Clydesdale Yorkshire Banking Group Case study

How Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group has shifted mindsets to steer performance success

With Francis Lake Head of Organisational Development at CYBG

Company info

CYBG is a UK holding company that owns Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank, Virgin Money UK and the app-based bank, B.

  • Industry

    Banking and Finance

  • Headquarters


  • Company Size


Francis Lake

Head of Organisational Development at CYBG

Accord­ing to Fran­cis, it was clear that every­one with­in CYBG recog­nised a need for change when it came to per­for­mance man­age­ment. He explained: Vir­tu­al­ly every one of our employ­ees had had a bad per­for­mance man­age­ment expe­ri­ence – maybe not in the pre­vi­ous year, or even the year before that, but at some point every­one had been scarred by poor per­for­mance practices.”

Detail­ing some of the flaws with CYBG’s exist­ing per­for­mance mod­el, Fran­cis point­ed to a weight­ed focus on process over pur­pose, lead­ing to futile per­for­mance score­cards, rat­ings and appraisals being forced upon both employ­ees and man­agers, cre­at­ing resent­ment and demo­ti­va­tion. Need­less to say, the impact on per­for­mance improve­ment out­comes was not a pos­i­tive one. 

For man­agers, this resent­ment was com­pound­ed by the fact that the exist­ing per­for­mance sys­tem was fail­ing them as employ­ees, whilst at a man­age­r­i­al lev­el, the same sys­tem was also prov­ing to be a huge source of frus­tra­tion, cre­at­ing moun­tains of nev­er-end­ing – and ulti­mate­ly point­less – admin. A plan for pos­i­tive per­for­mance change had to be put in place. 

Despite the obvi­ous need for a bet­ter way of doing things’, Fran­cis recounts that the ini­tial – and per­haps great­est – chal­lenge he and his col­leagues faced involved allay­ing a long-engrained fear of change which had arisen as a result of sev­er­al failed per­for­mance improve­ment ini­tia­tives. He explained:

We had to change people’s mind­set in this regard. This time we were deter­mined to get it right. In par­tic­u­lar, switch­ing man­agers away from view­ing per­for­mance man­age­ment as a list of tasks to be com­plet­ed, and instead, encour­ag­ing them to think about how they could help peo­ple to per­form bet­ter. That was a fun­da­men­tal chal­lenge for us.”

Fran­cis continued:

Before we went any­where near a new per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem, we knew that we need­ed to improve the capa­bil­i­ties of our line man­agers – both for their ben­e­fit, and the ben­e­fit of those being super­vised by them. We invest­ed heav­i­ly in a new man­age­ment frame­work, which involved train­ing our man­agers to get the best out of peo­ple. As part of this, we also spent time edu­cat­ing our peo­ple as to why fre­quent feed­back and con­tin­u­ous con­ver­sa­tions lead to sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter per­for­mance out­comes – a key ele­ment that we need­ed every­one to under­stand and show a com­mit­ment to.” 

Whilst CYBG’s new man­age­ment frame­work was being con­struct­ed and strides were being made to cre­ate a more pos­i­tive per­for­mance-focused cul­ture, Fran­cis and his team were work­ing on their sourc­ing a new per­for­mance tech­nol­o­gy partner.

Our vision was for a very dif­fer­ent, much more sim­ple mod­el, explained Fran­cis. We want­ed to do away with indi­vid­ual score­cards, instead focus­ing on team goals that would fos­ter a cul­ture of team­work and con­tin­u­al improve­ment. With­in this, our spec­i­fi­ca­tion was for each employ­ee to have two per­son­al goals – one that they would set them­selves, and one that would be set by their man­ag­er. We felt this was the best way to include employ­ees and enable them to bet­ter man­age their own per­for­mance and improve­ment. This employ­ee and man­ag­er approach was also key to us fos­ter­ing the sense of part­ner­ship we need­ed to make this a success.”

As out­lined above, the CYBG team was very keen to increase fre­quen­cy of per­for­mance feed­back, some­thing that formed a key stip­u­la­tion in the company’s search for a bet­ter per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem. Build­ing upon this increased fre­quen­cy, the team at CYBG also want­ed feed­back to be more sim­ple and con­cise – both in ongo­ing check-in’ con­ver­sa­tions and quar­ter­ly employ­ee-man­ag­er feed­back meet­ings. Specif­i­cal­ly, employ­ees were asked to cite one thing they like and are hap­py with, and one thing that could be done bet­ter. Fran­cis con­tin­ued: This has not only active­ly encour­aged ongo­ing per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions, but ensured they are cen­tred around pos­i­tiv­i­ty, encour­age­ment, and incre­men­tal improvement.”

With the CYBG team very much focused on cre­at­ing the right per­for­mance frame­work and invest­ing their time in train­ing man­agers to opti­mise its even­tu­al suc­cess, Fran­cis knew that the com­pa­ny required a per­for­mance sys­tem that deliv­ered a sim­ply yet pow­er­ful end user expe­ri­ence. One that would not cre­ate fur­ther com­plex­i­ty and dis­tract peo­ple away from what was impor­tant: build­ing the right nature of high qual­i­ty, mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions. After meet­ing with Clear Review’s Stu­art Hearn and see­ing imme­di­ate syn­er­gies in per­for­mance phi­los­o­phy, Fran­cis and his team decid­ed to adopt Clear Review’s clean, sim­ple and gen­uine­ly intu­itive” plat­form to sup­port CYBG’s pos­i­tive per­for­mance transformation.

Three months after going live, CYBG’s per­for­mance data makes for impres­sive read­ing with +50,000 goals set, +17,000 pieces of feed­back giv­en, and +2,000 check-in’ con­ver­sa­tions already hav­ing tak­en place. This demon­strates a very high adop­tion rate amongst the Group’s employ­ee base – a fact that, com­bined with inter­nal feed­back, indi­cates peo­ple have embraced the new sys­tem because they gen­uine­ly like it and see val­ue in it. Delight­ed with the achieve­ments to date, Fran­cis says: For the first time, every­one is work­ing towards the same goals for the year ahead and that’s a mas­sive step forward.”

The large amount of valu­able data now being gleaned by CYBG has also been a wel­come means of putting some real met­rics to per­for­mance man­age­ment. Man­agers and employ­ees alike can access this data in real-time and draw very action­able insights from it. Fur­ther­more, these met­rics are already being fed upwards to inform bet­ter busi­ness deci­sion mak­ing at the top table, and feed­back from CYBG’s senior lead­er­ship team has been whol­ly pos­i­tive. Accord­ing to Fran­cis, the lev­el of detail now avail­able to them is improv­ing per­for­mance vis­i­bil­i­ty ten­fold: Clear Review’s sys­tem can deliv­er a large vol­ume and vari­ety of high qual­i­ty, up-to-date infor­ma­tion. We can now see over­ar­ch­ing trends and pat­terns across teams, but we can also drill down to an indi­vid­ual lev­el to iden­ti­fy who has got feed­back, who hasn’t, who’s got goals and who hasn’t. This empow­ers us to take cor­rec­tive action with employ­ees at an ear­ly stage, thus lim­it­ing the risk of per­for­mance dips. On the flip side, this is also enabling us to iden­ti­fy which super­vi­sors may need extra sup­port and train­ing to help them improve as man­agers and ensure they remain hap­py with, and com­mit­ted to, our new per­for­mance culture.”

Feed­back from man­agers them­selves has also been high­ly pos­i­tive to date. Elis­sa McKin­lay, CYBG Area Man­ag­er, says that Clear Review is a fan­tas­tic sys­tem that is trans­form­ing per­for­mance dis­cus­sions. A real­ly pos­i­tive step for­ward [for CYBG]”. Fran­cis also notes that because man­agers are pleased with the new sys­tem, they have read­i­ly embraced it and are actu­al­ly prov­ing to be impor­tant advo­cates for it: They can see the results for them­selves in the data and that is help­ing to fur­ther embed the val­ue of the new approach in their minds.”

Cit­ing oth­er ben­e­fits so far, the CYBG team points to the flex­i­bil­i­ty of Clear Review’s sys­tem. Fran­cis adds: The beau­ty of the new plat­form is that we can keep­ing chang­ing and adapt­ing to ensure our con­tin­u­al progress. We can be much more fleet of foot now, which affords us huge com­pet­i­tive gains, and also goes hand in hand with our evo­lu­tion as an organisation.”

Fran­cis and his team have also been very impressed with the sim­plic­i­ty of Clear Review’s mod­el – a key fac­tor that they saw as cru­cial to adop­tion and the suc­cess of over­all out­comes. Accord­ing to Fran­cis: The new mod­el is infi­nite­ly sim­pler than before. With our old process we had 7,000 indi­vid­ual score­cards that sat in people’s draw­ers gath­er­ing dust. We now have 1,000 sets of team goals that are much more con­cise and have direct actions. The approach, the sys­tem, and the lan­guage we now have is won­der­ful­ly sim­ple yet high­ly intuitive.”

CYBG’s strong com­mit­ment to pos­i­tive­ly trans­form­ing per­for­mance cul­ture has also received indus­try recog­ni­tion, with the com­pa­ny win­ning Organ­i­sa­tion­al Devel­op­ment of the Year’ at this year’s HR Net­work Awards. Indeed, Clear Review has also recent­ly enjoyed some indus­try recog­ni­tion of its own via CYBG, after being named the Be Ambi­tious’ sup­pli­er at this year’s Clydes­dale Bank Sup­pli­er Awards.