruitment is not an area to delegate or get glib about. Personally sign off every hire until you get to 3 tiers.
  1. Constantly review your structure – (see above). For a while, depending on the nature and projected growth of your business, you will have everyone reporting to you. This will enable you to keep a birds eye view on everything and then suddenly you won’t need to – you will hire a COO or a CEO to run the operational side and focus on critical growing areas – like Product development, sales, marketing, finance, brand and people. Don’t lose sight of your people even if they don’t all report to you. Stay connected. Stay informed.
  1. Reward and retention is key – As you grow constantly think about your team and how to keep them with you. This might be a share of the profits or a Christmas bonus or a guaranteed sabbatical or something they tell you they really really want. Listen and stay open minded.
  1. Don’t introduce things just because you are told to. Investors or advisors don’t always know what is best for your business. Avoid making your growing organisation too corporate or clunky. Keep it agile and fleet of foot. Processes like appraisals (which many large companies are taking out) may be wrong for you – take advice and consider alternatives. Pare your HR practices down to critical tools only.
  1. Take time out to learn new things yourself – Creating space for yourself to think and be creative and reflective, be it facilitated by a coach or alone, is really key. Arranging development is all part of you investing in your most valuable asset. You. In the second book by Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish of called “Shape up your business” I write about coaching yourself. Both books are a good read (the first one is called ‘Build Your Business From Your Kitchen Table’).
  1. Take care of your alumini. This is something Roksanda is very very good at. She stays in touch with people and is genuinely interested in how they are doing. Her interest in people and abilty to read and understand them is significant, I am sure, to her great success as a fashion designer. She understands and cares about people and because of that can design things that make them feel amazing.

So getting the right HR advice in your business is important whether its fashionable or not. Do it and stay ahead of the competition.

Get rid of performance management… Here’s how

It’s not a very well kept secret that most HR professionals know that appraisal or performance management systems don’t work. But actually it is quite hard to push back when your boss is asking you to implement or manage or fine-tune one and it is still(ish) an accepted, respected even, business practice.

In my last job before I set my company up, the large government agency I worked for had invested in a highly complicated hungry system that required constant feeding and which I absolutely felt was a waste of time and energy for everyone. Public sector is always a tough environment to effect change as the Unions are highly suspicious of moving away from any system or process that doesn’t guarantee year on year pay rises, understandably. So often the temptation is to get into very detailed systems to manage Industrial Relations.

Thing was, as a senior HR leader I had to regularly defend this system when not only did I not believe in it for the organisation, I didn’t believe in it for me or my team. This coupled with the knowledge that if you wanted to see a really poor set of extremely non-SMART objectives you only had to go to the senior team or the HR department.

So fast forward 5 years and here I am running my own company and at last free to publically recommend the removal of appraisal systems to all my HR colleagues. Not only that but it’s starting to become a key area of focus for us as we help companies to move forward and think differently and have a good clear out of outdated ‘HR’ practices.

Here is how to go about it:

  1. To make a compelling recommendation to your Board, you need to know the cost and effectiveness of your current system. Set up a project team or get someone externally to do it for you. Don’t get sucked into the ‘we don’t have the budget’ argument. Every day you promote or prolong a system that you know doesn’t work and costs your company money, you are damaging your personal and professional brand.
  1. So now you have the research and know that not only do most people welcome the end to this process, it is costing an unbelievable amount of money for little obvious gain. If you asked a good set of questions, you will have picked up that employees still want development and progression at certain stages of their career, and at others to be left alone beyond the usual CPD. You may have picked up what your organisation sees as a possible way ahead – this might be nothing or a feedback loop or something that you haven’t worked out yet. Which is the exciting part.
  1. To pull your proposal together you need an alternative or a compelling reason for making the change. You will know what your organisations goals and ambitions are. Pull together a small project team and work with interested influential parties. Clearly you will still want to be able to reward those that work hard and are competent in their field so make sure you address that.
  1. You will find that most senior executives are of the opinion that one needs to legally have such a system. If you then get into consulting employment lawyers about it you will freeze in your tracks and probably agree to retain them to introduce more polices and procedures just in case….but… take a deep breath and ask yourself when was the last time that you actually managed an employee out via the capability route? And actually when was the last time a poorly performing employee had actually been told about it or marked down on their appraisal if indeed they had had one. And we all know that the real high fliers are too busy to appraise or be appraised. Especially in legal firms…
  1. You know that your organisation wants information on employees but that actually it is hard to come by. Even your appraisal process no matter how sophisticated won’t have really shone the torch in places that would excite your senior team. Think about how what you need to monitor and report on corporately. CPD is one area that should be critical for any professional firm to monitor but is often at best a tick box on an appraisal form or left to individuals to monitor. But there might be others. Think as broadly as possible. Don’t limit yourself to traditional areas – think of new ones. You might just identify something to focus on that will give your organisation competitive advantage.
  1. Recognise that doing something fairly radical like removing a long established system is changing the way your company works and interacts with employees (I’m not using the jaded old term engagement here because I don’t like it). The HR team will also want to create some space to look at the service it provides and how it adds value to the business and may consider letting go of other more traditional practices. This is an area worth investing in as it will up skill and inspire not only the HR team but the relationship with the business. Using an independent third party to facilitate and manage this can be key to a successful outcome.

I won’t wish you good luck at this stage as this is not about luck at all. This is about you as an HR professional and/or business leader critically evaluating an established system and making recommendation for change to help the organisation deliver its goals.

If this were the Finance or Marketing team with a similar issue ask yourself not only how they would approach it but how quickly they would make the change happen?



Death of the appraisal and the Amelore way

Today at Amelore Towers we have been pulling together an application for a business award. It’s been an interesting process because when anyone asks you why you are different from all the other HR consultancies you need to be able to clearly answer why.

A key point of difference for us is our approach to performance management systems and our long standing view that the appraisal is dead.

“Long live the appraisal!” (I hear the HR experts cry)

We think company energy should be focused away from appraising to ameliorating, by improving and developing staff and building up knowledge. It turns out Accenture agrees with us and is getting rid of its annual performance reviews too, read about it here…

We have built our own unique systems and approach to performance. Yes it’s quite contemporary but it suits the ambitious clients we work with.

To compare the two approaches, we created the infamous Amelore Triangles and we share these with clients who are interested in changing how they view and manage HR. Here’s the appraisal triangle:

Appraisals cost businesses time and therefore money. We think these systems demotivate staff and create an endless cycle of the HR function chasing people to complete a form that never gets analysed. And then the cycle starts again.

It’s the same with HR services as a whole. The traditional approach is not what our ambitious and entrepreneurial clients want, they need the freedom to make confident decisions to support growth and to take the right people with them.

The Amelore Way…..

Of course, we keep traditional HR safely in our back pocket ready to use whenever a company needs it, as we recognise that not all businesses are ready for the Amelore way. Is yours?