If you really want to know about goal setting…

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This isn’t for the faint of heart but my research just found this article entitled "Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation".  One of the authors is Edwin A. Locke who is heavily associated with most of goal theory.

Although in parts it is a fairly dry read and academic in language, I would suggest that if you are working around goal setting (and most performance appraisal forms have an objectives section!) then this would be worth a read.  It covers why goals work, what affects the performance benefit you get from goals, stretching targets and much much more.  

It would be wrong to suggest that there are no criticisms of Locke and goal setting theory but I’d recommend this to anyone who needs to set goals on a regular basis or needs to design performance appraisal forms or performance appraisal training.

Brendan

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Motivating employees – HSBC article

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I was reading an article by HSBC on motivating employees.  The article is geared to small business owners and I would support much of the content.  But, right at the beginning is a simple statement

"Motivation is based on giving people an appropriate combination of rewards. "
 
I find this superficially attractive but dangerously simplistic.  It would be too easy to imply that employees are self-centered individuals who are in it for their own benefit.  Now, if you ignore rewards and get the benefits package wrong then you will have a problem.  But, my overwhelming experience is that pay really is a hygiene factor.  Get it wrong and you de-motivate but once you have it right then you can’t continue to use it to motivate.  Rather people want to do a good, interesting, valuable job that is appreciated by customers, their peers, and management alike.  

As I say, the rest of the article builds a much more rounded compelling argument but I found this high level sentence to be a dangerous trap.

We often find organisations using our performance appraisal software – and even our 360 degree feedback solutions – as a method of linking pay to performance.  We always support clients in those initiatives.  We always caution that it forms one small part of the benefits of 360 and appraisal and needs to be part of a wider initiative if the aim is to improve organisational performance.

Brendan
 

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Doing more of what you are good at…

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I was reminded of something I was once taught on a coaching programme.  It is often better to get people to do more of what they are good at, and build on strengths, than it is to point out weaknesses.

Generally a sporting analogy is used here but I believe it works in most walks of life.  At work, we often construct feedback around what you can do to improve, and often we then construct the questions and responses around "development areas" and "weaknesses".  Often, individuals and teams would benefit from simply developing their strengths and leaving their weaknesses to be covered by other team members.  Not always of course, but most teams work well because they are composite and complementary.

This thought can influence how you word the narrative responses in 360 degree feedback questionnaires, or the feedback sections in the annual performance appraisal.  A subtle change can change the emphasis of the feedback and the discussion afterward – leading to a much more positive conversation.

Brendan

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CIPD article on performance management

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There is an interesting article on the CIPD website regarding the impact of the economic downturn on performance management.  In parts the article draws conclusions from the data that I would be less certain about but there are two interesting points that I see.

First, performance appraisal particularly the management of underperformance is being seen as critical and second, hr managers are making use of the downturn to put their procedures and processes in order ready for the busy times again.

The interest in our 360 degree feedabck and annual performance appraisal systems certainly reflect the latter point with the last couple of months being record months for us. 

The former item intrigues me.  What is it about a downturn that makes managing underperformance more important?  The guess is that managers feel less able to carry underperformers in the downturn.  I suspect that some of this response is driven from a need to support selection procedures for redundancy programmes.  Organisations are looking at their performance appraisal data and finding it wanting.  A lesson for all of us would be that accurate performance appraisals benefit both the individual and the organisation.  But its too late to sow seeds in September.

Brendan

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Useful google tips

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Completely off topic, I’m going to use our IT knowledge rather than our HR knowledge for a change!  As a subscriber to the google friends newsletter I get a number of "things you can do with google" and thought I’d share a few with you.

The google search bar has some not so obvious functionality built into it

Conversions

Try typing "1 dollar in sterling", or "20 pounds in kilos" – google handles a variety of conversions

Calculator

Nice simple calculator – try "30 * 50"

Weather

Type "weather stafford"

Time

Type "time new york"

There are many more – go here for googles list http://www.google.com/help/features.html

Brendan

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Appraisal, review, evaluation – or performance discussion?

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Our software allows our clients to change the text within the system – and all of our clients have more than a preference about whether their process is called performance appraisal, performance review of performance evaluation.  I guess mostly it is history and people become used to a particular term.  But, just for a moment I was thinking through which one is the one I would use.

I concluded I didn’t like any of them!  First I think they are all backward looking and that is only a part of the process.  Second, appraisal and evaluation are too hard – they make me, the appraisee, a subject of the appraiser.  Generally, they are limiting – not describing the whole of the process or document but just a small part of it.  

I actually like "performance discussion".  But, I suspect that is too soft and doesn’t imply the importance (do tell me if this blog post sounds like something from Goldilocks.)

I’m off on a search for terminology around this document and process.  Is performance discussion the best I can come up with?

Brendan

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Motivated by a bonus?

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Let’s contrast Neil Armstrong, a sports person (footballer, baseball player), and a city trader and whether bonuses would work.

General idea of a bonus is that you get some extra money for hitting some sort of target (cheap jokes about bankers would be easy to write here).

But I often wonder whether they work.  I know they are nice to receive – but do they generate additional effort to get them?

Let’s take our list

Neil Armstrong.  Now, I don’t know whether he got a bonus for walking on the moon but I’d bet that he would have been no more or less motivated by a financial incentive.

A sports person.  Often sports people are paid win bonuses.  If they win a game they get a bonus.  Strikers in football are often paid more for scoring goals.  I’ve never understood that one.  Do you change the way you play for the bonus?  Perhaps in a meaningless end of season game, but really does it work?

A city trader.  Now, on a principle level I can see that a city trader’s personal goals are likely to be money driven – and so a bonus is likely to motivate them.  But, motivate them to do what?  It needs to be a very well-crafted bonus system that does not drive short-term inappropriate behaviour.

I have rarely seen or experienced a truly motivational bonus structure.  In looking at performance appraisals, I’m starting to craft my thoughts on how a bonus system could work both for the organisation and the individual.  A performance review against objectives may form part of a sensible process.  But its taking a lot of thinking to really ensure that the organisation get what it wants and the individual is not manipulated away from better behaviours than the bonus is likely to generate.

Brendan

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If I make the effort do I meet my goals

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A continued research effort around our performance review whitepaper led me back to a model we work with to describe how performance related pay fits in with performance appraisals.  The model is built from a range of standard theories – Vroom’s expectancy theory, Locke’s goal setting, Porter/Lawlers views on intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and others.  Diagramatically it is represented as follows

effort and reward

The model demonstrates the basic "line of sight" required for performance related pay to work.  If I increase my effort, then my performance should increase which lead to rewards that are aligned with my personal goals.

To achieve the link between effort and performance we need : effective goal setting for alignment, we need the opportunity to deliver that performance (e.g. the external market allows it) and the ability (often where training plays a part).  We also need to be sure that our role is clear – we don’t want to be doing the wrong thing!

That performance is then rewarded – either through a feeling of a job well done, or other intrinsic rewards or through extrinsic rewards such as pay and bonuses.  That reinforcement (think Pavlov’s dogs) makes us want to do it again!  Finally those rewards need to be linked to something we are seeking – our personal goals.

When put like this it leaves me a little cold and has a large company imposing managerialistic processes feel about it.  But, if you are implementing performance related pay it forms a very useful checklist and model to have in mind as to why and how you link the sections on the performance appraisal form with the pay and bonus and of course why you are doing performance appraisals at all.

Brendan

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The conversation that follows a 360 appraisal

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This blog post http://www.allthingsworkplace.com/2007/06/360_feedback_it.html came to my attention today.  Although it is from 2007 it identifies the feedback conversation as the important part of 360 degree appraisals.

We made a conscious decision about a year ago to emphasise the conversations that follow 360.  We often use a quality feedback=>meaningful conversation=>better choices=>performance improvement schematic to emphasise how 360 feedback starts a useful process.

Holding that meaningful conversation is an art – one that can be trained but one that many people do not find natural.  This blog post reminded me that we should continue to emphasise that the 360 feedback process has a purpose that is much more than completion rates and efficiency.  

Brendan

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Managed service for 360 degree appraisals

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There is an element of advertising in this – so please forgive me.  We’re seeing a number of people approach us for managed service of 360 degree appraisals.  My instinct is that organisations are tightening the size of HR departments – and those HR departments are coping with increased work volumes.

What is also interesting is we’re finding that when we manage a 360 degree feedback process we are able to gain higher completion rates than the internal team.  That may sound boastful – it is not meant to be.  Two factors are in play here: first, we have a lot of experience of sending out emails and reminders.  Second, an email from an external party feels like it needs responding to.

If you are looking at small or large scale 360 degree feedback interventions can I suggest you give managed service a thought.  It is cost effective and offers great results – leaving you to concentrate on the 360 feedback rather than the 360 process.

Brendan

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What do you want to talk about at your performance review meeting

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I’m putting together a white paper on performance appraisals.  Together with researching it is a great opportunity to stop for a moment and think through the performance appraisal process.

Just to keep myself fresh as I approach the topic I’ve looked at thinking it through from the appraisee’s perspective.  And drawing on my time in corporate life and experience with a variety of clients looked at what does the appraisee want to discuss.  I’ve come to the following conclusions on what I wanted and what I have observed others to want.

(Please note, I am currently thinking more broadly than some 1 hour annual appraisal)

  • How am I doing?  I was always very self-motivated but I did want to know my managers’ and the organisation’s view of how I was doing
  • Am I doing the right things?  I probably wouldn’t have expressed it that way – but you do sometimes get these moments of doubt at work that you may be barking up the wrong tree
  • What am I going to be doing next?  I hated stagnating – I always wanted to have something different to do and something challenging
  • Is there any relevant training I can access?   Most of us want to learn.
  • How are things going more broadly?  I always found the appraisal time a useful moment to check out how my manager was getting on, whether there were any changes afoot.

When I was in HSBC I also wanted to know my performance grade – but I only wanted to know that because I wanted to know my pay rise.  Frankly I used to dismiss the grade as a poor method of representing a year’s work.

When I look at this list I notice that it is easy to fit these appraisee needs into the appraisal process.  And you can even design performance appraisal forms that hint and nudge the appraiser to give this information.

Not a bad perspective to have taken for a while – right, back to the research.

Brendan

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An admiral’s view of 360 degree feedback

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After an earlier post on a military perspective on 360 degree feedback I found in my inbox, a blog post from an admiral.

From the initial "Shipmates,…" that opens up the blog post I am immediately struck by the difference in language from what we may consider normal business language.  But, when you read the article you see he actually advocates an unusual method of collecting the feedback (he considers online solutions to be expensive … clearly he visited some of our competitor’s websites!)

"1. Find a Shipmate you trust.
2. Pick 7-11 people you work with (subordinates, peers, superiors, mentors, etc)
3. Send your people an e-mail saying that they will get a call from your colleague. Explain that you’d appreciate their honest feedback and anonymity will be maintained.
4. Your colleague calls your people to find their perception about your strengths and your areas for improvement (with potential corrective actions).
5. Your colleague tallies and synthesizes and sanitizes the information they gained through their interviews.
6. You and your colleague meet to share what you learned about each other.
7. You send a follow-up e-mail thanking those who participated and sharing a little bit about what you learned."
Now, "find a shipmate you trust" is a big statement in this proposed route.  This colleague has a big task – to garner the feedback, synthesise it and then share it.  What interests me is that in most organisations this approach would be dismissed out of hand.  But here, a very senior person is openly advocating the approach.  Why?

Brendan
 

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Is a blank piece of paper a great performance appraisal form?

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This question came up in a discussion group I was visiting (sorry, can’t remember which one!).  You can see the theory – really the appraiser and appraisee should be big enough, brave enough, and knowledgeable enough to work out what needs to be said and what needs to be recorded.

My heart likes this – it appeals on many levels.  But my head spots the flaws.  First, the performance appraisal process has a number of objectives and some of them are organisational.  This is fine, important and easily justifiable.  The orgnisation needs some information from the process that it can analyse and a big blank piece of paper is going to make that difficult.

Second, I’d like to think that HR professionals have thought about the performance review process more than the appraiser and appraisee.  If they have, then I bet the appraiser and appraisee would like the benefit of that knowledge and a well constructed form with useful communication is the best way of that knowledge infusing the performance appraisal process.

I’m sure this question was posed to be provocative.  Examining it though quickly advertises to you the role that HR should be playing in the design of a great performance appraisal form.

Brendan

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Designing the performance appraisal form

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I just responded to a post on CIPD regarding designing a performance apprasial form.  Just in case you don’t avidly read CIPD forums ! I thought I’d outline my response here.

"In broad principle, I would follow the following process

  • What purposes has the form got to serve (rightly or wrongly the performance appraisal form is important to the organisation for a variety of reasons), e.g.
  • Record objectives for later reference
  • Cascading of organisational objectives / goals
  • Identify individual training needs
  • Assign a grade for performance related pay purposes
  • Identify the competencies that you wish employees to be strong in
  • Gain c.v. like information for internal recruitment
  • Identify high flyers etc.
  • Decide now whether the form/process can deliver all of this
  • Begin to design the form content – go for completeness initially.  I’d be surprised if a couple of other organisations wouldn’t give you their forms to give you a flavour of what people capture and to get some ideas going on how best to garner the infromation
  • Look more at the performance review process than the performance appraisal form.  The form only needs to capture the salient parts of the conversation on performance, objectives or development.  So, a nicely laid out form with a couple of opportunities to add free text is more likely to be completed than endless free text options.
  • Get a small number of people involved to review your proposal – I don’t know the size of your organisation.  If it is large, then do this earlier
    • HR
    • Training
    • Manager(s)
    • Appraisee(s)
  • Start to look at the communication process….ok, I’m starting to go off your original topic."

I’m currently writing a white paper on performance appraisals – you can register to receive our newsletters from this blog or our website – and this will be a starting point for me.  It doesn’t feel complete yet, but it’s not the worst start on getting the performance review form designed.

Brendan

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360 degree appraisal in the military

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You may be aware that 360 degree feedback is often cited as having started in the US military.  A modern day article in praise of 360 degree feedback gives an interesting take on how 360 is seen by a colonel in the US.

The most interesting quote is as follows

"Three-hundred sixty degree evaluations are more likely than the current system to identify morally courageous and innovative leaders. Our subordinates judge us every day, but we’ve created a system to make sure that promotion boards never hear those judgments, and our officer corps is worse for it. Some fear that 360 degree evaluations will become ‘popularity contests’ but in my experience those fears are unfounded. Troops admire leadership and despise pandering, and have a much better record than promotion boards of distinguishing between the two."

This underscores one of our fundamental beliefs.  Peers and direct reports are often much better placed to give feedback than managers.  It also begins a fight against the assumption that peers and direct reports will fall foul of some ulterior motives when completing 360.  In the overwhelming majority of cases that I have reviewed 360 reports and discussed their contents with a recipient, the feedback is both fair and balanced.

Brendan

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Debriefing 360 feedback correctly taps into the power within..

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We often talk about the face-to-face meeting where the 360 degree feedback report is shared with a recipient as being the most important element of the whole process.

We call this the ‘debrief’ and have discussed before what we feel is the purpose of this session and what constitutes a successful outcome; namely, a higher level of self-awareness and some sense of acceptance of the feedback.

We believe that with this having been achieved, an individual has the inherent ability to decide what needs to change, how they can improve and how they should develop themselves.

This is highlighted again in a recent article in People Management magazine by Sir John Whitmore, who talks about ‘high awareness and high responsibility’; as line managers and leaders develop themselves from within through understanding themselves better, they are more able to help their reports in a similar way.

John

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360 Degree Feedback….discretionary or necessary in turbulent times?

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Two recent articles supported our own experience over the first 4 months of this year, which is that the use of 360 Degree Feedback is on the rise.

The first cited a recent CIPD survey, "War on Talent?..", which highlighted Leadership Skills as one of the most important skills in meeting business objectives in the coming years (81%).

Despite the fact that L & D budgets are being curtailed, we are still seeing a firm committment to Leadership Development Programmes, as organisations realise that they must allocate their training spend carefully and ensure that they nuture the talent that will navigate them out of the downturn.

A natural precursor to any leadership development is 360 Degree Feedback; it offers an excellent way to get anecdotal evidence of performance and behaviours both pre- and post-programme, and to assess any changes that may have happened as a consequence of the training.

Certainly an article on senior management development at Cable & Wireless in the latest ‘Human Resources Magazine’ makes reference to this; they use 360 Degree Feedback in combination with the training and various ongoing interventions such as coaching and one-to-ones.

With limited budgets and leadership top of the agenda, it becomes increasingly important to measure the success of any initiative, particularly one where the very future success of the organisation is at stake.

John

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