Aston Villa Football Club Customer Story

Aston Villa stay on target with Clear Review

With Mel Millner, HR Director at Aston Villa Football Club

Company info

Aston Villa are a UK Premier League football club, founded in 1874.

  • Industry

    Sport

  • Headquarters

    Birmingham, United Kingdom

  • Company Size

    200 employees

The dri­ving force of Aston Vil­la Foot­ball Club (the Club”) is to win the next game, then the next, and the one after that. A key part of this ini­tia­tive was explor­ing ways of opti­mis­ing the per­for­mance of the 200-strong work­force – the peo­ple that make the club tick behind the scenes.

A key chal­lenge iden­ti­fied at the out­set was a gen­er­al lack of clar­i­ty on how each indi­vid­ual con­tributed to the big­ger pic­ture. On appoint­ment, HR Direc­tor Mel Mill­ner was tasked with bring­ing clar­i­ty and account­abil­i­ty to people’s roles and expectations.

In kick­ing off this project there were some ini­tial con­cerns. One being that there was no real his­to­ry of per­for­mance man­age­ment in the club and cer­tain­ly no for­mal frame­work, so intro­duc­ing a mod­ern con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment approach felt risky. Some peo­ple had pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence of out­dat­ed appraisal mod­els, and oth­ers had no expe­ri­ence of per­for­mance man­age­ment what­so­ev­er. Anoth­er con­sid­er­a­tion was the wide vari­ety of peo­ple and roles. The make­up of a foot­ball club meant there was an unusu­al mix of skill sets and lev­els of seniority. 

There was also a require­ment for both HR and the wider lead­er­ship team to have insight into per­for­mance engage­ment met­rics across the Club. There was no frame­work in place for per­for­mance man­age­ment and there­fore an incon­sis­ten­cy as to whether per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions were tak­ing place, what the qual­i­ty of those dis­cus­sions were and, how objec­tives were being set, if at all.

After an ini­tial but exten­sive research phase, the HR team decid­ed to deploy a non-tra­di­tion­al con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance approach lever­ag­ing the agile prin­ci­ples of effec­tive ongo­ing qual­i­ty con­ver­sa­tions, real-time feed­back and near-term SMART objec­tives. This deci­sion was based on Mel hav­ing a bet­ter under­stand­ing a few months into her new appoint­ment about the cul­ture and ways of work­ing at Vil­la and what would work best at the Club. Hav­ing set­tled on this approach the HR team set about find­ing a tech­nol­o­gy part­ner with an aligned method­ol­o­gy and who would enable this new cul­tur­al shift to real­ly take off.

It was love at first sight when we saw the Clear Review soft­ware and imme­di­ate­ly felt com­fort­able with the user-friend­ly look and feel of it! It was also very cost effec­tive, which was an impor­tant fac­tor for us as well.

The extreme­ly intu­itive and straight­for­ward user expe­ri­ence meant the HR team were able to focus on the human ele­ments of mak­ing the shift to con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment, such as objec­tive set­ting devel­op­ment sup­port and how to con­duct mean­ing­ful check-in meet­ings, rather than spend­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of time on show­ing peo­ple how to use a clunky sys­tem. All of this con­tributed to the suc­cess­ful adop­tion of the new per­for­mance model.

The sim­plic­i­ty of the tech­nol­o­gy from a user admin­is­tra­tion per­spec­tive was also key to a quick and effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion and launch and in Mel’s own words:

The sys­tem set up was extreme­ly sim­ple. Before we knew it, we pressed a but­ton and we were away!”

As this was a bold new step for the club, HR need­ed a tech­nol­o­gy provider who they could part­ner with over time to help them evolve their approach and under­stand best-prac­tice from oth­er cus­tomers. The usu­al reac­tive con­tact us if you have a prob­lem’ approach was not going to cut it.

The team was very knowl­edge­able and help­ful dur­ing the sales process, but have con­tin­ued that post-launch. They have been huge­ly atten­tive and have even imple­ment­ed many of our improve­ment feed­back requests into their plat­form. Their online cus­tomer com­mu­ni­ty has also been real­ly helpful.”

The key goal of the project has very much been achieved with a huge uplift in clar­i­ty as to what each indi­vid­ual is respon­si­ble for and how their con­tri­bu­tion is vital to the suc­cess of the Club, the team, and the results on the foot­ball pitch. Despite there being ini­tial fears about how the new approach would be received, the oppo­site has been true. Both the method­ol­o­gy and the tech­nol­o­gy have been ful­ly embraced by both man­agers and team mem­bers with uni­ver­sal­ly pos­i­tive feed­back across the board.

Peo­ple have tak­en it and run with it. There have not been the usu­al com­plaints you get when rolling out clunky HR Systems.”

The sys­tem itself has pro­vid­ed a clear and acces­si­ble frame­work to con­tin­u­al­ly mon­i­tor and improve per­for­mance with man­agers stat­ing that it has gen­uine­ly enabled them to improve in their role as peo­ple devel­op­ers. This new lev­el of per­for­mance focus has result­ed in a source of accu­rate and mean­ing­ful data to draw on. Insights by divi­sion, team, man­ag­er and indi­vid­ual on key per­for­mance indi­ca­tors are now a few clicks away.

Mel and the team are aware that per­for­mance man­age­ment is by def­i­n­i­tion a work in progress and there is always more to be done. But for the first time they can say they are on a clear path towards ever-increas­ing focus, engage­ment, and per­for­mance man­age­ment excellence.

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